Tag: social norms

Does Foreign Aid Foster Female Empowerment?

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Over decades much attention has been devoted to the relationship between foreign aid and economic growth, while few studies have focused on the effects of foreign aid on female empowerment. This despite the fact that empowerment of girls and women is a key driver of development, and often an explicit objective of foreign aid. Using geo-coded data on aid project placement and household-level survey responses, Perrotta Berlin, Bonnier and Olofsgård (2023), show that foreign aid has a modest but robust effect on several dimensions of female empowerment. This is the case for both aid in general and gender-targeted aid, highlighting the potential of foreign aid to reduce gender inequalities. It is also found, though, that the impact is contingent on the context, and that there can even be a backlash in male attitudes towards female empowerment in more traditional communities.

The donor community has long been invested in the empowerment of women and girls, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also includes gender equality as an explicit goal. Yet surprisingly little quantitative research has tried to make a broader assessment of the effect of foreign aid on gender equality measures.

This policy brief summarises a study by Perrotta Berlin, Bonnier and Olofsgård (2023) which addresses this question by matching the location of aid projects with geo-coded household surveys in Malawi between 2004 and 2010. Analysing the community-level impact on five different female empowerment indices, the study finds foreign aid to affect positively women’s empowerment across several dimensions. Furthermore, the authors find that gender-targeted aid has an additional impact on an index measuring women’s control over sexuality and fertility-related decisions and an index focusing on violence against women.

When considering areas with patrilineal land inheritance traditions, the results however partly shift, especially in relation to men’s attitudes. This implies that the success of foreign aid and gender-targeted aid in reducing gender inequalities may be conditional on the community context.

Gender Equality and Foreign Aid in Malawi

Malawi is highly dependent on foreign aid. Net official development assistance (ODA) has exceeded 10 percent of gross national income yearly since 1975, reaching as high as 23.5 percent in 2016 (World Bank, WDI database).

In recent years, reforms have been undertaken by the Malawian government to improve gender equality. The minimum legal age of marriage was raised from 15 to 18 through the 2015 Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Bill, and the 2013 Gender Equality Act strengthened the legislation concerning gender-based violence and included a universal condemnation of all types of gender-based discrimination. Yet, in 2020, Malawi was ranked 116 out of 153 in the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report and 172 out of 189 in UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index. An area of concern regards the high rates of child marriage, with 9 percent of girls already married at age 15 and 42 percent by the age of 18. Alongside these numbers, 31 percent of women report to have given birth by the age 18.

Another aspect potentially influencing gender equality is the prevalence of matrilinear land tenure systems, particularly in the southern and central parts of the country (as depicted in Figure 1). While previous research has shown that land ownership empowers women and suggested that property rights affect decision power over key decisions, fertility preferences, age of marriage etc., less research has been devoted to analysing the effects on women’s empowerment outcomes in a matrilinear kinship setting. Some recent literature however suggests women in matrilinear societies have greater say in household decisions – including financial ones – and are less accepting of, as well as exposed to, domestic violence (Lowes, 2021; Djurfeldt et al., 2018).

Figure 1. Intensity of matrilineal tenure in Malawi.

Notes: The figure plots the geographic distribution of the authors’ matrilineal indicator. They base their definition of matrilineal societies on the ethnic identification of individual respondents. The intensity at the cluster level varies between 0 and 1 representing the share of respondents that identify themselves as belonging to one of the ethnic groups classified as matrilineal.
Source: Perrotta Berlin, Bonnier, Olosgård (2023).

Methodology and Data

For the analysis, the authors make use of geo-coded data on aid projects from the Government of Malawi’s Aid Management Platform (AMP) and match it to household-level data from the Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (DHS). The country of Malawi and the period 2004-2010 were chosen in order to maximize data coverage on aid disbursement. Malawi’s AMP covers 80 percent of all aid entering the country during those years, which gives a much more complete picture compared to only focusing on one specific donor.

