The Role of Women in Economic Inclusion

Research Rationale


Across the Asia-Pacific region, as in much of the global south, women are primarily responsible for managing their families’ finances, even if they are not the main breadwinners. In many cases, these women develop their own income-generating activities to supplement the income earned by their husbands, often supported by microfinance service providers. While most of their livelihood activities remain small, some women have succeeded in scaling up their businesses and generating a substantial increase in income that transforms their lives and those of their families.


Although profiles of such successful women are common, to date little research has been conducted to understand the main factors that contributed to their transformational success. Are certain business management skills critical factors? Is it a matter of attitude and mindset? How much their personal and business networks make a difference in their outcomes? Or were they just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time?


FDC’s Response


FDC has partnered with ACCESS Advisory to undertake a research initiative that aims to provide a clearer understanding of the role that women play in contributing to the economic inclusion of their families and the key factors that contribute to their success. The initiative will use the qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure success as defined by the Social Performance Task Force (SPTF) Outcomes Working Group:


  • Quantitative

    • Business assets

    • Business revenue (gross and net)

    • Employment

  • Qualitative

    • Business practices and business management 

    • Business attitude

Through this research, FDC and ACCESS seek not only to understand how some women succeed, but also whether these success factors are replicable and can be taught to other women, in order to generate systematic positive impact factors on the lives of low-income families. Further, the research will also seek to determine whether access to, and usage of, financial services plays a role in that positive impact, and if so, in what ways.


The research will be conducted on the clients of selected microfinance service providers (i.e. rural banks, cooperatives, MFIs) in ten economies in the Asia-Pacific region: Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. 


During the first phase, microfinance providers will conduct a scoping exercise on their current client base to identify and profile successful women as defined by the SPTF framework. The second phase of the research will include in-depth interviews with women selected form the initial profiling exercise. By seeking multiple examples from similar types of businesses in different countries a robust model of success will be developed for various types of entrepreneurial activity demonstrated by the women.



The findings will shed light on the factors that contribute to greater economic success for poor women, and to establish whether access to, and usage of, financial services has a relationship with those success factors, and with success outcomes. These results will be used to help inform the design and delivery of women-directed financial inclusion interventions to ensure that they are more effective and successful in expanding women’s empowerment.