© Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation I LVO/Prashant Panjiar I Jharkhand, India | 2015




The purpose of this Methods Note is to provide practical guidance on how to integrate measures of empowerment into investments that strive to achieve gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment.

This Methods Note will help you to: apply the foundation’s Model of Women and Girls’ Empowerment in practical and tangible ways; design programs that effectively and holistically integrate women and girls’ empowerment into their approaches; develop clear measures for tracking progress toward women and girls’ empowerment, and; better understand and apply appropriate and effective methods for measuring empowerment.


We define empowerment as the expansion of choice and strengthening of voice through the transformation of power relations so women and girls have more control over their lives and futures.

Empowerment is a process of ongoing change through which women and girls expand their aspirations, strengthen their voice, and exercise more choice. Empowerment is also an outcome of women and girls having greater influence and control over their own lives and futures.

Agency, institutional structures, and resources are the key elements in our model of women and girls’ empowerment.

Discover more about our model for women and girls’ empowerment by clicking on the elements in the animation below.


Translating the Model of Women and Girls’ Empowerment to measurement in grants entails three steps:

  1. Articulating empowerment of women and girls in a results chain.
  2. Formulating explicit empowerment focused outcomes within that results chain.
  3. Developing relevant indicators for those outcomes, and subsequently selecting appropriate data collection and analysis methods.

Although there is often a temptation to apply universal templates and frameworks, there is no one standard approach to measuring empowerment. Your approach to measurement should always be fit-for-purpose.

Learn more about what to measure here

Results chains that capture empowerment of women and girls as a process and an outcome of transformative change share the following characteristics:

  • They present a combination of outcomes from different elements of the model (agency, institutional structures and resources).
  • They present changes at multiple levels, within the context of larger social and systemic change.

The decision to include empowerment, or an element of empowerment as a primary outcome, intermediate outcome, or both, will depend on the priorities and the logical flow of the program’s theory of change. The example results frameworks demonstrate where the elements of empowerment can logically fit in your investment, as either a primary or intermediate outcomes, or both.

Download additional Results Frameworks pdf

There is no definitive list of perfect indicators for measuring agency. When you are selecting indicators for your investment, refer to the Guiding Principles to measuring empowerment (below), and be mindful that they are fit-for-purpose and use a mixed methods approach.

Indicators for each element of the empowerment model are presented by sector, with a focus on: agriculture; family planning; water, sanitation and hygiene; and financial services for the poor. Validated indicators commonly used in the field are included as examples, as well as other more innovative or experimental indicators.

If you are measuring empowerment as a primary outcome, you will need an index or a set of indicators that capture the complexity of the concept.

Download Additional Indicators pdf

Empowerment is best measured using a mixed methods approach. While quantitative methods are useful at tracking change over time, qualitative approaches can help explain exactly how and why change has occurred, and can disentangle alternative interpretations of some of these changes. The foundation does not value one method over another, and methods for measuring empowerment should be fit-for-purpose, relevant and specific to context, taking into consideration local interpretations of empowerment. Using formative research that is informed by women’s and girls’ voices will guide this process.

Learn More

Guiding principles to measuring empowerment

  • Tailor methods to purpose and contexts

    Empowerment is best measured using a mixed-methods approach – a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. Selected methods should be based on best practice and where possible objective rather than only self-reported and subjective. In alignment with the foundation’s evaluation policy methods for measure empowerment should fit-for-purpose, meaning they are relevant and specific to content and target groups, taking take into consideration and interpretations of empowerment (e.g. adolescents likely define empowerment differently than adults, even within the same community).

  • Holistic approach

    Take a holistic approach to measurement

    Ideally the three elements of the model should be used to inform a holistic approach to measurement that captures shifts in power relations Multiple measures of the diverse dimension and constructs of empowerment should be used, including both direct and indirect proxy measures. Single indicators or narrowly defined indices fail to captured and how empowering experiences in one dimension of a woman’s life (e.g. financial assets) affect another dimension (freedom from violence). Measures should capture individual level change and collective and systemic changes.

  • Be informed by women and girls’ voices

    Measures should create space for the voices of the subject of the intervention Measures of empowerment should be informed by women and girls realities and interests. Mixed methods and participatory approaches that integrate women and girls voices should be used at different stages: monitoring and evaluation design, piloting of measures, data collection analysis and/or validation of findings.

  • Consider intersectionality

    The advantages or disadvantages that a woman or girl faces depend on bow gender intersects with her age, class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and other social markers of difference. Focusing on gender alone can mask disparities in the conditions and relative empowerment of women and girls within and across contexts. Using an intersectional lens is therefore crucial to measuring a woman or girl’s empowerment.

  • Understand that empowerment takes time

    Empowerment is a long-term process. Measuring the outcomes often require careful longitudinal study of how women and girls’ lives are changing This can be achieved through a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods that can capture these processes of change.

Download the Empowerment Methods Note