Tara Patricia Cookson is Assistant Professor at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs (SPPGA) at the University of British Columbia. Tara is also an Associate Member of UBC’s Geography Department. She uses ethnographic and quantitative methods to study how power operates in development policy, with a focus on gender data, social protection, and care work. Her approach to public scholarship integrates academic research, practice-oriented publications, and direct engagement with international policy processes.
Dr. Cookson is the author of Unjust Conditions: Women’s Work and the Hidden Cost of Cash Transfer Programs (University of California Press, Open Access), winner of the Globe Book Award (American Association of Geographers), the Sarah A. Whaley Prize (National Women’s Studies Association), and a Development Studies Book Award Honorable Mention (International Studies Association). Her research has been published in Antipode, Gender Place & Culture, the International Journal of Feminist Politics, and Global Public Health. She regularly contributes commentary and analysis to outlets such as Devex, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and the Toronto Star.
Dr. Cookson co-founded Ladysmith, a feminist research collective that connects academic scholarship to practitioner problem solving by helping international organizations collect, analyze and take action on gender data. She has collaborated with global development institutions such as UN Women, the International Labour Organization, UNICEF, Global Affairs Canada, USAID, Action Against Hunger, and the OECD-DAC Governance Network.
Cookson, T.P. (2018). Unjust conditions: Women’s work and the hidden cost of cash transfer programs. University of California Press. Open Access.
Zulver J., Cookson T.P. & Fuentes L. (2021). “COVID-19 and gender-based violence: Insights from a ‘data for development’ project on the Colombia-Venezuela border.” International Feminist Journal of Politics.
Cookson T.P., Jha S., Fuentes L. & Saxena A. (2020). “Programmatic norms change to eliminate violence against children: Insights for practitioners and researchers from a UNICEF global mapping study.” Global Public Health.
Fuentes, L. & Cookson, T.P. (2020). “Counting gender (in) equality? a feminist geographical critique of the ‘gender data revolution’.” Gender, Place & Culture. 27(6), 881-902.
Cookson, T.P. (2016). “Working for Inclusion? Conditional Cash Transfers, Rural Women, and the Reproduction of Inequality.” Antipode, 48(5), 1187-1205.
Holeman, I., Cookson, T. P., & Pagliari, C. (2016). “Digital technology for health sector governance in low and middle income countries: a scoping review.” Journal of global health, 6(2).
Selected policy publications
Cookson T.P., Carlitz R., Fuentes L., & Berryhill A. (2020). Gender Equality at Home Report: A Gender Data Snapshot of Life During COVID-19. San Francisco: Facebook.
Cookson, T.P., Fuentes, L., Zulver, J. & Langworthy, M. (2020). Building alliances for gender Equality: How the tech community can strengthen the gender data ecosystem. Ladysmith and Facebook.
Cookson, T.P. & Kofman, E. (2019). “Families on the Move.” In Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World. New York: UN Women. Report available in English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.
Cookson, T.P. (2019). Family Oriented Cash Transfers from a Gender Perspective: Are Conditionalities Really Justified? New York: UN Women.
Cookson, T.P. (2018). Social Protection and Access to Public Services in the Age of Conditionality. Expert Paper prepared for the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, United Nations.
Cookson, T.P. (2017). The Unseen Gender Impact of Conditionality: Extra-Official Conditions. UNDP International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth. Published in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
Jha, S., Saxena, A. & Cookson, T.P. (2017). Women migrant workers in the ASEAN Economic Community. Bangkok: UN Women.
Selected commentary and analysis
Qualitative data is key to ensuring no one gets left behind by the coronavirus response. With Lorena Fuentes in UN Women’s Women Count, May 2020.
Tech companies can support women in the COVID-19 response, too. With Julia Zulver and Lorena Fuentes in Devex, April 2020.
COVID-19’s total burden of disease extends beyond those who get sick, and this has potentially deadly consequences for women and girls. With Julia Zulver and Lorena Fuentes in Development Pathways, April 2020.
Covid-19, VBG y la respuesta humanitaria en Cúcuta. With Julia Zulver, Lorena Fuentes, Alejandra Vera and Jackeline Alba in La Silla Vacía, March 2020.
How can the international community guarantee women’s rights during migration? With Julia Zulver in Devex, January 2020.
Not a magic bullet: Families need more than cash transfers to thrive. In Stabroek News, October 2019.
Want to Promote Gender Equality? Give Women Cash, No Strings Attached. In BRIGHT Magazine, June 2019.
For Equality, Women Need Power in Their Hands. With Lorena Fuentes in the Toronto Star, June 2019.
Global Development Studies Book Award Honorable Mention, International Studies Association, 2020. Awarded for Unjust Conditions: Women’s Work and the Hidden Cost of Cash Transfer Programs.
Alumni UBC Young Alumni Award. University of British Columbia, 2020.
Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography, American Association of Geographers, 2019. Awarded for Unjust Conditions: Women’s Work and the Hidden Cost of Cash Transfer Programs.
Sarah A. Whaley Book Prize, National Women’s Studies Association, 2019. Awarded for Unjust Conditions: Women’s Work and the Hidden Cost of Cash Transfer Programs.
Bill Gates Sr. Prize, 2014. Awarded for founding Learning for Purpose, a leadership and public engagement program for graduate students at the University of Cambridge.