Numbers and Needed Nuance: A Critical Analysis of the Gender Equity Index (GEI)


Gender equality has become an important societal goal, and a number of indices attempt to measure gender equality on a country-level. This chapter analyzes Social Watch’s Gender Equity Index (GEI) in terms of its stated aims and associable strengths, weaknesses, and problematic issues. A distinctive strength of GEI is an authenticity stemming from the independence of Social Watch from prominent transnational institutions and its decentralized operations. A major weakness is Social Watch’s failure to keep the instrument up to date. Other problematic issues are shared by almost all country-ranking social indices, involving biases rooted in empirical data-collection impediments and conceptual and statistical methodological quandaries. Based on our analysis, we advise: (1) updating the GEI and keeping it updated; (2) the provision of alternate models (dimensions, indicators, weightings) and rankings; (3) more methodological transparency; and (4) synthesizing GEI measurements with qualitative content and analytic aids. These innovations would distinguish the GEI from an increasingly crowded field. Moreover, and in keeping with Social Watch’s grassroots nature, they would reflect an epistemic circumspection that could counter concerns about the ideological implications of competitive country rankings.

Author Information
Iain Macpherson, MacEwan University, Canada
Mami Taniguchi, Waseda University, Japan
Fabian Froese, University of Gottingen, Germany

Paper Information
Conference: ACSS2020
Stream: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon