Unleashing the Economic Leadership Power of Young Women: Strengthening the Evidence Base


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Mission Support




United States


Efforts by the international development community to improve women’s and girls’ access to quality education and training have yielded improvements over the years. Yet, despite significant strides in advancing women’s economic empowerment globally, main challenges to women’s and girls’ access to education, skills development, jobs, and economic opportunities remain.


The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative is a first of its kind, whole-of-government effort that will transform the lives of women around the world. W-GDP seeks to reach 50 million women in the developing world by 2025 through U.S. government activities and private-public partnerships. To support W-GDP’s first pillar, advancing workforce development and vocational education to ensure women have the skills and training necessary to secure jobs, USAID will continue to improve women’s and girls’ access to quality education and training — with a specific focus on market-driven skills closely linked with employer needs.


The objective of this activity, funded by USAID’s Office of Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment (GenDev) under the YouthPower2: Learning and Evaluation contract, is to build the evidence base for improving young women’s (aged 18-30) economic empowerment and employment. The proposed activity will complement and build upon other USAID research and activities, including What Works in Entrepreneurship Education and Training Programs for Youth Evidence Report, as well as research from the World Bank and other partners. The hypothesis is that specifically targeting this age group will lead to better economic outcomes for young women, increased participation in STEM education and careers, and/or workforce preparation and career transitions.


Making Cents International will conduct a literature review investigating the most important barriers and remaining knowledge gaps related to young women’s economic empowerment, including those in education, training/vocational education, employment, and the promotion of young women’s leadership opportunities. Specifically, we will review the following topics to make recommendations on where additional research, pilots, tools, and resources may be needed to advance the work in this field:

  • STEM, non-traditional jobs for women, training/vocational education and employment with linkages to health and family planning, and COVID-19 impact on women’s employment;

  • The gender dimensions of distance learning (education and skills training);

  • Results from USAID’s recent investments in Young Women’s Economic Empowerment (e.g., SPRING Accelerator, Young Women Transform Prize, Engendering Utilities, WomenConnect, and other related workforce development activities); and

  • The promotion of young women’s leadership initiatives (e.g., Young African Leaders Initiative) and their impact on young women’s economic empowerment 


For each prioritized topic, we will make recommendations for action related to future research, white papers, technical assistance packages, communications products, learning groups or network development, grants, and program designs.