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‘Sexist’ Data- A Barrier to Improve Women’s Lives, Says Bill and Melinda Gates

Gender inequality is one of the greatest barriers to human progress.

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FILE - Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda are interviewed in Kirkland, Wash., Feb. 1, 2018. VOA

“Sexist” data is making it harder to improve women’s and girls’ lives, the world’s leading philanthropic couple Bill and Melinda Gates said Tuesday in an open letter.

The couple warned that a lack of focus by researchers on gender and a disdain for what were perceived as “women’s issues” were resulting in “missing data” that could lead to better decisions and policies, enable advocacy and measure progress.

“The data we do have — data that policymakers depend on — is bad. You might even call it sexist,” Melinda Gates wrote in their annual letter discussing the work of their foundation, one of the largest private charities in the world.

Gender inequality is one of the greatest barriers to human progress, the United Nations said last year, with studies showing that when girls stay in education, they have more opportunities and healthier children, which boosts development.

Bill gates, Melinda Gates
“You can’t improve things if you don’t know what’s going on with half the population,” wrote Bill Gates. Pixabay

But data often does not take gender into account and is flawed by biased questions, said the husband and wife team behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Because women in developing countries are primarily seen as wives and mothers, most of the data about them focuses on their reproductive health, not their earnings and assets, they said.

“You can’t improve things if you don’t know what’s going on with half the population,” wrote Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp.

The couple said mobile phones offered a powerful tool to allow women to build new connections, gain economic freedom and challenge restrictive social norms, for example by buying contraceptives online.

“If you’re a woman who has never stepped into a bank, mobile banking offers you a foothold in the formal economy and a chance at financial independence,” said Melinda Gates.

Microsoft, Bill gates
Data often does not take gender into account and is flawed by biased questions, said the husband and wife team behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Pixabay

“You gain opportunities to connect with customers, trainings, and professional organizations — all from your home.”

Safe toilets

Toilets also emerged as a feminist issue, with the couple hailing a next generation of facilities which can kill pathogens and produce useable by-products such as fertilizer.

Safe toilets worldwide would especially benefit women and girls, they said, who risk assault while using public facilities or may be forced to skip school when on their periods.

International aid groups agreed more of a focus on women and girls was needed.

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“We can’t improve what we fail to measure,” Richard Morgan, international advocacy director at the child rights charity Plan International, told Reuters.

“Bringing visibility to girls and women is the first critical step in improving their lives.” (VOA)

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Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Will Be Remembered

Allen was also owner of the National Football League's Seattle Seahawks, and the Portland Trail Blazers professional basketball team.

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Paul Allen
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen at a news conference (from archives). VOA

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who visualized the indispensability of the personal computer more than 40 years ago, died Monday at 65.

Allen’s family said he died in Seattle of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer he had been battling off and on since 2009.

After persuading high school friend Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard in 1975, the two teamed up to develop a rudimentary software that hobbyists used to operate home-built computers.

Microsoft, paul allen
An advertisement is played on a set of large screens at the Microsoft office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S, VOA

“I expect the personal computer to become the kind of thing that people carry with them, a companion that takes notes, does accounting, gives reminders, handles a thousand personal tasks,” Allen wrote in Personal Computing magazine in 1977.

Allen and Gates called their company Microsoft and spent the next several years developing the software that revolutionized the world.

Allen and Gates split in 1983, but Allen kept his share of Microsoft, making him a billionaire.

Gates issued a statement on Allen’s death late Monday.

Paul Allen
Paul Allen in 2003

“I am heartbroken by the passing of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Paul Allen,” he said.

According to Forbes magazine, Allen was worth nearly $22 billion at the time of his death, making him the world’s 44th wealthiest person.

Allen was also owner of the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks, and the Portland Trail Blazers professional basketball team.

Also Read: Microsoft Cannot Recover Files Deleted By Windows 10 Update

He also used his wealth to refurbish a crumbling neighborhood of his native Seattle, turning it into a headquarters for Amazon. (VOA)