© Gates Archive I Shawn Koh I Children attend class at Xinfeng Village Kindergarten in Dayin Town, Qixingguan District, Bijie City, Guizhou Province, China I 2018


Women and girls express agency in decision-making when they influence and make decisions and when they establish and act on goals. Key decisions that affect women and girls’ lives and futures occur in both the private and public spheres and often entail a process that includes negotiation and compromise. A woman or girl exercises empowered decision-making when she uses her voice to influence key decisions and is aware of, and can act upon, a full array of choices.


  1. Use formative and qualitative research to understand the extent to which women and girls are satisfied with the outcomes of the decisions that affect their lives, including those that they make. Assess if women desire
    decision-making control unilaterally or jointly with partner or parent, so you have clarity on interpretation of findings.
  2. Include questions or indicators that capture the processes and influences in decision-making in addition to measuring the final outcome

Illustrative Indicators



From Framework 1 – Intermediate Outcome 1.1. Increased women’s decision-making around (livestock) production

Intermediate Outcome 2.1. Increased use of agricultural interventions that improve productivity by female-managed plots


1.1.1. % of rural women with input into productive decisions

1.1.2. % of rural women with access to and decision-making power over credit

2.1.1. % of rural women with input over land use

2.1.2. % of rural women with knowledge of new farming techniques



From Framework 2 – Intermediate Outcome 1.1. Increased decision-making power related to family planning among young women in four inner-city slums in Delhi

Outcome 1.2. Expanded access to family planning services available to young women in four inner-city slums in Delhi


1.1.1. % of women who report their husband's disapproval as reason for discontinuing contraceptive use

1.1.2. % of women currently using family planning whose decision to use it was made independently or jointly with their husband partner

1.2.1. % of health care workers who believe that young women should have access to family planning services even if they aren't married

1.2.2. # of family planning clinics in each inner-city slum


The most common direct measure of agency is decision-making. Common proxy indicators include education, employment or individual control over assets. Although they are more focused, direct measures often require more questions in a survey to capture a full picture of agency. Proxy measures may be simpler and cheaper to implement, but they do not necessarily give a full picture of reality.

For example, the proxy measure education would not tell you whether a woman’s level of education causes or is caused by greater empowerment among women. In some studies, proxy indicators are categorized as resources, and so are used in addition to the direct measure of decision-making (one component of agency) to capture a more accurate picture of agency in that setting.


Explore the other dimensions relating to agency via the links below.