The SDG Gender Index represents the most comprehensive tool to measure overall progress towards gender equality that is aligned to the SDGs. The Index is based on 56 indicators that provide the ‘big picture’ across the SDGs as well as for progress towards gender equality in individual goals. It is unique in the breadth of its approach and analytic framework, and in its development by a partnership that spans civil society, the development and private sectors.
The Index follows the structure of the SDGs, but it adds a gender lens across each of the Goals (including the many SDGs that lack such a lens in the official framework, or those where no data are reported at present to monitor progress). The Index makes it possible first, to track progress across most of the Goals (and not just SDG 5 on gender equality).
Given the data gaps in official SDG monitoring, the Index draws on available gender-related SDG indicators and complements them with a wider range of data sources to provide a timelier and more comprehensive picture of progress. This includes tracking of legal frameworks that address gender equality (e.g., laws related to equality in the workplace, abortion rights, sexual orientation, etc.), global survey data that capture women’s views about different aspects of their lives and societies, and other data collections that are conducted by a range of data producers (including the World Bank, civil society organizations (CSOs) and think tanks) on a global and regular basis.
The 2022 SDG Gender Index tracks progress over time, allowing benchmarking since 2015 through to 2020 and scenario-building to provide insights into how (and whether) gender indicators are progressing towards the attainment of the SDGs by their 2030 deadline.
The Index is defined and driven by the needs of gender advocates. It draws on needs assessments and consultations conducted with gender advocates, policymakers and stakeholders across different sectors at the community, national, regional, and global levels.
First, 15 new indicators have been added to the Index since the 2019 Index. These cover issues such as women’s access to justice; their ability to discuss political issues; the legal frameworks that recognize LGBT rights; and more. Nine indicators that appeared in the first edition of the Index are not included in the 2022 edition because country coverage worsened, because data custodians (e.g., the World Health Organization (WHO) on obesity, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on social expenditure) had not updated indicators in time for the 2022 Index analysis, or because data initiatives were no longer collecting the data. Indicators that we were not able to carry forward into the 2022 Index include those in critical areas such as social protection, women’s representation in judicial posts, and women’s views of social norms related to intimate partner violence.
While the 2022 SDG Gender Index remains the most comprehensive SDG aligned gender Index available, it must contend with an ongoing lack of gender data that are globally comparable and disaggregated by, for example, age, class, race and gender identity, as well as sex.
The Index includes data on 14 of the 17 SDGs. However, we faced a shortage of comparable data specific to the three SDGs related to the environment: SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production; SDG 14 on life below water; and SDG 15 on life on land. The official SDG indicators for these Goals tend to focus on environmental rather than social impact.
Nevertheless, EM2030 has made an effort to include several indicators on gender and the environment in other parts of the Index. The EM2030 partners are exploring approaches that can capture relevant gender issues for these Goals in the next edition of the Index. (see https://www.equalmeasures2030.org/ data-hub/).
The Index measures progress between two time points: 2015 and 2020. It does not, therefore, reflect the likely impact on girls and women of the COVID-19 pandemic that began in early 2020. The next edition of the Index will include data covering the COVID-19 pandemic period and more evidence on the impact of the pandemic.
Our 2022 Index report, however, uses the Index data to make hypotheses about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to begin to explain some of the factors that led to the impact of the pandemic on gender equality being severe than it had to be. These factors include worsening poverty and inequality in the years leading up to the pandemic and lack of investment in public services and social (including care) infrastructure. The Index report also presents data and research from smaller scale studies that clearly show that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on key gender equality issues.
EM2030 acknowledges that the SDGs (and, as a result, the Index itself) do not address structural power relations, nor the obstacles faced by gender-diverse groups that are embedded in those structures. The EM2030 partnership is committed to advocate for more and better gender data to accurately measure and understand intersectional inequalities, including deeper feminist critique that departs from gender binary language and that challenges existing social, economic and political systems that perpetuate all forms of inequality.
There is currently no global Index that compares progress on girls, women, and gender equality across each of the individual SDGs. The Index provides a picture that goes beyond SDG 5 on gender equality and brings the different measures that UN agencies collect from UN member states (among other measures collected by other data producers) into a single holistic framework for gender equality.
