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BRIEF October 16, 2021

Measures for Advancing Gender Equality (MAGNET)


Good gender data is essential for tracking our progress toward gender equality. But how do we collect this data in a reliable way?

Despite remarkable progress, the best ways to measure many dimensions of women’s empowerment remain understudied. For example, existing measures of women’s agency are frequently validated in only one context or with specific populations (e.g., in higher-income settings) and lack best practices for survey implementation. This makes it difficult to measure agency precisely across diverse countries and contexts where this data is urgently needed. In addition, commonly used measures—such as ones that can easily be embedded in large-scale country surveys—do not fully capture the multi-faceted nature of women’s agency.

The Measures for Advancing Gender Equality (MAGNET) initiative aims to (i) broaden and deepen the measurement of women’s agency, based on the development of new tools and rigorous testing and comparison of both new and existing methods for measuring agency, and (ii) promote the adoption of these measures at scale. By increasing the availability of innovative and meaningful measures of agency for a broad range of settings, this work strives to improve our collective understanding of what women’s agency is, how it manifests and how it can best be measured across contexts. 

The survey tools developed as part of MAGNET focus on three dimensions of women’s agency that have a high potential for catalyzing progress on women’s economic empowerment, but for which the body of existing measurement methods is weak or under-tested: women’s control over assets, goal setting and decision making, and sense of control and efficacy. These three dimensions of women’s empowerment are known both for the challenges posed by their measurement and for their centrality in the policy debate on gender equality.


MAGNET is a collaboration between the World Bank’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) and Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) teams, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and researchers at Oxford University.