Guest Articles

April 5

Rebecca Baylor

From Counting Women to Valuing Women: Practical Impact Measurement Tools for Complex Contexts

In my work as a research associate on the Performance Measurement and Improvement team at the William Davidson Institute (WDI), evaluation of impact is paramount. We work with leaders from businesses and non-profits to measure their impacts and help them continuously improve on a variety of outcomes – from understanding their employees’ quality of life, to the poverty probability of the clients they serve. (Note: WDI is NextBillion’s parent organization.)

But more and more, our partners are interested in understanding their contributions to a greater gender-balanced world. They want to find the right gender-based measurement solutions within their particular context, and that requires a certain level of trust – and transparency. And unfortunately, when it comes to data-driven evidence around women’s empowerment, sometimes there is a lot of talk and little action.



Luckily, organizations such as the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs are examining  what is being done to incorporate gender equality into the impact measurement space, by hosting events such as the recent Metrics from the Ground Up conference. Held earlier this year in Mérida, Mexico, the annual conference brings together research and evaluation experts with leading practitioners in the small and growing business (SGB) sector to share insights and address common challenges in impact measurement. This year’s theme was “Impact Measurement with a Gender Lens.”

At the conference, I moderated a discussion on using gender data to drive better decision-making that featured panelists from international businesses, accelerators and non-profits that are collecting and using this data to improve programs and products for SGBs.

From a coffee business in Kenya to the Cali, Colombia Chamber of Commerce, panelists discussed how gender data can provide unique insights into a company’s clients or a program’s beneficiaries. They also gave examples of how collecting such data can uncover who is being reached and what their needs are, which, in turn, provides opportunities for their company or program to better meet those needs.

The panel also discussed how collecting sufficient data about gender equality can be challenging, particularly in complex international settings.

There was a common thread in the discussion, which continued throughout the conference and into the Latin American Impact Investing Forum later that same week: When it comes to making progress on gender equality in employment opportunities and outcomes, business needs to be a core part of any solution.



The old way of measuring the gender equality of a company or program consisted of simply counting women – from the number of female employees and clients, to the number of women beneficiaries and board members. The new way of measuring gender equality is valuing women by collecting data on how they are impacted by a company or program.

So how do companies and organizations push effective gender-based impact measurement and management strategies forward? Here are some easy-to-follow techniques and resources to help your organization start valuing women, and measuring the impact you’re having on them in a meaningful way:

  • Define what you mean by “gender impact.” Using input from 2,000+ practitioners, the Impact Management Project offers a great framework for helping businesses, investors and intermediary organizations build consensus on how to measure and manage their impact.
  • Complement quantitative metrics with qualitative data. Think about how qualitative and quantitative data may be used together to provide a more holistic picture of your organization’s gender outcomes.
  • Don’t forget to look at negative results. Sometimes a negative finding is the best way to mitigate risks in your business or organization.
  • Find a standardized way to measure. Regardless of the method, whether you are using a randomized controlled trial or outcome harvesting, find a way to implement internal standards to improve the quality of your data and results.
  • Identify tangible ways to improve company growth using gender data. Connecting gender data to business success, such as how outcomes from a training contribute to increased sales, can increase the success of gender data within your organization.

Do you have any thoughts or tips on how to effectively collect gender-based data? Submit a comment below or write to


Rebecca Baylor is a research associate with the Performance Measurement team at the William Davidson Institute

Top image: Rebecca Baylor, (foreground left), leads a discussion at the ANDE metrics conference. (Photo courtesy of ANDE.)




Impact Assessment
gender equality, gender lens, impact measurement, William Davidson Institute