Interview with Caitlin Kieran, PIM’s new Senior Research Assistant for Gender


by Pascale Sabbagh | October 16, 2013

Caitlin Kieran_photo3PIM Senior Research Assistant, Caitlin Kieran, discusses her new role and her thoughts on future developments of the integration of gender-focused data in agricultural research.

What is your role within PIM?

As PIM’s Senior Research Assistant focusing on gender, I will serve as a resource for improving gender analyses within the PIM portfolio and help incorporate a gender perspective into projects that are currently gender neutral. I will also contribute to PIM strategic gender research in coordination with an experienced cadre of gender specialists including Cheryl Doss, Gender Lead for PIM, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, and Agnes Quisumbing. This research will help develop guidelines to improve sex-disaggregated data collection and ultimately shape policies that increase agricultural production and gender equality.

What are some things you are looking forward to in your new role?

There’s a lot of misinformation about gender and agriculture. Part of what I will work on is separating the information from reliable sources from myths about women’s role in agriculture. Another research area I’m really interested in is how women’s empowerment can be measured, particularly within agriculture. IFPRI was very involved in creating the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index. I hope to participate in follow-up work to examine how the index is working in practice, especially in households with diverse structures.

What are some of the strengths of PIM’s gender component?

PIM has successfully mainstreamed gender into its research portfolio, although there is always room for improvement. There are certain areas where the need for gender analysis is more obvious than others. It won’t necessarily make sense to include gender in every project, but it is important to think about whether or not each project has differentiated outcomes for men and women and, if so, how to include research questions that will allow for gender analysis. PIM is also well positioned to lead the process of ensuring quality standards for sex-disaggregated data collection and gender analysis across the CGIAR Research Programs and CGIAR Centers.

What are your thoughts about gender-focused research in agriculture in the future?

“There is a lot of momentum right now in the field of gender research.” Maybe to people who have been in the field longer, progress seems slow. But I believe that many donors, development organizations, and research institutions have largely accepted the importance of looking at gender differences when developing programs and policies."

I think that the burden of proof is shifting: People are no longer asking why gender is considered within a project but rather why it isn’t. Furthermore, the post-2015 development agenda may mark the beginning of a data revolution. In May 2013, a High-level Panel recommended that the U.N. require sex-disaggregated data on every goal and target in the new agenda. If we know this is approaching, we can prepare by identifying best practices in sex-disaggregated data collection on agricultural and food security programs and propose minimum standards, allowing us to conduct analyses and comparisons across countries.

In terms of where the field is headed, I am optimistic that we will see a lot of changes in the near future in how researchers take gender roles, empowerment, data collection, and analysis into consideration within the field of agriculture.