Design challenges are common to most program evaluations, but this is especially true for programs that measure women's economic empowerment. This is because of the interdependence between women's economic and social roles, which influences their business choices and returns to those businesses. For example, because women have significant family responsibilities, they may have different goals for their businesses, such as less growth but the option to work from home. This makes the choice of measures used to capture empowerment particularly complex.

Building on the results of A Roadmap for Promoting Women's Economic Empowerment (2013), the United Nations Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation commissioned five expert researchers to produce independent think pieces on distinct measurement topics. In 2014, the foundations convened the researchers to discuss their recommendations and identify a common set of widely applicable outcome measures across two categories: urban women entrepreneurs and business leaders, and rural women entrepreneurs and farmers.

Measuring Women's Economic Empowerment (2015), a companion to the Roadmap report, summarizes recommended measures to assess intermediate, direct, and final outcomes of women's economic empowerment programs. Outcomes of interest are women's increased productivity, income, and well-being, as shown in the causal chain depicted in Figure 1.

We also produced Monitoring and Evaluation Guidelines for Women's Economic Empowerment Programs which describes the role of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) in programs intended to empower women economically.

The following researchers contributed to this effort:

  • Oriana Bandiera, London School of Economics;
  • James C. Knowles, Independent Consultant;
  • Agnes R. Quisumbing;
  • Cheryl Doss;
  • Nancy Johnson and Ruth Meinzen-Dick, International Food Policy Research Institute;
  • Martin Valdivia, GRADE, Peru; and
  • Christopher Woodruff, University of Oxford.

In 2016, UNF’s Data2X commissioned further research to examine methods for measuring the subjective (self-reported) elements of women’s economic empowerment. Measurement of women’s economic empowerment in practice still tends to focus on two areas: (a) women’s labor market outcomes, and (b) women’s participation in household economic decisions. The think pieces argue that researchers should identify the aspects of empowerment influenced by an intervention in order to get a complete picture. These may include measures focused on attitudes as well as behaviors (actions). Outcomes examined include well-being, stress, self-confidence, life satisfaction, and gender norms.

The following researchers contributed to this effort:

  • Louise Fox, UC Berkeley;
  • Carolina Romero, World Bank;
  • Kelly Hallman, Population Council;
  • Agnes R. Quisumbing, International Food Policy Research Institute;
  • Deborah Rubin, Cultural Practice;
  • Katie Sproule, Independent Consultant; and
  • Christopher Woodruff, University of Oxford.

Figure 1

Indicator selection will depend on the nature of the program being evaluated.


Researcher Think Pieces

Women's Economic Empowerment

Evaluating Skills and Capital Transfer Programs Targeted to Women Not in Stable Employment (Young and/or Ultrapoor), Oriana Bandiera (PDF)

Preferred Outcome Measures for Interventions to Increase the Earnings and Productivity of Rural Women, James C. Knowles (PDF)

Measuring Empowerment of Rural Women Farmers and Producers: What Can We Learn From a Gender and Assets Perspective? Agnes R. Quisumbing, Nancy Johnson, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, and Cheryl Doss (PDF)

Business Development Services for Female Entrepreneurship for Female Entrepreneurship: A Think Note on Measurement Outcomes, Martin Valdivia (PDF)

Measuring Well-being of Female Entrepreneurs: Thoughts on Measuring Outcomes, Christopher Woodruff (PDF)

Women's Subjective Economic Empowerment

Measuring Women’s Economic Empowerment: Overview, Mayra Buvinic (PDF)

Measuring Subjective Dimensions of Empowerment Among Extremely and Moderately Poor Women in Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay: Lessons from the Field

In the Mind, the Household or the Market? Concepts and Measurement of Women's Economic Empowerment, Louise Fox and Carolina Romero (PDF)

Population Council Lessons on Increasing and Measuring Girls' Economic Empowerment, Kelly K. Hallman (PDF)

Subjective Measures of Women’s Economic Empowerment, Agnes Quisumbing, Deborah Rubin, and Katie Sproule (PDF)

Measuring Subjective Economic Empowerment, Christopher Woodruff (PDF)


Monitoring and Evaluation Guidelines for Women's Economic Empowerment Programs

These guidelines were drafted as a supplement to Measuring Women's Economic Empowerment, and describe in more detail the role of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) in programs intended to empower women economically. That role is assumed to be threefold: to support effective project implementation ("Are we doing things right?"), to determine whether the desired outcomes are being achieved ("Are we doing the right things?"), and to contribute to the global knowledge base on the types of interventions that are most effective in promoting women's economic empowerment ("Do we know what works best?"). The document (PDF below) was prepared by James C. Knowles, an economist and independent research consultant.

The guidelines provide a menu of M&E methods that different program implementers and funders can use to meet their individual M&E needs. They include recommended indicators for women's economic empowerment final and intermediate outcome measures as well as links to appropriate questionnaire modules.

Monitoring and Evaluation Guidelines for Women's Economic Empowerment Programs: Report Prepared by James C. Knowles (PDF)