Sex and gender - draft guidance: consultation analysis

Analysis of responses to the consultation on the draft guidance on the collection of data on sex and gender.

Executive Summary

The Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People announced on 20 June 2019 that the Scottish Government would establish a working group on sex and gender in data, comprised of professionals from across statistical services. The Group is led by and reports to Scotland’s Chief Statistician, Roger Halliday.

The working group has been considering what guidance should be offered to public bodies on the collection, disaggregation and use of data on sex and gender, including what forms of data collection and disaggregation are most appropriate in different circumstances.

It is important for data collectors to consider why they are collecting this data- what it is needed for. That should always be at the forefront of data collectors’ minds, so they can tailor their questions accordingly.

Disaggregating data between men and women can show where there is continuing discrimination which needs to be tackled. Encouraging more disaggregation to improve data generally is one of the key aims of the draft guidance.

The aim of the work isn’t simply guidance for its own sake, but to create the conditions where data on sex and gender is routinely collected and used by Scottish public bodies to design, plan, monitor and evaluate services that are sensitive to the needs of all of Scotland. This includes helping organisations to understand not just the issues on sex and gender, but on the intersectionality between this and other socio-demographic characteristics.

This should most importantly enable them to develop better policy and services which deliver better and more equal outcomes.

The Chief Statistician is committed to developing guidance for Public Bodies in Scotland, and hopes to present his advice to Ministers in 2021. December 2020 saw the publication of a draft version of guidance that set out proposals for, and recommended questions to use when, collecting this data.

This work does not relate to developing the questions for Scotland’s Census 2022; a number of consultation responses shared their view on how data on sex should be collected in the Census, and it is important to clarify that this consultation is not related to the Census; instead feedback was sought on a draft version of guidance for public bodies in Scotland.

Feedback was sought on these proposals between 9 December 2020 and 12 February 2021.

The consultation received a total of 76 responses; 56 from individuals, 9 from academics and 11 from organisations.

Overall, there was a broad degree of support for the proposals, that organisations should collect data based on their needs; that it is important to have data on men and women; and that an intersectional approach that allows for a greater understanding of how inequality and discrimination affects groups with different characteristics is valuable.

Whilst these high-level proposals were welcome several issues were highlighted around definitions and conflation of terms, potential impacts on data quality and consistency, and concerns about collecting data about men and women primarily on the basis of gender identity rather than sex: these will be considered further as work to develop the draft guidance progresses.

The most common themes that emerged from the analysis of responses were:

  • Sex. The importance of collecting data on both sex and gender identity/trans status so that the needs and experiences of different groups of people can be understood and measured. Failure to collect data on sex strongly highlighted as an issue.
  • Definitions. The difficulty of trying to strictly define the term sex, and concept of gender/gender identity when there is no single agreed definition in law and/or practice. Conflation of these terms in the draft guidance.
  • Quality. Potential impacts of the proposals in the draft guidance on data quality, reliability, consistency and harmonisation.
  • Evidence. The need for an evidence driven approach – to set out clearly the evidence on which the proposals in the guidance are based.
  • What does the law say? Legal framework and considerations linked to the collection of data on sex, in particular, where discussed in the draft guidance are unclear and in some parts potentially misleading.

Details on the background to this work, the consultation process, a summary of responses and the next steps in the development process – which the outputs from the consultation will help to inform – are shared below.



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