UN Women and other UN agencies (such as UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA et al.) play the key role as custodians for compiling and disseminating gender data reporting by countries through indicators for individual targets that are part of the SDG framework. The SDG Gender Index compiles the available gender-related data reported by countries to UN agencies and adds a further gender lens to gender-blind goals and complements the SDG outcome measures with greater information on a wide range of gender equality issues including legal frameworks, women’s voice and gender specific issues (e.g., legal grounds for abortion (Ind. 5.3), women in climate change leadership (Ind. 13.1), disaggregated statistics (Ind. 17.4), etc.).
The development of the SDG Gender Index has drawn from the approaches and lessons from other global gender indices as well as from the frameworks for gender-related indicators produced by the UN. Whereas other major global gender indices take a small set of indicators to focus on the overall gaps between women and men (Global Gender Gap/World Economic Forum) or disparities in five key development measures (Gender Inequality Index/UNDP) or focus on specific themes, such as Family Code, Physical Integrity, Son Preference, Civil Liberties and Ownership Rights (SIGI/OECD) or gender, peace and security issues (Women, Peace and Security/GIWPS and PRIO), the SDG Gender Index provides a summary across the broad range of individual SDGs and development issues that affect girls and women. It is also the only one that is explicitly aligned to the SDGs.
Not all of the official UN indicators for the SDG framework that are gender-related or that require data disaggregated by sex are part of the SDG Gender Index. This is mainly due to the lack of data, or lack of disaggregated data, for many of the gender-related indicators for many countries.
In terms of country coverage, the SDG Gender Index data from 2020 covers more than two-thirds (144 of 193) of countries that signed on to the SDGs – and there is data for 135 countries for both 2015 and 2020. The population coverage of the Index is high because many countries that are not reporting data, and therefore not included in the Index, are small states. Thus, the Index covers 98% of the world’s population of girls and women (based on UN estimates for 188 countries). The highest coverage rate is in the Europe and North America region (100%). In other regions, 95% of the female population or higher is covered except for the Middle East and North Africa region (94%).
The SDG Gender Index is designed to track progress on the SDGs, a framework that has strong commitments to gender equality but does not replace existing commitments under CEDAW and other human rights conventions. The SDG Gender Index takes into account many of the issues covered by CEDAW, but recognises that other bodies are comprehensively monitoring CEDAW implementation through direct reporting by countries to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (see national reports compiled here). The SDG Gender Index and platforms like the EM2030 Data Hub are useful resources for advocates who are also engaged in monitoring CEDAW implementation. Moreover, this work is also being pursued by other organizations, see: https://www.humanrights.dk/tools/sdg-human-rights-data-explorer)
The design of the SDG Gender Index has been informed by consultations within and across the EM2030 “global to local” partnership, including national partners in seven countries; public consultations, including online and during global meetings and conferences (e.g., CSW); inputs from gender policy and measurement experts (including a Technical Reference Group, which brings together experts from the UN and civil society with knowledge of gender statistics, SDG data, Index design and communication); and surveys of policymakers and gender advocates worldwide.
Almost four in ten of the indicators in the SDG Gender Index are based on official SDG indicators reported by countries. The remaining indicators are based on a range of different data sources that help to provide a more complete picture of progress on the gender equality issues that are relevant to each SDG. Some of these indicators are part of thematic or regional SDG frameworks and others have been recently developed by non-governmental and inter-governmental constituencies.
The majority of indicators (61%) in the Index are designed to specifically capture the conditions of girls and women. The remaining indicators may not be explicitly gender-related but do implicitly capture issues that research has shown to have a disproportionate effect on the lives of girls and women. For example, while there aren’t global data on the intra-household allocation of resources or how money is spent within the household, we know that living in a household that is considered in poverty disproportionately limits the opportunities of girls and women (Proportion of the population living below the national poverty line, Ind. 1.1).
The 2022 SDG Gender Index present two data points to allow comparison over time: a baseline, 2015, and the latest reference year, 2020. The figures included in the Index, for all indicators, are usually the most recent available and the closest to the baseline and latest reference years. However, as the Index covers 144 countries and 56 indicators, the reference years needed to be expanded to include a wider range of countries.
