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International Women's Economic Empowerment

Goal: To improve women’s economic opportunities and their ability to act independently.

When women thrive, so do their families, their communities, and their countries. Ensuring that women have—and can take advantage of—full and fair opportunities to earn a living is not just a matter of equality, it’s essential for social and economic development.

Despite broad recognition of this principle from world leaders, many countries are pursuing economic development paths that systematically disadvantage women.

With this work the Hewlett Foundation seeks to expand women’s choices globally by increasing their economic empowerment through these four strategies:

More Robust Economic Data About Women’s Work.
A major challenge to sound policymaking that can improve women’s economic opportunities is that influential labor statistics are neither accurate nor comprehensive in reporting women’s economic activities. For example, work in the “informal economy,” such as waste picking and domestic work, is typically excluded from official statistics; it is also disproportionately done by women. Building on existing surveys by leading international financial institutions, as well as the work of national statistical offices, we support the development and promotion of definitions and measurements of work that more fully capture women’s economic contributions. In addition, we seek opportunities to contribute to the emerging consensus about how to measure and value unpaid work. Finally, we support work that aims to expand the available data around laws and regulations that influence women’s economic opportunities.

Rigorous Research of Economic Policy Impacts on Women.
We support a range of conceptual and empirical research that examines how economic policies affect men and women differently.  For example, extractive industries like mining are often male dominated while wage-led industries like textile manufacturing tend to be female dominated; government policy decisions about economic development should be informed by high-quality research that takes account of these differences. In addition to investing in research that informs macroeconomic policies, we also fund work to extend microeconomic research on how household decision-making affects women’s labor force participation.

Adoption of New Economic Practices.
Our third strategy aims to influence international institutions whose decisions affect the economic policies of countries that depend on foreign direct investment and the backing of these institutions – like the nations of sub-Saharan Africa. These countries tend to depend on loans and policy advice from international agencies like the World Bank to inform their economic growth. Ensuring that these agencies consider gender in their economic analysis can help ensure that sub-Saharan African nations do so as well.  

Promotion of Economic Policy that Benefits Women.
Finally, we aim to pair our investments in data and research with advocacy work. In addition to strong partners whose work focuses primarily on gender, we want to identify organizations with a broader mandate to help make the case for integrating gender concerns into general economic policy. We support influential organizations that are capable of promoting sound policy agendas and monitoring whether these agendas, once adopted, are properly executed.

Read more about our Women's Economic Empowerment strategy [pdf].

Photos: Jonathan Torgovnik, Reportage by Getty Images; Demetria Tsoutouras, WIEGO; Sofia Trevino, WIEGO.
Data Sources: UN Women