The under/over series puts a spotlight on gender equity in data for social impact, and aims to raise awareness of successful ways for women and gender-diverse individuals to be represented in data and to themselves harness the power of data to drive social impact. As a developmental psychologist and expert in gender norms, Dr. Taveeshi Gupta is on a mission to use data to help transform harmful patterns of behavior and promote care, empathy, and accountability among boys and men worldwide.
As the Director of Research, Evaluation, and Learning at Equimundo: Center for Masculinities and Social Justice, Dr. Taveeshi Gupta is leading groundbreaking research on the role of gender norms in perpetuating violence against women and children, creating gender-unequal environments at home and work, and reinforcing harmful gender identities for both boys and girls.
Tell us about your work on gender and the role of data collection, analysis, and action. What significant findings have emerged from your work and what impact or outcomes have you observed?
At Equimundo I lead the global portfolio of research and support the collection, analysis and reporting of data focused on three interconnected pillars: violence against women, equity of care, and gender socialization. Alongside stand-alone research products, we also use this evidence and data to drive our programs and advocacy efforts.
One of our flagship research projects is the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES), which began over 15 years ago and measures not just violence perpetration, but explores men’s and women’s gender attitudes. Through quantitative and qualitative data, we dive into various aspects of participants’ development of gender attitudes, such as their childhood experiences of gender roles at home, their health and health-related practices, household division of labor, men’s participation in caregiving and as fathers, and men’s and women’s attitudes about gender and gender-related policies.
What we’ve uncovered are intriguing connections and important linkages between gender attitudes and behaviors. For instance, in nearly 32 countries where a recent global analysis was done, men who held more restrictive gender norms also had more negative health outcomes. Conversely, we found that not surprisingly one of the strongest factors associated with men’s use of intimate partner violence was witnessing their own fathers or another man use violence against their mothers. And as adults, these men were more likely to abuse alcohol, to be depressed, to have suicidal thoughts and to be generally unhappy.
I had a deep core recognition that if we're not talking about masculinities and collecting data on the experiences of boys and men, then we’re just not having a holistic conversation.Dr. Taveeshi Gupta Director of Research Equimundo
When did you first recognize there was a gender challenge that could be addressed through data? Was there a personal motivation to delve into this area of research?
My research journey started with a genuine curiosity about how immigrant parents in the US teach their kids what it means to be an immigrant and, specifically, what it means to be an American. But as I dug deeper, I noticed something fascinating: these parents weren’t just passing on lessons about being immigrants; they were also shaping their children’s identity as immigrant boys or girls. It’s like this blend of fitting in with a new culture while also adhering to gender norms dominant in American culture. For instance, the universal message that “boys don’t cry” is complicated in the immigrant context because it’s coupled with the message of fitting in in a new culture. It hit me that gender is learned — and parents, media, teachers all over the world unintentionally play a part in gendering their children.
Then, around the same time two significant events happened that affected me personally. In 2008, ten Pakistani men associated with the terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba stormed buildings in Mumbai, killing 164 people. My father had been in one of the hotels ambushed by the group but luckily remained safe. A few days later, a group of young boys attacked a close friend of mine on the subway in New York City as part of a gang initiation. He was hurt but luckily he escaped.
These events — where essentially a group of boys and men were behaving in ways that are not core to who human beings are — were a turning point for me. I began questioning everything. What causes boys and men to be willing to inflict violence? How do they learn to become these people? How is masculinity weaponized to create people capable of causing this kind of harm?
I had a deep core recognition that if we’re not talking about masculinities and collecting data on the experiences of boys and men, then we’re just not having a holistic conversation.
What are some of the challenges doing this work? Which were anticipated, and which unexpected?
Data continues to be the best way for us to understand what’s actually going on when digging into systemic problems. And yes, having more data is helpful. But often research stops short at just quantifying care. That is so important but it’s hard to understand what is happening in people’s day-to-day lived realities.
For instance, global data shows that women unequivocally shoulder the largest responsibilities as caregivers. So the default assumption is that men don’t want to be caregivers. But when you start collecting qualitative data at even a very basic level, this assumption doesn’t play out.
Through our qualitative research as part of Equimundo’s Equity of Care initiative, it was discovered that many men do want to be involved caregivers, but often are entrenched in structural barriers that constrain their ability to do so, such as socialization and gender norms, workplace norms, the gender pay gap, economic vulnerability, and the lack of paternity leave. So the solution needs to be both at individual level as well as at the larger, system and structural level.
Once you start uncovering the daily lived experiences that reveal why this problem exists, you can begin to work with governments and communities to create conditions that allow people of all genders to be good and present and equitable and involved caregivers.
How do you see your work with gender and data evolving in the future?
When it comes to the future of my work, I see a lot of exciting possibilities. The field of boys and men is continuing to expand and becoming more mainstream than ever before — but it’s also facing tremendous backlash. So at a high level, I want to find ways to talk about our work from a feminist space so that we are not inadvertently causing more harm while also finding ways to talk about how to break down the gender binary and talk about our shared humanity.
In terms of data, I want to continue to apply an even more comprehensive and nuanced approach to both the types of data we collect and the methods we use to collect that data. This more personal insight will allow us to tailor our interventions and policies to better address the specific needs and challenges faced by different communities.
What are your hopes for the future? What will more, better, and better-applied data change?
I am hopeful that there will be an increased global focus on supporting and calling in men when it comes to challenging damaging gender norms and expectations. Gender equality is about creating equitable worlds for women and it’s about recognizing that men are also affected by societal pressures related to masculinity.
I also hope that in the future, we can put a stronger emphasis on qualitative data collection given the current donor trends. I value both quantitative and qualitative work but rarely do we get a chance to do truly mixed methods projects. Intentionally trying to inject qualitative data that gives us a more personal and in-depth understanding of what’s really happening on the ground is something I want to move the field towards. When we have the stories, struggles, and aspirations of people impacted by gender norms, it adds a whole new dimension to our understanding.
By gathering better-applied data, we can make a real difference. It can help us challenge stereotypes and misconceptions, shape targeted interventions, and drive conversations around gender equity.