Why data is key to advance equality

Local Training & Partnership Coordinator of our grantee UK Women’s Budget Group, Emily Bell, explains the importance of finding data to evidence problems and push for equality as we look to build back better after the pandemic.

For over 30 years, the Women's Budget Group has examined economic policy and asked ‘who benefits?’. In this year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting local and national lockdowns, we have continued to ask questions of policymakers on whether they are centring equality.

Data is important for equality as it can show us where inequalities lie, and where inequalities are at their greatest. Whether you start from wanting to understand a problem, or are just curious about a situation, good data provides the evidence we need to find solutions to problems that women face.

Prior to the pandemic, women were already more likely to live in poverty and to be in debt than men. Lone mothers in particular were one of the groups most affected by financial insecurity and hardship.

Our recent publication Where Women Stand took a look at the data available to provide evidence of the situation for many women at the start of 2021, and how the pandemic has affected them. Just two examples of what we found are:

Increased levels of poverty and debt

30% of women report being negatively affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with 26% of men.

A worsening employment landscape

Lone parents (90% of whom are women) have been particularly impacted, earning on average just over half as much as mothers in two-parent households.

So the new data, combined with old disadvantage, show us that the impact of the pandemic has not been 'fair'.

Data on the impact of the pandemic should be set against a background of ten years of cuts to local services that have impacted women disproportionally. Local government provides many of the services that women often depend on. When services are cut, many women increase their unpaid work to fill the gaps that are subsequently created. Women are also more likely to work in local authorities and schools, so are hit harder when jobs, pay and conditions are cut. Women have faced a ‘triple whammy’ from the past ten years of austerity.

Building back better would require acknowledging this triple whammy of local government cuts on women. It would require funding the local services that are essential to women's daily lives. It would require recognising, for example, that maximum increases to Council Tax in the most deprived boroughs of London will not solve the problem.

We want to share our skills. We want to build the confidence of individuals to take the questions they want to ask and find the answers for themselves through data.

Our Local Data project, funded by Trust for London, aims to strengthen the capacity of local organisations to find the local data they need to evidence inequality problems in their area, particularly those to do with women’s economic disadvantage.

Whether you are a data expert, or a data novice, we want to work with people and organisations who campaign for equality. We believe that local grassroots organisations are essential to making change happen. All you need is an interest in asking questions.

We can choose to challenge.

We can effect change.

To find out more about UK Women's Budget Group's Local Data project, contact Emily at emily.bell@wbg.org.uk or sign up to their newsletter.

25 March 2021