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Support to women and girls’ leadership: a rapid review of the evidence

Research report

Written by Tam O'Neil, Pilar Domingo, Georgia Plank

Research report

​Part of a two-year Learning and Evidence Project on Women's Voice and Leadership in Decision-Making, this rapid evidence review looks at interventions that aim to build women and/or girls’ leadership. The review asks:

  • What is the evidence of factors that enable women and girls’ leadership capabilities?
  • What is the evidence of whether/how women and girls are able to use leadership positions to achieve better and/or more equitable outcomes?

Key findings include:

  • Early intervention through support to girls’ leadership is essential to foster women leaders. A supportive family environment, the presence of role models and formal education are key.
  • Girls and women’s individual and collective leadership can progressively change discriminatory gender norms. Women leaders act as role models and can normalise the idea and practice of women holding power. Women acting together can shift adverse social and legal norms in their community and polity.
  • Formal institutional change, such as the introduction of quotas, often enables women to access leadership positions. How variations in regime type and political settlement influence women’s pathways into power is under-explored, however.
  • Autonomous women’s movements are the vanguard of gender justice. Women’s coalitions have been key to gender equality gains, including by producing and supporting women politicians and feminist bureaucrats.
  • More research is needed on how women reach leadership positions, and on the factors that explain when and how women leaders of all types are able to advance their interests and change others’ ideas and behaviour.

Tam O’Neil and Georgia Plank, with Pilar Domingo