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The IAWL Gender Scorecard: Using Data to Drive Systems Change

Data-driven research is crucial to supporting advocacy and policy interventions to accelerate systems change and promote transformational leadership for women in law. The IAWL Gender Scorecard is a vital tool in broadening our understanding of women in law and leadership.

- J. Jarpa Dawuni, Ph.D.


In 2017, at an international conference in The Hague on women’s representation in international law, I presented preliminary data and research showing that Africa was leading other world regions on women’s representation on the bench of the International Criminal Court (ICC). I also presented the progress achieved in women’s representation on the bench of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. A conference participant challenged the accuracy of the data I presented. I figured two factors were driving her skepticism - first, it was either she could not believe that Africa was leading in the representation of women on international benches, or second, she did not take the time to do a simple headcount of the women judges on these courts to confirm or disprove my data. My response to her was simple - I asked her to present data that confirmed her opinion that I was wrong. She could not. I was able to confidently throw her this intellectual challenge because I had researched and counted the data points several times. Most importantly, the data on the websites of these two courts were accurate and current.

As a leading scholar on women in law in Africa, I have firsthand knowledge of the challenges of accessing accurate and current data on women in law. The challenge of accessing reliable data affects the development of accurate policy interventions. Effective advocacy and policy interventions for increasing women’s representation in legal and judicial sectors require accurate data points. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) # 5 on gender equality, and #16 on peace, justice and strong institutions cannot be fully measured if we do not have accurate data to capture women’s representation and or underrepresentation in justice institutions.

You may have heard the phrase “you cannot fix a problem if you cannot measure it.” At the Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL), we are revolutionizing the way we measure and analyze women’s representation in law and leadership through our innovative approaches to data accessibility on women in law across Africa. Our forthcoming data portal on women in law across Africa will house the first and most comprehensive data on women in law across the continent.

In line with our vision of driving systems change through research and data, we have launched this year’s Gender Scorecard on law firms across Africa. The Scorecard profiled 82 law firms in 19 countries focusing on women in top leadership and managerial positions. The data show pockets of progress between and within countries, while other countries have work to do.

With these data points, we invite policymakers, law firm leaders, judiciaries, and advocacy groups to engage with the work at IAWL as we work towards accelerating systems change for women’s leadership in law.


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