Global Data Lab
Wagner is also the new head of Radboud University's Global Data Lab, a research center providing data on low- and middle-income countries. By offering datasets on economic and social conditions, education, health and gender empowerment, the Global Data Lab allows researchers to gain new insights.
'Through our Global Data Lab, we see similar trends surrounding education and equality in developing countries,’ explains Wagner. ‘The number of years that girls and women are in school is slowly increasing and catching up with boys and men, but it has been a very slow process. And based on the current trajectory, it will take a whopping 132 years to close the gender wage worldwide according to the 2022 Global Gender Gap Report.’ Furthermore, there's various even more harmful issues showing disappointing trends: female genital mutilation is far from declining, while the use of contraception and the prevalence of polygamy are only slowly creeping towards targets set by the UN and other organizations.
More experiments, more data
To address that, Wagner pleads for more data and more social experimenting. Experimenting should go beyond loosely suggested quotas and courses to ‘fix women’. ‘This could be in the form of extra (financial) incentives for women to step up or by randomly matching leadership teams. There is evidence of success from India where one third of Village Council head positions are randomly reserved for women. But the government could also provide tax incentives to companies that show equal representation or could provide extra financial stimuli for families where both parents work similar hours. In addition, we could use social experiments to better understand our reservations against female leaders or why women are less listened to than men. We accept these types of experiments in developing countries, but are hesitant to do them in The Netherlands. We need to generate more data, in order to assess and challenge our beliefs and in particular the interventions we do to foster gender equality.’
‘These issues and many others are caused by old, lingering structures, and the data make it clear that the current approach is insufficient. What if the data we gather tell us that some of our efforts might be well intended and provide nice pictures but are otherwise simply not working? In order to not only detect but actively address our biases we need a culture change that is led by evidence, and to generate evidence we ultimately need data.’'