The WomanStats Project: Shedding Light on the Situation of Women Worldwide

Dr. Donna Lee Bowen
Copyright BYU Photo

Did you know that how a nation treats its women impacts its levels of peace, prosperity, and health? The WomanStats Project, which has the largest database of information on women, was created to better understand the relationship between the situation and the security of women. Dr. Donna Lee Bowen, professor emeritus of political science at BYU, is one of the principal investigators of the WomanStats Project, along with other BYU professors. Bowen has worked on the project for 10 years and shares that it is a global effort. There are principal investigators from the U.S. and from other countries including Turkey, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Colombia. Statistics about women’s lives in 174 countries have been gathered using over 310 variables.

Purpose and Meaning of the Project

Bowen explains that the WomanStats Project is meaningful to her in three main ways:

  1. It is an excellent research opportunity for students.
  • Graduate students from multiple universities work as coders for the project. BYU employs several undergraduate students as well as a few graduate students as coders.
  • These students receive heavy duty training and become skilled coders.

2. The WomanStats Project contributes to the academic work on women in a way that’s never been done before.

  • The project’s database is a unique research tool.
  • It is also “the world’s most comprehensive compilation of information on the status of women” as the project’s website explains.

3. The WomanStats Project contributes to understanding the situation of women.

  • “If you care about your country, you need to care about the welfare of women in your country,” says Bowen.

Impact of the Project

Bowen explains that the slogan of the WomanStats Project is: “The fate of nations is tied to the status of women.” Bowen and other principal investigators have found that when women are treated poorly, a country is less well-off in terms of its economy, education, environment, health, and government. Bowen explores these findings in greater detail in her book The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide with co-authors Valerie M. Hudson and Perpetua Lynne Nielsen.

Regarding the impact of the WomanStats Project on the situation of women, Bowen says, “We are hoping we are going to change the discussion of women and how [governments] make policy and laws.” Bowen hopes that countries will “take a serious look at the importance of women,” and not just in terms of raising children, although she acknowledges that what happens in the family determines all other aspects of women’s lives. With the largest database of information on women and researchers dedicated to analyzing these issues, the WomanStats Project is working to improve the status of women and nations by shedding a light on the issues women face worldwide.

How You Can Get Involved

The public can get involved with this research on women by exploring the WomanStats Project’s website. As Bowen explains, you can view maps that show how specific countries are affected by different variables. One multivariable map shows women’s physical security, revealing that in many countries, women have low levels of or completely lack physical security.

You can also visit the WomanStats Project’s blog, which includes articles on a wide range of issues related to the situation and status of women. You can also create a free WomanStats Project account and access the database. Visit the WomanStats Project’s website and become educated on the situation of women worldwide.