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  • Katica Roy

What Is The Best Way To Measure Gender Equity?

Welcome to my weekly Q&A feature. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)

If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. Each week I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.

The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusion.

  • Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.

  • Inclusion: bringing others along on the journey.

Be Brave™


Metrics To Measure Gender Equity


What is the best way to measure gender equity?

Curious about something? ​Ask your question here for a chance to have it answered in an upcoming edition of Brave Souls®.


One of the many things data science has taught me is to eschew superlatives. So while I won’t tell you the best way to measure gender equity, I will provide a framework for using data to assess—and more critically, improve—gender equity.

A Framework For Measuring Gender Equity

So you’ve decided you want to measure gender equity. Agnostic of context—whether you’re measuring gender equity at your company, in your local government, or on a corporate board, you need to define the criteria for measurement. Ask yourself these six questions to refine your plan.

1. What’s my purpose for measuring gender equity?

People use gender equity data for a multitude of purposes: regulatory compliance, investor pitches, voluntary disclosures, employee recruitment, etc. You need to identify your intent for measuring gender equity. Don’t waste your time collecting data if you don’t plan on using it.

2. What questions do my data need to answer?

The questions your data needs to answer should synchronize with your purpose. If your purpose for measuring gender equity is to inform your diversity and inclusion targets, then reverse engineer from your goals to create a list of questions you need to answer.

Example goal: Achieve 50% female representation in leadership by 2024. → What is our company’s gender representation across the leadership pipeline?

3. What metrics and drill-down metrics will answer the questions from #2?

If your goal is to achieve 50% female representation in leadership by 2024, then you need to know if gender representation is improving over time across the leadership pipeline.

You also need to drill down into what “representation” means. It means employees are staying in the leadership pipeline because they have access to resources. It means they aren’t churning due to toxic work environments. It means they’re engaged with their work because they receive equitable wages and opportunities for advancement.

So in addition to measuring representation at every step of the corporate ladder, you also need to drill down to measure pay equity, rates of promotion, equity of resource distribution, number of discrimination complaints, etc. (That’s why we call gender inequity a systemic issue: because we can’t boil it down to one variable.)

4. How will I collect the data?

You must apply the intersectional lens (gender PLUS race/ethnicity PLUS age) to all data you collect. Otherwise, anyone who represents two or more diverse classes gets averaged out.

Pipeline found through its implementations that men receive promotions at a 21% greater rate than women in aggregate. But when we applied the intersectional lens, we found the promotion gap doubles for Black women.

5. How will I apply the data to create forward velocity toward my goals?

Imagine it’s six months from now. You’re looking at the gender equity data you collected over this time period. What is the data telling you? Go beyond descriptive analytics and ask yourself “why” the data looks the way it does.

Why have you not hit your Q3 DEI goals? Why are Black women disproportionately churning at the entry-level?

Asking “why” will unlock insights that catalyze forward momentum, which is the reason you are measuring gender equity in the first place. You must make your data actionable.

If your goal in measuring gender equity is to improve DEI at your organization, then consider making your data transparent. Jim Collins would call transparency a “catalytic mechanism” because it gives your goals teeth and holds you accountable.

6. How will I measure progress over time?

Gender equity is not a faucet. You can’t turn it on and off. It’s not Easy Mac either. You can’t add water and mix. Gender equity is a journey. Sustainable and meaningful change will take time, although that’s no excuse for stalling or backsliding.

Benchmarking is a race to the bottom, especially in the realm of gender equity.

You need to consider the frequency of your measurements: annual, monthly, quarterly? The uncomfortable truth is that every HR decision will either move your organization closer to or further from equity. (The average Fortune 500 company with approximately 60,000 employees has 180,000 opportunities each year to close—or widen—its gender equity gap.)

Also, avoid benchmarking. Benchmarking is a race to the bottom, especially in the realm of gender equity. Hold yourself to higher standards by reaching beyond relative gender equity. Go for absolute.

Three Trustworthy Gender Equity Indexes

Now that you have a framework for measuring gender equity, I want to share with you three of my preferred indexes to track progress toward gender equity at the global level. These indexes capture nearly all dimensions of gender equity—not only gender equity in the workplace.

Fair warning: Many things are in short supply these days. Gender equity indexes aren’t one of them. You can find hundreds of gender equity reports and indicators floating around the web. The following three indexes are the ones I trust most.

1. The SDG Gender Index

This index tracks progress toward gender equity against 14 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. It covers 56 indicators across 144 countries. Here’s some illuminating data from the report: the US ranks 38th in the world for gender equity and a third of countries have made no progress toward gender equity (or have been backsliding) in the past five years.

2. The Global Gender Gap Index

Published by the World Economic Forum, this index measures gender equity in 156 countries across four dimensions: economic participation, educational attainment, health, and political empowerment. A key finding from the 2021 edition shows that political empowerment has the largest equity gap. Women hold only 26.1% of parliament seats globally and 81 countries have never had a woman head of state.

3. The Gender Development Index

The United Nations Development Program uses the Gender Development Index to measure gender gaps in human development in 167 countries across three pillars: health, knowledge, and living standards. Policymakers and researchers consider this index a gender mainstreamed version of the Human Development Index. Norway, Ireland, and Switzerland round out the top three countries on this index.

© 2022 Katica Roy™, Inc.


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