Changing Family Attitudes to Promote Female Employment

Light-touch, employer-led interventions did not break down opposition to women’s employment in Karnataka, India. 


At an estimated 24%, India’s female labor force participation rate is among the lowest in the world (World Bank, 2022). Researchers and policymakers hypothesize that women’s low participation in the labor force can be explained by family members’ opposition. Family members cite concerns about women’s physical safety traveling to and from work, as well as the social stigma of working women’s interactions with men. 

This study tests whether light-touch, employer-led interventions can change family members’ beliefs, resulting in increased support for female employment among young women’s family members at Hippocampus Learning Centers (HLC), a private kindergarten provider that experiences high rates of teacher turnover despite being an attractive employer for educated women in Karnataka.  Researchers tested two employer-led interventions, designed to increase women’s employment or support for women’s employment and empowerment. In the first intervention, participants watched “family orientation” videos, one highlighting the non-monetary benefits of employment, and the other addressing common concerns about female employment, mostly around safety. In the second intervention, researchers prompted a conversation between teachers and their family members about the pros and cons of her working. Outcomes related to employment status, teacher support for women’s empowerment and employment, and family member support were measured to test the impact of these interventions.


Researchers examined the impact of both interventions—orientation videos and conversations with teachers’ family members—specifically testing that interventions would result in positive effects for the following four outcomes: 

  • The employment status of the teacher at Hippocampus Learning Centers (HLC) or another workplace.
  • Teacher support for, and lack of concern about, women’s employment.
  • Teacher support for general female empowerment.
  • Family member support for, and lack of concern about, women’s employment. 
  • Family member support for general female empowerment.

The impact of each intervention was analyzed using 95 percent confidence intervals. Neither intervention produced statistically significant results on the four outcomes listed above.  

These findings cast some doubt on the effectiveness of light-touch, employer-led interventions on changing teacher or family member attitudes about female employment. Though other employer-led interventions may be more effective, the authors conclude that even when firms have financial incentives to improve gender norms around women’s labor force participation, normative change may be more effective when advocacy stems from the community-level. 


Researchers developed two interventions designed to encourage female employment by drawing insights from focus groups with Hippocampus Learning Centers (HLC) human resources staff and successful teachers. In the first intervention participants watched “family orientation” videos—one highlighting the non-monetary benefits of employment and the other addressing common concerns about female employment. In the second intervention researchers prompted a conversation between teachers and their family members about the pros and cons of women working. The participants included 171 new female teachers at HLC, along with 295 of their family members (42% were female family members). Researchers used cross-randomization to assign participants into control and each of the two experimental groups. The video intervention group was further randomized into two sub-treatments: half the participants watched two videos, and half watched only a video about the benefits of working. The analyses were based on data collected from the baseline and endline surveys.

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