Annie Agarwal

Annie headshot.jpg

Having been born and raised in India, I feel like I have been fighting gender inequality constantly through my life. However, I know that I am not alone because this is something every girl or woman across the globe is facing in varying degrees. The inequalities are so normalized that we don't even ask why? Could we all be like a frog sitting in a tub of water with slow, rising temperature that we don't even feel the heat or become numb to it? 'Why?' - That's all I want everyone to ask; I think that is a good place to begin with. I want to use data-sets to change mindsets. I want people to ask - 'Why is my country, state, city or community low on gender equality? How does this affect me? How am I a stakeholder in this? What can I do about it?' Asking the right questions is half of the problem solved and can lead to innovative solutions.

"...but honey, this will take us about 200 years to solve the problem...", I remember hearing that for the first time and the words kept echoing in my mind. How can we be okay with that? This is not acceptable, we need to set a tone of urgency; not for our daughters or grand-daughters but for us. The world is a mess, there are urgent goals being set, there is adversity, there is inequality, there is lack of trust, faith and surety of safe future. How did we get here? How can this world be a better place, a more inclusive and balanced place when a fair representation of half of this world's population is missing from the decision making tables? 

My efforts began while volunteering with UN's data innovation team. When I started working with the gender data my goal was to build intuitive, dynamic, data driven dashboards or reports primarily for public consumption; where a 6 year old or a 60 year old can look at it, understand it and ask 'Why?'. I wanted people to interact with it and have fun with it at the same time. A lot of gender experts loved the work and I thought perhaps, as a secondary measure this could also be used to aid research and help with policies or decision making. Not only there exists a gap on collection of accurate, gender disaggregated data but also there aren't a lot of intuitive, data driven reports that exist.


The more I presented my work in various pilots the more questions people asked - when can it be available to them? I started to receive messages, emails, comments, coffee invitations from people who felt inspired and found such work highly valuable. It was raising awareness levels and it made me really happy. I am convinced that I need to accelerate and scale this effort. Read what people are saying about this effort here.


So here I am, armed with my innovative and curious mind, trained on big data, analytics and passionate about gender equality. I have found my 'ikigai' and it has taken me years to get here. I have been fortunate to find mentors and allies on my path who have helped me get to where I am today, ready to make an effort for a cause I have always believed in. And on this front I am not alone, I have an army of data scientists and experts collaborating across the globe and volunteering to help solve this equation.


A key question that I asked myself before working on gender inequality is whether I would have the same courage and passion if the inequalities were high for men - the answer to that is 'Yes'. I am not hoping to turn the table the other way round or create a lopsided argument. I am targeting for a more balanced approach and inclusive growth. There are interesting case studies where we see male disparities (although that's more uncommon) and we still ask 'Why?' And I think that is always a good place to begin with.