Gender Equity in Development

Innovation in research to reduce gender bias in development


Increasing women’s empowerment is a crucial component of development. Not only does empowerment directly improve women’s autonomy and wellbeing, but it also provides indirect benefits for child health, community engagement, education, etc. Women face a number of challenges that limit their empowerment, including a lack of household decision-making power, insufficient land rights and control of agricultural resources, and high barriers to labor market entry and free mobility.

AidData seeks to utilize its proven track record of expertise and innovation in Geospatial Impact Evaluations (GIEs), geospatial data, machine learning, remote sensing, causal impact evaluations, and policy research to understand and address these challenges. Our team will utilize these tools to improve the measurement of gender-related outcomes and provide insight into the key issues facing women’s empowerment. 

Read our gender concept note


Improved accuracy

Gender-related outcomes are often difficult to measure accurately and precisely with traditional survey techniques, which reduces policymakers’ and practitioners’ ability to understand the full impact of policies to boost women’s empowerment. AidData seeks to improve the measurement of gender-related outcomes by characterizing measurement error through a combination of on-the-ground survey techniques, remote sensing, and behavioral games. By understanding the extent and nature of measurement error in surveys and how it relates to gender, we can provide recommendations on how to reduce it moving forward. 

Improved efficiency

Measuring women’s empowerment with traditional survey techniques may be insufficient in contexts where it is too costly to implement or it is unsafe or difficult for women to participate freely in surveys. AidData seeks to investigate where and when satellite imagery, remote sensing, and machine learning can supplement on-the-ground measurement of women’s empowerment. The goal of this work is to understand which gender-related outcomes can be measured entirely or partially through remote sensing and machine learning and under what conditions.

Key Issues

Empowerment and hidden bias

Bargaining within households impacts a woman’s control over resources, her personal independence, and her risk of experiencing intimate partner violence. Development programs frequently lack baseline and follow-up data to evaluate whether their projects made a difference in women's bargaining power. Unfortunately, even when data does exist, it may reflect a hidden gender bias, due to intra-household dynamics.

AidData and its local partners seek to combine on-the-ground survey techniques, remote sensing, and behavioral games to understand the extent of measurement error in self-reporting, and how development projects intentionally and unintentionally impact household bargaining and intimate partner violence.

Farming and land rights

Women’s land rights are often curtailed by local laws and customs that limit a woman’s ability to own property in her name, include her name on titles with her husband, and choose the types of crops to grow. What's more, women lack equitable access to arable land, formal training, and agricultural inputs.  

By combining household surveys and high-resolution satellite imagery, we can better understand how property rights, relationships, levels of empowerment, and access to agricultural inputs might impact a range of outcomes—from crop yields for to household bargaining power—providing insights for programs and policy makers.

Employment, mobility, and security

When commuting to work, women endure threats to their health and safety and spend more time and money than men do. Helping women overcome these and other barriers to employment not only increases resources within their households, but may also increase their bargaining power and reduce intimate partner violence.

By improving data on the ground and leveraging remote-sensed data, our research team seeks specific insights that help programs focus their resources on improving a wide range of outcomes—whether the goal is helping women gain access to marketable skills or improving public safety so that they can return home safely.

Case Studies

Gender-Related Measurement Error

Along with a local partner, CDD Ghana, AidData is combining on-the-ground survey techniques, remote sensing, and behavioral games to understand how to make household surveys more effective. AidData is quantifying the extent of measurement error in self-reporting on agricultural plot characteristics in Ghana, how this error differs by gender and by owner of the plot, and how it differs by household bargaining power and income hiding within the household. This information will inform how self-reports of assets may differ among members of households and how future surveys could correct for this bias.

Read our gender concept note

School-Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV)

With support from the Government of Canada and USAID's Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), and in partnership with Together for Girls and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AidData conducted a secondary analysis of the Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS) data to identify the prevalence of SRGBV, as well as details on violence perpetration, victimization risk and post-violence behaviors in selected countries. This methodology can be used to understand the prevalence of physical and sexual SRGBV across all countries for which the VACS was conducted and has been used to inform policymakers, practitioners, and researchers for better violence prevention.

Together for girls  →

Gender Equity in Development Initiative Team

For technical or research inquires, contact:

Research & Evaluation

Jessica Wells

Research Scientist

Research & Evaluation

Katherine Nolan

Research Scientist

Research & Evaluation

Rachel Sayers

Research Scientist

Research & Evaluation

Ariel BenYishay

Chief Economist, Director of Research and Evaluation

China Development Finance

Ammar A. Malik

Senior Research Scientist, Director of Tracking Underreported Financial Flows



Alex Wooley

Director of Partnerships and Communications