How to identify and use qualitative data in gender analysis.

Activity 2.2

How to identify and use qualitative data in gender analysis.


This activity overviews qualitative data that is useful for gender analysis, and why it is important to understand the lived experience behind the numbers.

  • What is qualitative data for gender analysis and why is it important?
  • What are some examples of qualitative data and its uses?
  • What if I can't access this type of data for gender analysis?

Qualitative data is data captured through interviews, focus groups, written survey responses and other engagement methods, and can inform all stages of the policy process, particularly during the planning stage.  It is often used with quantitative data as a mixed methods research approach to give a fuller picture behind the numbers.

What qualitative data can I use for gender analysis?

Using insights from qualitative analysis can help policy professionals understand the bigger picture of how gender impacts different population groups.

Qualitative data is important because it helps you,

  • Hear directly from people who will be impacted by your policy
  • Unravel or explain the bigger picture behind the numbers
  • Develop more sensitive and targeted policy
  • Use a variety of written, spoken and visual resources to create new gender knowledge

When designing qualitative research methods, careful consideration is given to the approach used to collect information, the way participants are treated during data collection, and ethical sorting, analysis and interpretation of results.

What are some examples of qualitative data and its uses?


  • Interviews can help you understand the experiences of individuals in a policy area.
  • They allow people to give an in depth account of their experiences either face-to-face, over the phone or online.
  • Interviews can be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured.

Focus groups

  • Focus groups are small groups of people who meet with a researcher or policy professional to discuss a particular topic.
  • The purpose of a focus group is to provide a space for discussion and debate, so that you can hear the views of people who know about a policy area or will be impacted by a policy change.
  • They can be useful for testing concepts, and can be conducted face-to-face or online.

Case studies

  • Developing case studies can involve multiple methods of data collection, including a thorough investigation of people from all perspectives including those who were involved in the process, and those on the receiving end of the process.
  • To avoid “cherry-picking”, that is choosing people who will support your perspective, you need to ensure that participants are likely to expose both positive and negative outcomes.

Ethnographic approaches

  • Spending a longer period of time observing and engaging with a small number of participants in their daily life to understand the day-to-day context
  • It can reveal insights that may be hard to articulate in a focus group or interview, or may differ from what is said
  • It helps understand behaviour that can influence real-life decisions that even the participants may be unaware of.

What if I can't access this type of data for gender analysis?

Gathering and using qualitative data requires active engagement with stakeholders including those with lived experience, and strong research design. If there is no information about the experience of different genders relating to your project it is important to think about cost-effective, ethical and effective ways to collect this information. For participatory methods see Activity 2.5.

If primary research is not an option for you then qualitative research can also be access via existing sources including:

  • Literature review of academic research and government reports
  • Stakeholder engagement (see Activity 2.3)
  • Case records or administration records (with permission)
  • Research undertaken by advocacy and other research groups

Case study: Using mixed-methods to understand impact of free childcare.

A mixed-method study using both administrative records and survey data, and follow-up interviews, was undertaken to find out how access to free childcare at work affected the attendance of working mothers at an Indian garment factory.

The study found that workers whose outside-work networks were less likely to contribute informal childcare benefitted more from access to employer-sponsored childcare. This was particularly so with workers who had daughters as sons received more informal childcare support from outside-work social networks.

Workers’ attendance increased after receiving access to employer-sponsored childcare. The attendance of workers with daughters increased by 7.5 percentage points, while the attendance of workers with sons increased by 2.5 percentage points.

Workers – and especially workers with daughters – earned approximately 10 per cent more on average after receiving access to employer-sponsored childcare. They were also approximately 35 per cent less likely to quit by the end of the study period if they received access to employer-sponsored childcare.

Ranganathan, Aruna, and David S. Pedulla. "Work-Family Programs and Nonwork Networks: Within-Group Inequality, Network Activation, and Labor Market Attachment." Organization Science 32, no. 2 (2021): 315-333.

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