Women in data: closing the data gap and convening equality groups in Asia

If we’re all working towards gender equality, shouldn’t we share and improve information? This question drove entrepreneur Jacqui Hocking to crowdsource and link equality communities in Asia, to minimise duplication and increase impact

null Members of the Equality & Women's Empowerment Community in Singapore at a training event for women on technology tools. Photo: Jacqui Hocking

By Jacqui Hocking

Growing up as a filmmaker, I always thought that gender equality was only a major problem in the creative industry. It was (and still is) common for women to work for far less than their male counterparts in film. The men on Forbes’ list of top-paid male actors for 2013 made 2.5 times as much money as the top-paid female actors, there is a 5:1 ratio of men working in film to women and 77% of Oscar voters are male.

But as I stepped away from behind my film editing desk and into the world of entrepreneurship and business, I saw that gender equality was an issue facing every industry, at almost every level.

Only 13 of the largest 500 corporations in the world have female CEOs. The Asia-Pacific region alone loses more than US $40bn per year because of women’s limited access to employment, and $16-$30bn because of gender gaps in education.

Thanks to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, gender equality is finally getting some serious attention. Goal no. 5 – to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls – is a challenge that many people are trying to help solve.

You have to collect data if you are to know how to act on data.

I’m not a data scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve always been passionate about collaboration and open data. Thinking about gender equality, and the many who work on it, a question struck me: if we’re all working towards the same goal, shouldn’t we be sharing and improving the same information?

I decided to start working on collecting relevant data after reading about Melinda Gates trying to solve the gender equality data gap.

In order to be able to collect data, you must first identify the community that you can leverage to collect, build and share with. That’s how the Equality & Women's Empowerment Community (EWEC) started.

My plan was to crowdsource a list of all the various communities working on equality and women's empowerment in Asia and categorise them into different countries, so we could discover what could be learned from each.

Since starting, I’ve discovered many relevant initiatives such as Project Include, which is an open community working toward providing meaningful diversity and inclusion solutions. I've also discivered amazing infographics like this, which help people understand the issues.

Building the Equality & Women's Empowerment Community

EWEC is a website built very simply from the tool strikingly, and an Airtable spreadsheet. Using a simple form that’s embedded on the site, anyone can add their community organisation or use the filter tools to find an organisation in their region. It is now also being used to collect media, case studies and shared resources using the same form and spreadsheet tools, freely available with embedded Airtable sheets.

Because the data on the sheet is open, anyone has access to download the CSV file and instantly have the full list of organisations to collaborate with or articles to do their research.

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Growing the knowledge base for gender equality in Asia

The next step will be to use EWEC to bring the women’s empowerment community together to link and empower more organisations and decide collectively the most important data sets to measure. Organisations like Female Founders, for example, are doing extensive research into female entrepreneurship in Singapore. While other organisations like Young Women’s Leadership Connection can share valuable information from their senior mentors and women from an executive level.

How crowdsourcing data and fostering collaboration can help other initiatives

Since launching the site, other women such as Aditi Amalean (founder of Urban Alive), approached me to create a similar site and resource to solve other SDGs, in particular the goal for sustainable cities and communities.

The idea is to create an open data culture around the SDGs, to share information and results, and therefore build solid frameworks to solve problems.

We can’t close the gender gap we all aspire to close unless we close first the data gap.

Drawing out lessons from network successes

I’m sure that once we start using our EWEC networks we will discover incredible solutions. For example, in Asia, the Philippines and Thailand both have comparatively high proportions of women among directors and chief executives, with 48% and 32% respectively. Compared to many other nations, this is incredible. We need to draw out why this is, and what the rest of South East Asia learn from this.

Why anyone can help close the data gap

What I've learned from crowdsourcing and linking the empowerment community is that you don’t need to be a data scientist or even a techy to help close the gender data gap.

The tools I used are free to use and very basic. Section 5.b of the SDGs state a target to: "Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women," so I hope this article has helped inspire someone to give Airtable sheets a try, and see what data they can start collecting for their local community.

Jacqui Hocking is a Visual Storyteller and Entrepreneur. Follow @JacquiHocking on Twitter._

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