Where sex matters | Data and statistics

Data and statistics

We need accurate data, disaggregated by sex in order to understand differences in the lives of women and men.

Sex is a powerful predictor of almost every dimension of social life including education, employment, crime, physical and mental health. It is difficult to think of an area of life where sex is not an important dimension for analysis.

As Caroline Criado Perez has pointed out, if data is not collected on men and on women then systems – from transportation to medicines and medical devices to tax structures and consumer products – tend to ignore the needs of women, and ”when your big data is corrupted by big silences, the truths you get are half-truths, at best.”

What is the problem?

Increasingly, accurate data collection on sex is being undermined by the conflation of sex, gender and gender identity.

The principle of self-ID has been accepted by many public bodies, replacing sex with self-identified gender when recording crimes and organisational pay-gaps, on medical records and in the census.

All three of the UK census authorities (for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) intend to carry guidance to accompany the sex question in the next census which instructs respondents to answer based on their self-declared gender identity, not on their natal sex or their GRC administrative sex.

Jonathan Portes, former chief economist at the Department for Work and Pensions, has said this move would make it much more difficult to track and tackle issues such as the gender pay gap and inequality in childcare, social care, housing and health.

Updates

  • Campaign update: Day 1

    Yesterday we launched the Make the Equality Act Clear petition, calling on the government to clarify, with a legislative amendment, that sex means sex in the Equality Act 2010. It got an amazing response. In less than 24 hours, 15,000 people signed the petition, and the number is continuing...

    3rd November 2022

  • "We recommend the simplest, clearest, most neutral and most coherent approach reporting based on sex."

    Sex Matters’ advice to companies on the FCA’s new reporting requirements

    Last week, we reported that the Financial Conduct Authority had issued new rules about its requirements for listed companies to report on the proportion of women on corporate boards, scrapping its earlier proposal for this to be based purely on gender self-identification. The new regulations let companies choose whether to report...

    29th April 2022

  • Financial regulator scraps self-ID plan

    Financial Conduct Authority says corporate boards can use sex not gender

    The Financial Conduct Authority has issued new rules requiring listed companies to report on the proportion of women on corporate boards, scrapping its earlier proposal to require this to be based on gender self-identification. 439 people and organisations (over 80% of respondents) raised the issue of gender vs sex...

    20th April 2022

  • Sex in the Census: Reality v Paperwork

    The Outer House of the Court of Session in Scotland handed down judgment last week in Fair Play For Women’s challenge to guidance on the census. National Records Scotland plans to tell members of the public that if they are transgender, they can choose how to answer the sex question. ...

    22nd February 2022

  • “How digital identities can solve the problem with sex and gender identity – and how getting it wrong will make the problem worse.”

    A radically simpler system than gender self-ID

    Critics of the Gender Recognition Act who call for gender self-identification say the current system is too much of an administrative burden. They are calling on the government to bring people together to find solutions.

    21st February 2022

  • Do crime victims deserve respect?

    We think crime victims deserve respect, dignity, sensitivity, compassion and courtesy, as specified in the Victims’ Code.

    10th February 2022

  • Getting it right: diversity and inclusion

    The business risk of misaligned D&I

    Sex matters in the City

    16th December 2021

  • X passports appeal dismissed

    The Supreme Court has unanimously dismissed Christie Elan-Cane’s case for an “X” passport. The judgment states  “There is no judgment of the European Court of Human Rights which establishes a positive obligation to recognise a gender category other than male or female, and none which would require the Secretary...

    15th December 2021

  • No need for sex data on domestic abuse?

    Yesterday the Domestic Abuse Commissioner launched a survey for survivors of domestic abuse about their experience of using domestic abuse services across England and Wales: “We are running this survey so that we can understand what is good about domestic abuse services in different areas of the country, and...

    7th December 2021

  • Sex matters in the City

    The Financial Conduct Authority is the regulator for the financial services sector in the UK. They are proposing to set new rules to encourage big companies to have more “female” directors on their boards. The new regulations would cover over 1000 firms, employing tens of millions of people, and...

    19th October 2021

  • Fighting for the principle of collecting data on biological sex

    A guest post by MurrayBlackburnMackenzie. Scottish Parliament Public Petition: Call for signatures In early June MurrayBlackburnMackenzie (MBM) lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee. It calls on the Scottish government to require Police Scotland to accurately record the sex of people charged or convicted of rape...

    27th June 2021

  • Truth and reconciliation

    How should the public sector leave the Stonewall Champions Scheme?

    6th June 2021

  • Time to #LeaveStonewall

    This is the letter we have sent to the CEOs of the 850 organisations that are members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme. Re: Leaving the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme We are writing to call on you to withdraw from the scheme, both for the sake of your own...

    29th May 2021

  • Sex, gender and medical data: a way forward

    Susan Bewley, Margaret McCartney, Catherine Meads and Amy Rogers published an article in the British Medical Journal calling for clarity about sex and gender in medical records and data.

    This a "rapid response" from Sex Matters co-founder Maya Forstater that was published online by the BMJ.

    23rd March 2021

  • NHS: let’s talk about sex

    This tweet by Emma Parnell, Lead Service Designer at NHS Digital and the associated Medium post “Lets Talk About Sex” is interesting. Parnell writes in detail about how she worked to remove the question of whether a patient is male or female from the online system for booking COVID...

    20th March 2021

  • Sex (or gender?) as a hate crime: why the rush?

    The push to adopt a gender neutral definition of “misogyny” as a hate crime with amendment 87B to the Domestic Abuse Bill (being debated this afternoon in the House of Lords) is another attempt at the political erasure of sex. Why the rush when the Law Commission is working...

    17th March 2021

  • Census guidance on the sex question ruled unlawful

    Census day is 21 March 2021. Yesterday, in a challenge brought by Fair Play For Women, the High Court ordered the Office for National Statistics to correct the guidance they provide online about how to answer the question “What is your sex?”   Until yesterday, the guidance for the 2021...

    10th March 2021

  • ONS reverses decision to ask clear sex question on the census

    The ONS has reversed its decision not to allow self-identified answers to the sex question in next month’s Census. On 22 January, 2021 The UK’s Chief Statistician, Professor Ian Diamond, confirmed on BBC Radio 4’s Today program the question “what is your sex” should be answered according to someone’s LEGAL SEX,...

    12th February 2021

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