Research demonstrates that when women are economically empowered, communities and nations benefit – but there are questions around how to best achieve women empowerment.
The United Nations Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation announced today a new evidence-based report that identifies proven, promising and high-potential interventions to promote women’s economic advancement around the world.

The report, A Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment, provides funders, NGOs and governments a framework for selecting and implementing programmes that successfully increase women’s productivity and earnings in particular economic and country contexts.

Until now, there remained a crucial knowledge gap regarding the most effective interventions that directly advance women’s economic opportunities. To address this gap, the UN Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation joined forces in 2012 to produce A Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment.

“We know that expanding economic opportunities for women is the right and smart thing to do. The big question is how,” says Mayra Buvinic, UN Foundation senior fellow and lead author of the report.
“This report and roadmap draw on the best available evidence to guide funding and action toward economic empowerment programmes that have demonstrated results and can be scaled for impact.”

The report, the first of its kind to gather this breadth of existing research, summarises the findings of 18 research studies with a focus on programmes across four categories: entrepreneurship, farming, wage employment and young women’s employment.

On the basis of these studies, the project compiled a database of 136 published empirical evaluations of programmes and policies. The research studies and the report systematically analysed the effectiveness of interventions in terms of increasing women’s productivity and earnings, taking into account the economic and social contexts.

It also looked at the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of programmes to provide a new, reliable framework for how best to empower women.

“There is widespread agreement that expanding economic opportunities for women is integral to broader global development and economic progress,” says Suzanne McCarron, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation.
“We are hopeful this report will be an important resource for the community of funders, practitioners and policymakers as they look to shape or strengthen the impact of their programmes.”

Key lessons from the report include:
* Proven and promising interventions – based on strength of empirical evidence, the roadmap identifies nine proven and nine promising interventions. They include savings accounts, proven to increase women’s productivity and earnings, and the use of mobile phones, which promise to deliver financial services and market information in a cost-effective way to women farmers and entrepreneurs.

* The very poor need more – very poor women need a more intensive package of services than less poor women to break out of subsistence production, in agriculture and entrepreneurship.

* In-kind assistance – providing capital in-kind (as inventory, for instance) rather than in cash can help nudge women micro-entrepreneurs to keep the capital in the business and avoid pressure to divert it to other family members or household needs.

* Wage employment – access to childcare increases women’s wage employment levels and earnings, but design and delivery matter to ensure quality, affordable and cost-effective care.

* Young women – cash grants to poor and very poor young women may increase their employment options and resulting income, and have sizeable social benefits.

* Country context – whether an intervention works depends on the economic situation of the woman and the context in which she lives. In high fertility, agrarian economies, for example, programmes for women farmers need to be complemented by interventions seeking to reduce women’s work and time burdens, including access to quality family planning and reproductive health services.
In resource rich economies and small island nations, programmes should seek to identify and develop domestic and niche export markets that are accessible to women producers.