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Women’s Economic Empowerment: A

Framework for Conceptualization and
Measurement
Anne Marie Golla
Economist, Development and Gender
ADB Regional Seminar on Women’s Employment,
Entrepreneurship, and Empowerment
May 20, 2015
Bangkok, Thailand

Why focus on women’s economic
empowerment?
• Improving the economic opportunities of women is crucial

to development
• Skills and market access alone are not enough – if the
factors limiting women’s choices and ability to share in
resources are not addressed, economic programs will
achieve their objectives, and development will not be
inclusive
• Women’s economic empowerment is both “smart
economics” and an issue of rights

What is women’s economic
empowerment?
• Emerged from idea of women’s empowerment
• No set definition; organizations have developed

definitions to meet their institutional needs
• Most include the ideas of agency and control
(over resources, one personal self, and decision
making)
• Definitions differ in the emphasis on these
concepts vs. economic ones; and on the
emphasis of factors outside of the economic
sphere.

A conceptual framework for
women’s economic empowerment
• Define women’s economic

empowerment
• Show pathways through which it
occurs
• A measurement framework

Definition and Key Concepts
Economic Empowerment
A woman is economically empowered when she has both
the ability to succeed and advance economically and
the power to make and act on economic decisions.
Economic Advancement
The ability and opportunity to earn a livelihood, including
having the skills and resources needed to enter and
compete in markets and equal access to economic
institutions
Power and Agency
Power: Power to control resources and profits
Agency: The ability to make and act on decisions

Women’s Economic Empowerment: Two Interrelated
Components

Economic empowerment is a
multidimensional, flexible concept
• Empowerment in other spheres (political,

psychological, social, legal, cultural) impacts
economic empowerment
• Empowerment means different things for different
women (by region, socioeconomic group, age,
cultural group, personal preference)
• Empowerment can change over time; as regions
develop what constitutes empowerment changes
• WEE is a long-term process

Economic empowerment occurs on multiple levels
LEVEL

MACRO

State/Nation
Economic Sector

National advocacy change in laws

Communities
Markets

Social communication change in social norms
New technologies – more
efficient markets

Firm
Cooperative
Women’s group

Training/Capacity Building Change in organizational
capacity/strength
Change in work
environment

Individual
Household

Skills training
Enhanced ability to earn

MESO

MICRO

TYPE OF CHANGE

Approaches to Women’s
Economic Empowerment

Factors contributing to WEE
Resources: The building blocks women can draw on to
succeed economically or to exercise power and agency
• At the individual or community level
• Includes physical, financial, social, and personal

resources
Norms/Institutions: The “rules of the game” - the
organizational and social systems that govern activities and
mediate relations between individuals and their social and
economic environment
• Influence how public resources are used and who

participates and how.

Examples of Resources and
Norms/Institutions
Resources
• Human capital:

(education, skills, training)
• Financial capital:

(loans, savings)
• Social capital:

(networks, mentors)
• Physical capital:

(land, assets)

Norms/Institutions
• Norms: Gender-defined

roles, taboos, prohibitions,
expectations such as
whether women can be
seen in public spaces, hold
certain jobs or manage
money
• Institutions: legal and
policy structures,
economic systems, market
structures, marriage,
inheritance and education
systems.

Example: Barriers to WEE
Resources

Institutions

Agency/Power

Self-efficacy
Status in household
and community
Voice
Social capital

Norms on women’s role
Barriers to women’s mobility
Violence against women
Marriage laws

Economic
Advancement

Education levels
Lack of assets
Access to finance
Time constraints

Weak markets
Barriers to market entry
Labor market discrimination
Property laws

Projects take different pathways to women’s
economic empowerment.
Empowerment
Context

Macroeconomic
Context

Empowering approaches:
inclusive design and implementation
• Women themselves are involved, along with other

stakeholders, in developing the key program delivery
parameters, and indicators of success, women given
choice and voice within program
• Creation and support of women’s collaboration
• Women’s groups and associations
• Opportunities for networking (BDS, business incubators)

• Collaboration for representation (SEWA,WIEGO)

• Supporting women’s leadership
• Leveraging the demonstration effect

• Gender Champions

Measurement

Measuring women’s economic
empowerment
• Measuring WEE puts it on the program agenda.
• Measurement should align with the slice of WEE that the



program addresses and measure only what it reasonably
expects to change.
Measure both agency/power and economic indicators
Use quantitative and qualitative methods
Measuring process indicators and outputs is critical to
inclusion and M&E – they demonstrate if the project is
engaging women as intended
It is unrealistic to expect to be able measure long-term
impacts within a standard project’s time framework

Measuring women’s economic
empowerment at different impact levels

Key ideas
• Both empowerment and economic advancement

are crucial to creating better lives for women. The
concept of economic empowerment adds value to
both social programs and economic advancement
projects.
• Considering how power and agency affect
realization of economic advancement goals
enhances the effectiveness and sustainability of
project outcomes
• You need to understand the multidimensional
nature of WEE it in order to achieve it.
• Measuring WEE is critical to making it happen