To identify causal impact, the authors apply a difference-in-differences specification on survey clusters in proximity to aid projects implemented between 2004 and 2010. Proximity was identified as within a 10-kilometer radius from an aid project. Among those, households interviewed in 2004, i.e., prior to the implementation date of any aid project, were considered the control group, and households interviewed in 2010 formed the treatment group. The underlying assumption of parallel pre-treatment trends was confirmed with the use of earlier DHS surveys. The model specification includes individual-level controls (age, ethnicity, household size, a Muslim dummy, years of education and literacy) and also a geographic fixed-effect based on a grid of coordinates.

The analysis distinguishes between the impact of aid in general, and the additional impact of gender-targeted aid.  Gender-targeted projects are defined as projects that have any of the words woman, girl, bride, maternal, gender, genital or child, in the title, description or activity list. When estimating the effect of gender-targeted aid the authors control for overall aid intensity in the household’s vicinity. The estimated effect should therefore be interpreted as the additional effect from being exposed to a gender-targeted aid project while keeping the general number of aid projects in the area constant.

Figure 2. Map of aid projects and household clusters from 2004 and 2010 survey waves in Malawi.

Notes: The figure plots the geographic distribution of aid projects and of household clusters in the two DHS waves. The colour of the dots reflects whether the project has a gender component or not, while the shape of the household dot reflects the survey wave.
Source: Perrotta Berlin, Bonnier, Olofsgård (2023).

To capture female empowerment, the authors make use of thousands of responses to DHS survey waves from 2004 and 2010. From these responses, the authors construct four different indices. Two of these are modelled on indices used in different contexts by Haushofer and Shapiro (2016) and Jayachandran et al. (2023). The former captures experiences of violence together with men’s and women’s attitudes towards violence, and some measures of decision making and control over household resources. The more recent index by Jayachandran et al. (2023) focuses on female agency and includes questions on women’s participation in decisions on large household purchases and daily expenditures, decisions on family visits, and decisions concerning their own healthcare.

To also capture questions related to sexual and fertility preferences, often regarded as measures of female empowerment, the authors construct two additional indices. The women’s attitudes index is based on responses to questions about whether the respondent is able to refuse sexual intercourse with her husband and ask him to use a condom, age at first marriage, and age at first childbirth, among others. The men’s attitudes index is based on questions about whether the respondent thinks it is justified to use violence to force intercourse, if a woman is justified to refuse intercourse, as well as fertility and child spacing preferences. In addition, all four indices are weighted and combined into an aggregated general index.


Considering all aid projects, the authors find that being exposed to an aid project in the 2004 to 2010 window has a significant positive impact on the agency index, the female attitude index and the combined general index (12, 11 and 31 percent of their respective means). When considering gender-targeted aid, the authors found the exposure to at least one such project to increase the women’s attitude index by 7 percent and the general index by 17 percent of their respective means. The impact is present for both a narrower and a wider exposure area, and quite persistent over time.

When breaking down the analysis for areas with matrilineal versus patrilineal land tenure systems the results diverge. In communities where the share of matrilineal ethnic groups exceeds the mean of 73 percent, the results are largely in line with those in the full sample. In patrilineal communities (< 73 percent matrilineal households), the results are however vastly different. Aid projects in general, and gender-targeted aid in particular, affect negatively the men’s attitudes index. In addition, gender-targeted aid seems to have no additional impact on the other indices.


In the paper underlying this brief, the authors study the effect of foreign aid on female empowerment, a frequent but understudied objective often set by donors. Looking at geo-coded aid projects in Malawi, the authors estimated such projects to positively impact girl’s and women’s empowerment across several indices. This is true for aid in general, and for some indices even more so when considering gender-targeted aid. Some of the positive results disappear or even change sign, though, in patrilineal communities, displaying the significance of pre-existing community norms for the effectiveness of development investments. Aid even generates a backlash when it comes to men’s attitudes towards women’s sexual and fertility preferences in these communities.

The takeaway from the study lies in foreign aid’s potential to empower women in targeted communities. This however hinges on pre-existing norms in recipient communities – something that aid donors should be aware of.

The authors emphasize the need for more research to better understand the role of pre-existing norms in the uptake of aid, to distinguish direct effects from aid from potential spillovers, and to understand what type of aid projects deliver the best outcomes in terms of female empowerment.


