19 May 2020

Gender Data: The Unlearned Lessons of Global Pandemics

Our Think Tank Talk from the 19th of May 2020, organised in collaboration with GENDRO, gave participants the opportunity to reflect on the Covid-19 crisis from a different perspective by discussing the role of sex and gender data in pandemics.

About the topic

If there is one lesson that the global health community has involuntarily learned from the unprecedented spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the past few months, then it is a failure to draw lessons from the previous large-scale outbreaks. The body of literature on HIV, Ebola, and Zika outbreaks had demonstrated inefficiencies in health responses, including those related to differences in the level of exposure and intersectional vulnerabilities shaped by gender. Now when global health became a mainstream concern of unprecedented scale, those involved in global health policies and programs should seek effective and efficient responses to COVID-19 that adequately take into account the gender dynamics and are mindful of the implications of gender inequality.

About the speakers

We welcomed distinguished speakers:


-Dr. Shirin Heidari, Chair and President of GENDRO


-Dr. Anna Ruggieri, Italian National Institute of Health, Center for Gender Specific Medicine


-Catherine Nyambura, ATHENA Network


-Dr. Stephen Burrell, Durham University


-Ricardo Baruch, IPPF Western Hemisphere Region

5 Key Takeaways

1. Since the beginning of the pandemic, thousands of reviews have been written. However, only a few are taking gender and sex aggregated data into account, even though past experiences on the matter have proven that it allows a more efficient and effective response (eg. HIV).


2. The Covid-19 brought an increase of violence & deprivation of liberty (eg. police brutality and curfew times) reinforcing the vulnerability of the LGBTQ community or enhancing gender inequality at home (eg. caring responsibilities falling on women). However, this could create a shift in gender norms by giving a greater role to men in the domestic sphere.


3. Men are more likely to die from Covid-19 because of their lifestyle (smoking and drinking addiction are more frequent in men) or biological factors such as a lower immune response to the virus. However, more women work on the front of the pandemic: they represent the majority of healthcare workers in the world.


4. A lot of data taking sex and gender into account is produced worldwide through different projects and organisations. Unfortunately, they are not considered to be official by the authorities. Therefore, something has to be done at a political level in order to make gender a more systemic measure in health data.


5. We need a cross-disciplinary approach to bring in expertise from different areas to make sure our response to this pandemic and future pandemics is more gender sensitive.

Event replay