For centuries, women have struggled to break free of oppression and second-class citizenship. While charitable giving to address this problem is on the rise, philanthropic support for women's and girls' organizations is still less than 2% of overall charitable giving, according to a report released by the Women's Philanthropy Institute that updates research my organization conducted in 2002. So why has the concept of targeting philanthropy to elevate women been so slow to catch on?

This is a complicated question with too many factors to cover in the space of one short article, so for now I’ll focus on a single key contributor: lack of critical data—or in some cases, the failure to make use of critical data—that makes the strongest possible case for support.

A few months ago, a friend was considering radiation treatment for a gynecological cancer. She told me that her physician, an impressively credentialed woman, was unable to provide her with full-picture statistics about post-treatment side effects for the type of therapy being offered to my friend because that data was not available. Yet when my friend did a bit of her own research, it only took seconds for her to find analogous, credible data for men who received similar radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

Her story made me think further about something that’s been on my mind since I took the helm at Texas Women’s Foundation, especially since we recently released our updated research report on economic conditions for women and girls in our state: What can be done to improve data collection that sheds stronger light on the global condition of women and girls, and how can we make better use of the data that does exist? Again, these are complicated questions, but nonetheless, I can think of a few action items we can implement immediately:

  • Use specific data to tell better stories about women and girls.
  • Think globally, act locally.
  • Diversify your philanthropy to support gender-lens research.

Read the full article about data for women by Michelynn Woodard at Forbes.