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

Female Entrepreneurs in Transition: Social Norms, Double Burden and the Next Generation

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Nowadays, it is evident that equal participation of both men and women in entrepreneurial activity can boost the world economy, create more diverse teams, and decrease social inequality. While the subject of women-led enterprises is widely discussed and explored, the portraits of women who stand behind these companies are still not complete. This brief focuses on the social aspects a businesswoman faces in a transition economy such as Belarus: Who is she? What are her social roles? And how do entrepreneurial families differ from average families in Belarus?


Female entrepreneurship is widely discussed as one of the potential engines of sustainable economic growth (World Bank, 2018; IFC, 2017). This brief utilizes a recent wave of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor survey to shed light on the key aspects of female entrepreneurship in Belarus – a transition economy with a relatively short history of private entrepreneurship. It looks at the social status and social norms surrounding female businesses to better understand the current situation and future trends in this part of Belarusian society.

The data for the analysis is provided by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) surveys conducted in the summer of 2019:

  • Survey of the adult population of Belarus (GEM APS): 2002 respondents aged 18 to 64.
  • Survey of entrepreneurs based on GEM APS: 208 business owners (107 men and 101 women).

Women Are More Willing to Study Hard

Following a long-standing tradition, women in Belarus are likely to obtain higher education. Based on the GEM surveys of the adult population, 35% of respondents have completed a bachelor’s degree (42% of women versus 27% of men) and 1.5% have completed a master’s degree. Among entrepreneurs, 60% of respondents have the first stage of higher education and 15% have the second stage. While most of the interviewed entrepreneurs have higher education (bachelor’s degree), women are more inclined to continue their studies: 19% of female and 11% of male entrepreneurs choose to enroll in master’s programs.

Access to business education is not a problem in Belarus: almost half of the respondents claim that their education is related to the business they run. A similar fraction also report participating in business training programs (with no significant gender differences). A third of respondents report having had a mentor who helped them start a business (42% and 58% of men and women, respectively). Entrepreneurs in Belarus are not inclined to be members of business associations or (in)formal self-support groups for entrepreneurs.

Are Female Entrepreneur Families More Equal?

Most often, an entrepreneur is married and has 1-2 children under 18 years old (this pattern being the same across genders). The majority of Belarusian families are of the so-called “Soviet” type, in which the most important woman’s role is to be a mother and “keep home”. At the same time, it is perfectly normal for women to have a paid job. In the case of preparing food, cleaning the house, and washing clothes, a comparable share of male entrepreneurs and men in the general population answer that most of these responsibilities are usually carried by women (65-68%). In contrast, half of the female entrepreneurs report having an equal distribution of these household duties [Figure 1]. We observe similar patterns in the caretaking of children: 68% of women entrepreneurs claim to have an equal distribution versus 44% of non-business women. This greater intra-family equality of women-entrepreneurs can be partially explained by the fact that businesswomen earn more than Belarusian women do on average.

Figure 1. How do you and your spouse/partner divide the task of cleaning the house and washing clothes?

Source: based on GEM APS 2019

According to data on the daily time use of the population collected by the National Statistics Committee for 2014-2015, women spend twice as much time as men on housekeeping and childcare. But, surprisingly, only 40-45% of women note that the traditional distribution of social roles in the family imposes an unfair constraint on women’s work and career possibilities. Therefore, we document a trend towards equal relations between spouses in households where the wife is an entrepreneur. At the same time, even a typical businesswoman bears a large burden of unpaid work.

A Successful Woman is a Happy Mother and a Wife

The respondents were asked a rather controversial question of what defines a “successful woman” [Figure 2]. Both entrepreneurs and the general population of Belarus were in solidarity in understanding a successful woman primarily as a happy wife and mother (75% of respondents). In second place, in terms of importance, respondents answered that a woman should be an educated and highly qualified professional (about 50% men and 60% women). Only 23% of male and 42% of female entrepreneurs agreed with the statement that a successful woman is, first of all, a successful entrepreneur. Remarkably, 46% of men in the general population survey completely or to a greater extent disagree with this statement, at the same time,  67% of those with children would like their daughter to run a business.

Figure 2. A successful woman is first of all a/an..

Source: Author’s calculations based on GEM APS 2019

Parental Entrepreneurship or Are There Any Predispositions to Become an Entrepreneur?

