Data is key to enacting workable policies that help people. Governments and non-profits alike need data in order to figure out who needs help, and what help they need. None of that should come as much of a surprise to people in the non-profit sector, but data is never perfect. We appreciate data and we might even reify it, but the fact remains that data is not objective because it has to be collected by subjective people. Even when data is gathered by computers, those computers were programmed by people, and people have blind spots.
Take, for example, women and girls. There is a huge gender gap in data collected globally. Especially as it concerns economic activity, many women are simply ignored in census data and the like. Remember back in the 70s and 80s, when women were “joining” the workforce, and everybody thought that was new? It wasn’t. Women have always been working, but the men designing censuses or academic studies were ignoring them, because they weren’t thinking about the working class, or they didn’t consider housework to be “real work,” or think about things like second jobs.
The real world is, and always has been, far more complicated than most people assume. People in the non-profit sector know that, at some level, but data collection can still miss things. This is why there needs to be a more concentrated effort to collect data on, and subsequently understand, the issues faced by women and girls around the world. There are programs in place to do exactly that, but what we need is change, a shift in the paradigm, whatever cliché you want to use. We need to get to a point where we don’t have to think “what about women?” because we’re already investigating their issues and concerns as well.