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Removing Barriers to Gender Inequality through Data

by Aaron Stanley

This past spring, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) worked with the World Bank on its global qualitative assessment, Defining Gender in the XXI Century: Conversations with men and women around the world. That qualitative assessment forms part of the data that has been analyzed for the next annual World Development Report (WDR), coming out in September 2011, entitled Gender Equality and Development.

To collect data, World Bank staff and affiliates conducted “rapid qualitative assessments” in nineteen countries. The research included case studies and roughly 500 focus group interviews with male and female youth, adults, and adolescents in urban and rural communities.

Interviewers asked focus group participants about their perceived gender roles, inequalities, and changes in cultural norms and values in their communities. Then, interview transcripts were sent to IWPR where staff used the qualitative research software Nvivo to code the focus group comments.

Qualitative research is used to investigate the impact of human experience, social context, and historical background on the dynamics of an issue, region, or peoples. The World Bank and IWPR have used qualitative research to better understand the complicated contexts of gender roles and the choices being made within communities. Coding the material allows analysts to more easily find comparisons among groups and regions. From the insights and analyses that come out of this coded data, specific recommendations can better reflect local values while promoting equality and the status of women throughout the world.

I worked as one of the IWPR coders, especially for the transcriptions that were in French (other coders worked on the Spanish and English language transcriptions). For me, this project was really thought-provoking. To read the words of women and men of different ages describing some of the extreme variations in the circumstances of women throughout the world made me think about the need for continued development and programs that target women’s equality, but also about positive strides being made by women and programs that focus on women in developing nations.

Leading the assessment’s Analysis Team were IWPR Study Director Jane Henrici, Ph.D., and Research Analyst Allison Helmuth. Shirley Adelstein, Sarah Conner, Elisa Garcia, Layla Moughari, Annamaria Sundbye, Bethany Timmons, Kennedy Turner, Claudia Williams, and I provided coding and research assistance. All of us look forward to seeing the report come out next month.

More information about the qualitative assessment, including the methodology and a list of countries included in the study, can be found at the World Bank’s World Development Report website.

Aaron Stanley is a former IWPR Research Intern and currently a subcommittee staff intern at the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. He attends Boston University where he studies international relations and African studies.

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