According to the research on parental entrepreneurship, the probability that children in entrepreneurial families will also have a career in business is 30-200% above that of children from non-entrepreneurial families (Lindquist et al., 2015).  In the case of Belarus, half of the surveyed entrepreneurs indicated that their fathers were employees, while 5-10% and 17-25% reported having fathers in business and leadership positions. By comparison, out of the 2000 respondents in the general population survey, 4-8% and 14-15% reported having fathers in business and leadership positions, respectively. As the difference is not very significant, parental entrepreneurship cannot play a decisive role in becoming an entrepreneur. This fact can be explained by the relative juvenility of Belarussian businesses, the absence of entrepreneurship in the USSR, and the attitude of society towards entrepreneurship in the 90s.

Nevertheless, the Belarusian business environment is changing as well as the social attitude. Among the 2000 respondents in the general population survey, about 68% would like their daughter to own a business, and 82% want such a future for their son. Among entrepreneurs, aspirations about their children’s future are rather predictable: a third of respondents do not make plans for their children and the majority of the remaining want their children to run their own business. Moreover, among those having preferences for their children’s future, both male and female entrepreneurs reached almost 100% consensus regarding their sons. When it comes to their daughters, 95% of women and 80% of men prefer a future in business while 15% of men would like to see their daughter become a homemaker.


Several key findings can be noted when comparing women entrepreneurs in Belarus with those who are not in business. Entrepreneurs are more likely to obtain higher education, both first and second stage; household chores more equally shared in families with women entrepreneurs. Female entrepreneurs more often want a future in business for their children, especially their daughters. Based on the above, it can be expected that a greater involvement of women in business can positively affect the state of gender equality in Belarus and the quality of human capital.

Nowadays, the promotion of entrepreneurship (let alone female entrepreneurship) is not a priority of the current Belarusian government, and independent development actors, who used to support it in the past, are out of the country. For the future, however, I will outline some general recommendations for developing female entrepreneurship (based on Akulava et al., 2020). With regard to education, the popularization of STEM programs among women can positively affect female involvement in entrepreneurial activity. Additionally, promoting examples of successful women-led enterprises will help combat stereotypes and inspire women to venture into entrepreneurship. Last but not least, an equal division of domestic responsibilities will allow women to spend more time on their careers.


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

Intimate Partner Violence, Norms and Policies

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Violence against women has been called by then UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan, “perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And, it is perhaps the most pervasive.” Although the spread of domestic violence is difficult to quantify precisely, this is uncontroversially an issue worthy of policy concern. As is often the case, the developing world lags behind. What can development cooperation do? A growing body of economic research, including our recent results, shows that improving women’s economic opportunities matters.

It is not easy to put a figure on the prevalence of violence against women. A recent review (Alhabib et al., 2010) reports that “the prevalence of lifetime domestic violence varies from 1.9% in Washington, US, to 70% in Hispanic Latinas in Southeast US.” As the quote shows, most of the currently available studies were conducted in the US or Europe, although the focus on the developing world is rapidly growing. Besides the geographic bias, the nature of data available on the matter further limits the precision of our knowledge. Surveys (used by the vast majority of studies), crime statistics and administrative health data each suffer from different limitations. One detail, though, consistently emerges in the big picture: the largest share of violence against women is perpetrated by a cohabiting partner or other family members, what is commonly referred to as intimate partner violence or domestic violence.

In addition to the human costs, a growing body of research shows that domestic violence has huge economic costs, including the direct costs of health, legal, police and other services. There are also broader social costs, more difficult to quantify. Domestic violence is likely to reduce women’s participation in productive employment and education, and has also been shown to affect the welfare and education of children.

Legislation and policy

While specific domestic violence laws were uncommon just a few decades ago, many countries have, over the past two decades, adopted or revised legislation. In 2008, the United Nations (UN) launched a dedicated initiative advocating for universal ”adoption and enforcement of national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls, in line with international human rights standards.”

