When women are economically empowered, communities and nations benefit. Yet, there has been a crucial knowledge gap regarding the most effective interventions that directly advance women's economic opportunities. In early 2012, the United Nations Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation joined forces, launching a project to address this gap and identify which development interventions best improve women's productivity and earnings.

The two foundations, under the technical leadership of United Nations Foundation Senior Fellow Mayra Buvinic, convened a select group of more than 35 development economists and other experts from top universities, international agencies and non-profit organizations. The researchers worked on 17 review and empirical studies that investigated practical, implementable projects aimed at women's economic advancement. Together, the findings, with supporting evidence from more than 135 additional studies, were compiled into a report, A Roadmap for Promoting Women's Economic Empowerment, that outlines which interventions may work best to increase women's productivity and earnings in developing economies. The Roadmap was released in September 2013.

In 2014, the United Nations Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation invited researchers who developed the Roadmap to help identify outcome measures or indicators for women's economic empowerment programs, informed by the researchers' first-hand experience with rigorous research and program evaluation.

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