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Entrepreneurship Development Interventions for Women Entrepreneurs

International Labour Organization



Policy Brief

Impact Investing

Impact Investing Investing in women Women entrepreneurship Women entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship Development Interventions for Women Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship Development Interventions for Women Entrepreneurs

This report is an update to the What Works in SME Development Series, coordinated by the SME Unit of the International Labour Organization, presenting key findings of interventions promoting small and medium enterprises as a means to create more and better jobs.

This report aims to provide an up-to-date understanding in terms of the development interventions, programs and strategies that have worked to promote Women’s Entrepreneurship Development, how and under what circumstances, as well as what has not proven to be successful, and where further research is needed to unpack impacts


  • Individual savings products, cash transfers/grants and influencing larger ‘enabling environment’ factors have also emerged as potentially effective for Women’s Entrepreneurship Development.
  • Further rigorous research is needed on both different models of mentorship, peer support, formal business networking and ‘bundled services’ that have been trialled in Women’s Entrepreneurship Development interventions, as well as their impacts.
  • In designing and evaluating the impacts of Women’s Entrepreneurship Development, different dimensions of women’s empowerment must be considered. In particular, changes in both women’s access (to the opportunities, services, and assets required to sustainably upgrade one’s economic standing) and in agency (capacity and confidence to act on available opportunities, and to influence decision-making at various levels) should be evaluated. Several interventions reviewed for this brief showed impacts in one aspect in the short-term, and in another over longer time horizons.
  • As well, impacts of Women’s Entrepreneurship Development-related interventions on other actors and the wider system need to be better understood. In particular, unpacking whether and how a program influenced other existing actors to change their practices towards women-owned enterprises would be useful as this can influence the sustainability and scale of both women’s businesses and the overall economic environment within which they operate.


  • Key findings at a glance
  • The challenge
  • Key findings on interventions
    • Access to finance
    • Savings / access to savings accounts
    • Micro-credit
    • Grants / cash transfers
    • Business training
    • Mentorship, networks and peer support
    • Combined interventions / bundled services
    • Enabling environmental factors
  • Policy Considerations
  • Bibliography
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