Internship Follow-Up: World Statistics Day at the United Nations Headquarters

worlds women 2015By Phoebe Spencer, E4A PhD Student at University of Vermont

World Statistics Day may sound less exciting than Halloween or Thanksgiving, and it’s certainly harder to find a suitable Hallmark card to send your loved ones, but I had a big reason to celebrate it this past October. Almost a year after finishing my internship with the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), I returned to New York for the release of The World’s Women 2015 Trends and Statistics, the report that was the focus of my three-month internship and a major project for many others over the past three years.


On the morning of October 20th, a crowd gathered in a conference room of the UN Secretariat Building to celebrate the hard work that many people put into the report and discuss the broader meaning of the statistics included in the document. The event, hosted by the Permanent Missions of Japan and Mexico to the United Nations, featured speakers from the Permanent Mission of Japan, the UN Statistics Division, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (IPSS) in Japan, and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography in Mexico.


The UN Secretariat building in New York City (photo by author)

The four panelists spoke about their organizations’ work with gender statistics, blending scientific rigor with words of caution for future challenges, and cautious optimism for successes such as improvements to education for girls and women, and rises in life expectancy for both genders since the 1990s. These types of accomplishments were especially significant in 2015 given the end of the Millennium Development Goals and the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals initiative, both of which address gender inequality through development goals related to health, education, poverty reduction, empowerment, peace, and environmentalism.

One theme was particularly relevant to the report’s release on World Statistics Day: a systemic lack of crucial data. Many countries do not gather data on important gender issues, which is deeply problematic for understanding societies and their needs. The report calls for “relevant, reliable and timely gender statistics” in order to inform policy and move toward justice

While The World’s Women focuses on serious topics of gender equity, the excitement of releasing a report with many proud contributors was felt throughout the launch event, as well as at the World Statistics Day celebration afterward. Surrounded by multilingual posters wishing readers “Better data. Better lives;” UNSD put together a time capsule for their future counterparts to open on World Statistics Day 2030, with the hope that that day’s celebration will be one of peace, justice, and reliable data.


Celebrating World Statistics Day with UNSD (photo by author)

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