More and more large institutions—including multinational corporations—have come to appreciate the value of empowering women economically. Creating opportunities for women to take control of their own livelihoods not only leads to improved living standards for themselves and their families, but also yields social and economic benefits for their entire communities. Doing so, moreover, can enhance the ability of companies to build “shared value” in the countries where they operate. Yet creating such opportunities is often much easier said than done. In “Empowering Women at the Grassroots,” the cover story in the Spring 2015 issue of SSIR, Marissa Wesely and Dina Dublon suggest that the best way to bring about enduring change in this area is to support the work of local women’s organizations. In the article, they offer a guide for how companies can build robust partnerships with such groups.

To supplement the article, we present three reports that Wesely and Dublon cite in support of their argument—one produced by the World Bank; one produced by the Oak Foundation in partnership with Dalberg, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), and Witter Ventures; and one produced by ICRW on behalf of Gap, Inc. We share these reports with gratitude to the organizations that published them.

In early 2014, the World Bank issued “Gender at Work: A Companion to the World Development Report on Jobs.” It’s a wide-ranging, globe-spanning survey of how women fare today in the employment market and in the workplace, and it sheds light on the gender-based social and economic gaps that efforts to empower women can help to fill. Here, we invite readers to download and review this report.

Gender at Work


On virtually every global measure, women are more economically excluded than men. Trends suggest that women’s labor force participation (ages 15–64) worldwide over the last two decades has stagnated, declining from 57 to 55 percent globally.—from the report

Download the complete document here.

The title of “The Business Case for Women’s Economic Empowerment: An Integrated Approach” clearly spells out the core message of that document. In the report, the Oak Foundation and its three partner organizations advise company leaders to invest in programs that “[treat] women not as beneficiaries, but rather as true economic agents.” The report, which readers can download here, presents eight “building blocks” of a model for how companies can empower women in a holistic way.

The Business Case for Women’s Economic Empowerment


More than ever before, business leaders are stepping forward to advance women’s economic empowerment. Their efforts position them as a very powerful ally in the broader effort to ensure that all women can fully participate in and benefit from rising global prosperity.—from the report

Download the complete document here.

Measuring the impact of programs undertaken in partnership with grassroots women’s organizations is crucial to making such partnerships work. In their article, Wesely and Dublon cite an evaluation that ICRW conducted of PACE (Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement), an initiative sponsored by the clothing retailer Gap. “Advancing Women, Changing Lives” is a report on the results of that assessment. Here, we invite readers to download and review the report.

Advancing Women, Changing Lives


P.A.C.E. is changing many women’s lives. They now have a more optimistic outlook on life and are better able to deal with challenges. They have a greater sense of self-worth, are able to express themselves with ease, can better manage their work and their personal lives, and have plans for the future that seemed out of reach before their participation in the program.—from the report

Download the complete document here.