NEW YORK - Philanthropists pledged millions of dollars Thursday to fund U.N. data gathering, saying it was vital to learn more about the world's women to tackle the poverty that disproportionately affects them.
Pledges totaling $34 million were unveiled during a side event of the United Nations' annual General Assembly, a weeklong meeting in New York of world leaders and diplomats.
U.N. Women, the U.N. arm dedicated to gender equality, has programs in 107 countries through which it seeks to give women who are disenfranchised the same opportunities as men.
Recent research by consultancy McKinsey estimates that if women's economic participation were to match men's, $28 trillion could be added to the global economy by 2025.
The largest commitment to be announced came from Melinda Gates, who co-chairs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She promised $10 million to help U.N. Women collect data on gender.
The Gates Foundation, co-founded by Gates and her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, is one of the largest private charities in the world. The group has made its mark battling diseases such as AIDS and malaria.
Gates said she had become increasingly aware in recent years of the need for health, income and other kinds of data on women to better fund her foundation's public health efforts in the developing world.
"When Bill and I think about running a business, we would have never thought about working at Microsoft without having data," she told company and foundation representatives.
The Gates Foundation's pledge deepens its involvement in collecting gender-focused data, coming a year after it promised $80 million to "close gender data gaps."
Others who announced pledges toward U.N. Women included fashion company Chanel's foundation and consumer goods giant Unilever Plc. Each promised $1 million.
With Thursday's pledges, U.N. Women has raised more than $34 million, said Lakshmi Puri, the body's assistant secretary-general, in a Facebook broadcast of the event.
"This is a step towards bridging the chronic investment gap in gender equality," she said.