Gender statistics are defined as statistics that adequately reflect differences and inequalities in the situation of women and men in all areas of life (United Nations, 2006).This definition closely follows the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, which requested national, regional and international statistical services to “ensure that statistics related to individuals are collected, compiled, analysed and presented by sex and age and reflect problems, issues and questions related to women and men in society” (United Nations, 1995, para 206 (a)). There are several requirements imbedded in the definition of gender statistics (Hedman et al, 1996; United Nations, 2001a; 2001b; 2002; 2006; 2007; Corner, 2003). First, gender statistics have to reflect gender issues - questions, problems and concerns related to all aspects of women’s and men’s lives, including their specific needs, opportunities, or contributions to society. In every society there are differences between what is expected, allowed and valued in a woman and what is expected allowed and valued in a man. These differences have a specific impact on women’s and men’s lives throughout all life stages, and determine, for example, differences in health, education, work, family life, or general well-being. Producing gender statistics entails disaggregating individual data by sex and other characteristics to reveal those differences or inequalities, and collecting data on specific issues that affect one sex more than the other or relate to gender relations between women and men. Second, gender statistics should adequately reflect differences and inequalities in the situation of women and men. It means that concepts and definitions used in data collection are developed in such a way that the diversity of various groups of women and men, their specific activities and challenges are captured. Also, data collection should be based on methods that reduce gender bias in data collection, such as underreporting of women’s economic activity, underreporting of violence against women, or undercounting of girls, their births or their deaths.
In summary, gender statistics are defined by the sum of the following characteristics:
- Data are collected and presented disaggregated by sex as a primary and overall classification;
- Data are reflecting gender issues;
- Data are based on concepts and definitions that adequately reflect the diversity of women and men and capture all aspects of their lives;
- Data collection methods take into account stereotypes and social and cultural factors that may induce gender biases in the data.
Gender statistics are more than data disaggregated by sex. The characteristics above are useful in differentiating between sex-disaggregated statistics (the first requirement in the list above) and gender statistics (incorporating all four requirements). Sex-disaggregated statistics are simply data collected and tabulated separately for women and men. Having data by sex does not guarantee, for example, that data collection instruments involved in data production were conceived to reflect gender roles, relations and inequalities in society (United Nations Statistics Division, 2001a). Furthermore, some statistics that incorporate a gender perspective are not necessarily statistics presented disaggregated by sex. For example, national accounts statistics incorporating a gender perspective take into account both women’s and men’s contribution to all social and economic areas, including unpaid work.
Confusion between “sex” and “gender” still persists among producers and users of statistics (United Nations Statistics Division, 2001a; United Nations, 2002; Corner, 2003; UNECE and the World Bank Institute, 2010). The word “sex” refers to biological differences between women and men. Biological differences are fixed and unchangeable and do not vary across cultures and overtime. “Gender” refers to socially-constructed differences in attributes and opportunities associated with being female or male and to the social interactions and relationships between women and men. Gender determines what is expected, allowed and valued in a woman or a man in a given context. In most societies, there are differences and inequalities between women and men in roles and responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities. These differences and inequalities between the sexes are shaped over by the history of social relations, and change over time and across cultures.
The term “gender” has often been wrongly used in association with data. “Gender disaggregation” or “data disaggregated by gender” are incorrect terms. Gender statistics are disaggregated by sex, an individual-level characteristics commonly recorded in censuses, surveys and administrative sources, and not by gender, a social concept relevant at the level of a population group(Corner, 2003). When data on demographic, social or economic characteristics are collected in the field, it is the sex of a person that is recorded as female (woman) or male (female), not the gender. Sex-disaggregated data, however, when analysed, have the capacity to reveal differences in women’s and men’s lives that are the result of gender roles and expectations.
Gender statistics should not be equated with women’s statistics. The understanding of gender statistics, their uses and users has changed over time (Hedman et al, 1996; Corner, 2003). Initial work focused on producing statistics on women, in the context where many countries were collecting data by sex, but most of the data were analysed and/or made available to the users as totals, without the possibility of differentiating between women and men. The demand for data and indicators on women came from women’s organizations and women’s advocates, who needed statistics to support new policies and programmes oriented toward reducing the disadvantages of women. Since then, however, the focus has shifted from “women only” to “women and men” both in terms of statistics and in terms of policies. In terms of statistics, it became clear that the situation of women could be adequately described and analysed only by comparison to men. In addition, statisticians have recognized that improvement is needed in statistics on men as well (Hedman et al, 1996). Specific issues related to men’s lives – such as harmful use of drinking and smoking, greater risk of accidents or other injuries, or access to paid paternity leave – have been increasingly taken into account and covered by gender statistics. In terms of policies, the change of focus from women to gender has been based on the recognition that isolating women’s concerns from mainstream development policies and strategies has have a limited impact, and that paying more attention to the roles and responsibilities of both women and men and their interrelationships can further improve the effectiveness of policies.