SDG indicators are compiled by UN agencies and other custodians are based on international agreed-upon standards and methodologies to ensure comparability across a measurement framework adopted by all countries. National statistics are based on national contexts, definitions, and methodologies, which can differ from one country to another. UN organisations use a common framework to collect, compile, and disseminate data based on national reporting which may account for the lag time in between the release of national data. The work of custodian agencies in applying standardised tools and methods to produce relevant global statistics ensures that the indicators used in the Index are comparable.
This 2022 Index builds on, and replaces, the 2019 SDG Gender Index. The results generated by the two are not comparable due to changes have been made to enhance the methodology – specifically in relation to how scores are calculated – in response to guidance from global Index experts and the composition of the indicators in the Index have changed.
In order to aggregate indicators to generate Index scores, it is necessary to transform indicator values so that they are based on a common scale of 0 to 100, where O is the worst score and 100 is the best score. For example, they can be defined quite differently – an indicator like the maternal mortality ratio (Ind. 3.1) which can range from 0 to as high as 1500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births needs to be combined on the same scale as the proportion of women satisfied with the quality of their healthcare (Ind. 3.4) to help generate a composite score for Goal 3 on health. Notice also that the direction of the original indicators should be harmonized as a lower value (fewer deaths) is desired for maternal mortality, but a higher value (greater satisfaction) is desired for views on healthcare. By the process of normalisation, the highest score for both indicators is 100 and moving nearer to 100 is positive progress. When referring to a single indicator, without reference to other Index indicators, it is often preferable to communicate the original indicator values, as this will be more likely recognised and cited by stakeholders.
The design of the Index aims to prioritise indicators that countries have reported to global databases, in line with the SDGs’ country-led approach. Therefore, nationally-reported data are used wherever possible, and estimates are not made where data are missing. A threshold was set for each country that at least 75% of indicators are available (e.g. three out of four indicators) in order to compute a goal Index score.
There is a strong incentive to include more countries as it strengthens the robustness of the Index. Therefore, additional efforts were taken when an indicator for a country was not available for the latest years between 2016 to 2020, as well as for the baseline (2015). The first step was to check for earlier data. If none were available for the latest year and/or the baseline, the next step was to find another relevant data source that could serve as a reliable proxy. In keeping with transparency standards, the use of proxy measures is clearly documented. These steps were applied in very few cases, comprising only a small number all data points underlying the Index.
By using the arithmetic mean to calculate the goal scores, the weights given to the indicators are the same. However, even if the number of indicators varies among the SDGs, (e.g. SDG 5, 8, and 10 have each 5 indicators), they won’t have a larger impact on the global Index scores, as the SDG Gender Index overall score is calculated based on a geometric average.
The closer a score is to 100, the closer a given country is to having achieved the targets set for each of the indicators chosen for that SDG in the Index. The indicators chosen for the Index are our best attempt to compile available data to measure wide range of gender equality issues. However, they should only be interpreted as a snapshot of the set of issues we were able to include. In some cases, the indicators chosen may not be as ambitious as the vision laid out in the SDGs. For example, the indicator in the Index related to access to clean water (Ind. 6.1) reflects only access to basic water sources rather than preferred indicators of access to good quality water sources due to lower data availability for the latter.
The 2022 SDG Gender Index present two scores: one for 2015 (baseline) and one for 2020 (latest year) for 135 countries that reported data for both periods. The difference between the two scores give insight on the change since 2015, the year when the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development was adopted. The trend analysis sheds light on the progress a country, a region or the world have made in achieving the targets for the issues included in the Index. When describing progress or change, the Index uses four categories: ‘fast progress’, ‘some progress,’ ‘no change’, and ‘going in the wrong direction’.
The 2022 SDG Gender Index is the second iteration of the Index, presenting data for two data points: the baseline (2015) and the latest year available (2020). The next updates of the Index are anticipated in the Fall/Winter of 2024 and 2026.
Equal Measures 2003 invites feedback, suggestions, and engagement from a wide range of stakeholders across every sector in order to strengthen the SDG Gender Index. Inputs related to the SDG Gender Index can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.