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COVID-19 Impacts and Gender Equality

A woman stands and smiles with her arms crossed. Behind her are a group of women standing in a

Photo credit: Terhas Berhe/CARE

Photo credit: Terhas Berhe/CARE

Online and offline surveys help understand different people’s experiences


What we did: Compared data between the Gender Equality at Home survey and CARE’s Women Respond data in 13 countries to understand how COVID-19 impacts women and men differently.

Why it matters: The datasets look at very different people—Gender Equality at Home surveys active Facebook users; Women Respond targets people who are usually left out of “big data.” Understanding the experiences of both groups is critical to good COVID-19 response

What we learned: Everyone agreed that major impacts of COVID-19 were livelihoods, mental health, and education. Impacts were more extreme for women in Women Respond, and in Women Respond, food was another major problem.

Gender Equality, Data, and COVID-19

COVID-19 may be the most closely monitored crisis in history, with massive datasets available for many countries and variables. But those impacts—and the data collected about them—is not necessarily neutral. Evidence shows that women and men are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic very differently, but that evidence can be hard to come by. Frequently, data is not sex-disaggregated, leaving out women, girls, and non-binary people. To take just one example, only 47 countries have reported sex disaggregated data on vaccines in the last 2 months.

To shed light on the differences in men’s and women’s experiences in COVID-19, both CARE and Meta (formerly Facebook) collected data in 2021 to show these impacts worldwide in a diversity of demographics of the participating population in each country and region (see graph 1). Using similar questions, Meta launched the second round of the Survey on Gender Equality at Home (designed in partnership with CARE), and CARE continued the Women Respond initiative. Meta’s survey was conducted online, while CARE’s surveys are largely conducted offline, so each represent different communities. Comparing the findings from these two datasets sheds light both on women’s experiences in COVID-19, and on the critical importance of understanding who we’re talking to, and triangulating data from multiple sources.

For the purposes of this article, we restricted data analysis to the countries where both CARE and Meta collected data—a total of 13 countries.

A world map highlighting 13 countries
Graph 1: Overlapped countries between CARE and Meta survey

What we learned

The datasets represent very different people.

Where we could compare demographics, CARE’s surveys were more likely to reach people who did not have access to the internet, who had lower levels of education, and were in different age brackets. This means there is still a critical role for different kinds of data collection to fill in gaps from some of the big online datasets. In the US, where we have the most exact comparison demographics, and where there are fewer barriers to participating in online surveys, there are still substantial gaps. In the CARE US data, respondents were spread fairly equally across age groups, with a slightly higher number of respondents who were 55 years old or older (36%) compared to 43% of Gender Equality at Home respondents in the 35-54 group. CARE’s data showed 39% of people with high school education or less (39%). 47% of the people in Gender Equality at home had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Men and women are having different experiences in COVID-19.

Both the CARE and Meta data showcase differences between men and women in COVID-19. On most variables, women are reporting more significant impacts than men are. That implies a need to not only keep collecting this kind of disaggregated data, but also to use that data to improve our responses to COVID-19.

Mental health, livelihoods, and education are major impacts for everyone.

Mental health and livelihoods rose to the top of each list of COVID-19’s major impacts. The COVID-19 impacts areas in the Gender Equality at Home were education (41%), livelihood (35%), health (26%), and mental health (24%). Similarly, people in CARE’s survey were more likely to prioritize livelihood (77%), mental health (63%), and education (42%).  That the different population groups both prioritized these issues so highly suggests they are crucial in most contexts.

There are important differences between the datasets.

In CARE’s data, food security was a core priority impact for 40% of the people. Food security was much less likely to be a priority for people in the Survey on Gender Equality at Home (25%). The Meta and CARE surveys uncover the extent to which different distinct subsets of the population, from historically marginalized groups like migrants, refugees, and factory workers, to Facebook users experience crisis differently. Collecting data intentionally to understand the experiences of different people shows us important insights about how to address the problems people face in COVID-19. This impact is more intense in different areas of the world based on gender, nationality, and immigration status.

This blog was written by Miriam Selva and Emily Janoch. The Meta data analysis was done in collaboration with Jonathan-Georges Mehanna.

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