A Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment

Funders know they want to fund women’s economic empowerment programming, but they don’t know where to start. This provides a map to figure out where to start.

Rebecca Furst-Nichols, UN Foundation

Funders like the United Nations (UN) Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation wanted to invest strategically in women’s economic empowerment. Both foundations knew that investing in women is good practice, but to more deeply invest, they needed a clearer understanding of what approaches are most impactful. Through commissioned research, these foundations worked together to improve their own understanding and also that of the broader women’s empowerment field. In 2013, the UN Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation, released a report and interactive website, A Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment.

After years of funding women’s economic empowerment programming, the ExxonMobil Foundation sought to better target its funding to areas with a known evidence base. The ExxonMobil Foundation reached out to the UN Foundation, which had years of experience working on gender and women’s empowerment, and asked it to compile the latest evidence from the field. “Women’s access to income and savings products are areas of great interest to funders and implementers alike, and are issues that everyone can get behind,” explains the UN Foundation senior program officer and report co-author, Rebecca Furst-Nichols. “We know that when women have more money, families and societies benefit, but the evidence to date has been weak in pinpointing the most effective ways to pursue this goal.”

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A Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment

Facts From the Roadmap

  • Women invest up to 90 percent of their earnings in their families.
  • Women produce half the world’s food and in contrast only own 1 percent of its farmland.
  • Companies owned or managed by women represent between 25 percent and 33 percent of formal sector businesses around the world and a larger percentage of informal sector businesses.
  • It has been estimated that raising female employment levels to those of males could increase gross domestic product by 5 percent in the United States, 9 percent in Japan, 12 percent in the United Arab Emirates, and 34 percent in Egypt, simply through the infusion of additional earners in the economy.
  • Globally, a woman is 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man. This gender gap in ownership widens to 23 percent if she lives in Africa.

Funders are increasingly influencing policy and practice by creating tools, sharing knowledge, and being more involved in their funding.

Rebecca Furst-Nichols, UN Foundation