Even though issues of implementation and enforcement are more important than the letter of these laws, it is still crucial that laws are there. In such an area where culture and social norms play a big role, legislation can function as a signal of what a society deems acceptable and coordinate behavior to ultimately change social norms. This is why for example the recent law change in Russia was strongly criticized, regardless of the alleged advantages of the new formulation in terms of practical implementation. [A/N: The reform decriminalized and reduced the punishment for attacks that result in “minor injuries”, as long as they do not happen more than once a year, from two years to 15 days in prison. Proponents claimed that declassifying this form of violence from criminal to administrative offense would lower the threshold for reporting, and avoid misapplication by the police for extortion purposes.]

Besides legislation, a broad range of policies in different areas play a role for the prevalence of domestic violence and the fight against it. The knowledge gaps in terms of prevalence hinder the investigation of the factors that amplify or dampen the incidence of domestic violence, and as a consequence make it more difficult to draw implications for policy strategies. Whatever improves the parity between genders and the status of women in a society is however likely to work in the right direction, at least in the long run. Among the policies with established effects in this direction are legal rights for women (for example in terms of political representation); the introduction of role models (for example through cable TV); an improved balance of economic resources within the household (see Jayachandran, 2015 for an overview of the literature).

Development policy

As for many other areas, developing countries tend to lag behind in this respect. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), domestic violence is considered a barrier to sustainable development, with 36%-70% prevalence (Garcia et al., 2005) and an estimated cost of 1.2%-3.7% of GDP (Duvvury et al., 2013). These estimates take into account a broad range of consequences for women and children. Besides direct and indirect health and life expectancy consequences, distorted outcomes for women include lower autonomy, affecting economic and financial decisions, effectiveness of home production, freedom of movement, education and labor market participation and healthcare decisions. Children are affected by distorted reproductive decisions, for example in regard to birth spacing, resulting in lower birth weights and worse chances of survival, and rearing decisions in general. Still these costs can be thought of as a lower bound, given the conservatism of the methodology and the gross under-reporting of violence. Although the main responsibility for policy lies of course within the country, we might still wonder what the international community can do to help, within the framework of development cooperation.

Aid and domestic violence

Even though the donor community agreed, in Addis Abeba in 2015, on a ”beyond aid” agenda to reach the 17 sustainable development goals (see UN, 2015), the main tool of development cooperation is currently still foreign aid. In recent research with Anders Olofsgård and Evelina Bonnier, we investigate the impact of aid on gender-related outcomes, and among them domestic violence. There are three reasons why we expect an impact of development aid on these outcomes. First of all, there may be a direct effect of aid-financed projects on the intended beneficiaries. Many aid projects have nowadays an explicit component targeting women and girls. Moreover, donors also agreed to gender ”mainstreaming” (Beijing Platform for Action, 1995), which implies that gender concerns should be integrated into all policy and program cycles, and that governments should engage in a dialogue on gender and development. This is because women and girls are seen as particularly vulnerable in situations of poverty and conflict, but also potentially instrumental in the general process of development (Duflo, 2012).

Second, aid projects are typically intended to benefit whole communities, and there are often positive externalities that extend beyond the immediately targeted beneficiaries and beyond the stated objectives of the project. Think for instance of immunization drives against infectious diseases (Miguel and Kremer, 2004). When a big enough group of school children are treated against, for example, intestinal worms, far larger communities are also protected due to the now lower probability of contagion, and also the indirect benefits extend to them. Projects targeting livelihoods and jobs can also increase aggregate demand in the community, benefiting those not directly involved in the projects. The ultimate level of spillover goes through economy-wide growth and development. Research shows that gender relations tend to become more equal with economic development and that women tend to gain more than men (Duflo, 2012).

Finally, beyond economic opportunities, positive spillovers can come through transmission of information and attitudes, changing social norms through personal networks, including both direct beneficiaries and others.

Figure 1. Effect of aid on domestic violence

Source: Berlin et al., forthcoming

Figure 1 is based on our empirical investigation linking the most recent Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in Uganda and Malawi to information on the geographical coordinates of aid projects placement, provided by AidData. Men in the areas exposed to aid (which we define to be within a 15 km radius of at least one aid-financed project) are 11% more likely to share the opinion that beating one’s wife is not justifiable, as compared to men not exposed to aid. This difference is even larger than for women (4%). Most importantly, women exposed to aid are less likely to have experienced some form of violence, physical (–3%), emotional (–9%) and in particular sexual (–24%). We think this might be connected to the improved status of the woman in economic terms. In fact, we find much more modest impacts from exposure to specifically gender-targeted projects (examples of which include “Community participation and development”, “Support for vulnerable groups”, “Improvement of outpatient, maternal and child health services”, “Women’s empowerment for peace”, and “Anti-trafficking for women and children”). We also find that aid presence affects labor market participation for women, but do not find this effect from gender-specific aid. This is consistent with the idea that women’s relative status within the household improves as a consequence of better economic opportunities, in this case induced by aid. Evidence supporting this mechanism is piling up, see Aizer (2010), Bobonis et al. (2013), Heath (2014), Anderberg et al. (2016), Hidrobo et al. (2016), to cite just a few. The types of activities that fall under our definition of gender-specific aid, instead, do not seem to contribute in this respect.


Summarizing recent research, the World Development Report 2015 called for development policy to focus on norms and mental models. These are often highly persistent and hard to change. We know that gender-related norms are important for outcomes that deeply affect the lives of women and girls. We do not know a lot about how to change them, but improving the status of women and girls in society seems to be one important piece of the puzzle. Our recent findings about the impacts of aid imply, echoing the WDR 2015, that this should be an important goal for development cooperation.


  • Alhabib, Samia; Ull Nur; and Roger Jones. 2010. ”Domestic Violence Against Women: Systematic Review of Prevalence Studies”, Journal of Family Violence, 25, pp 369–382.
  • Aizer, Anna, 2010. ”The Gender Wage Gap and Domestic Violence”, The American economic review. 100(4),1847-1859.
  • Anderberg, Dan; Rainer, H., Wadsworth, J., & Wilson, T., 2016. “Unemployment and Domestic Violence: Theory and Evidence.” The Economic Journal 126.597, pp 1947-1979.
  • Berlin, Maria P.; Evelina Bonnier; and Anders Olofsgård, forth. “The Donor Footprint and Gender Gaps”, UNU-WIDER Working Paper Series.
  • Bobonis, Gustavo J.; Melissa González-Brenes; and Roberto Castro, 2013. “Public Transfers and Domestic Violence: The Roles of Private Information and Spousal Control.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 5, no. 1
  • Duflo, Esther, 2012. “Women empowerment and economic development”, Journal of Economic Literature, 50(4), 1051-79.
  • Duvvury, Nata; Callan, A.; Carney, P.; and Raghavendra, S.; 2013. ”Intimate partner violence: Economic costs and implications for growth and development.” Women’s Voice, Agency, & Participation Research Series, 3.
  • García-Moreno, Claudia; Jansen, H. A. F. M.; Ellsberg, M.; Heise, L.; and Watts, C., 2005. ”WHO Multicountry Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women: summary report of initial results on prevalence, health outcomes and women’s responses.” World Health Organization. Geneva.
  • Jayachandran, Seema. 2015. “The roots of gender inequality in developing countries.” economics 7.1, pp 63-88.
  • Heath, Rachel, 2014. “Women’s access to labor market opportunities, control of household resources, and domestic violence: Evidence from Bangladesh.” World Development 57, pp 32-46.
  • Hidrobo, Melissa; Amber Peterman; and Lori Heise, 2016. “The Effect of Cash, Vouchers, and Food Transfers on Intimate Partner Violence: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Northern Ecuador.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 8.3, pp 284-303.
  • UN, 2015. ”Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” United Nations – Sustainable Development knowledge platform.




Gender and Development: the Role of Female Leadership

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This policy brief reports on a discussion of the role of female leadership in development held during a full day conference at the Stockholm School of Economics on June 16, 2014. The event was organized jointly by the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and was the fourth installment of Development Day – a yearly development policy conference. It is well known that women fall behind men on many markers of welfare and life opportunities, both in developed and developing countries. For most indicators, though, such as education and labor force participation, both the absolute and relative position of women tend to improve with economic development. However, in some areas the beneficiary effect of raising incomes is less clear. Access to leadership positions and decision-making roles are examples of such areas. To discuss this question, the conference brought together a distinguished and experienced group of policy oriented scholars and practitioners from government agencies, international organizations, civil society and the business community.