Gender training and female empowerment: Experimental evidence from Vietnam

Participation in gender and entrepreneurship training can help increase women’s bargaining power in household decision making.


Many interventions aiming to decrease the global gender wage gap center on behavioral change in the workplace. For example, numerous interventions focus on increasing women’s ability to negotiate salaries, participation in competitive atmospheres, and representation in male-dominated fields. However, enhancing decision-making and negotiating power among women in personal spheres may also have a positive impact on gender equality.

Among many societies, women have significantly less decision-making power in their domestic relationship, such that the preferences of husbands may carry more weight in the selection of household commodities. This is important because men and women show different preferences in terms of household consumption choices.  In a 2013 study of low-income Ghanian households, men were more likely to spend an unanticipated cash prize on home goods, while women invested in farming.  Also, research has also shown that women are more likely to use economic resources to benefit all household members, especially children.

In an effort to develop effective ways to reduce the gender gap in bargaining power within their households, the authors enroll female participants in Vietnam (with and without their husbands) in a gender equality and entrepreneurship training.


Training focusing on gender equality and entrepreneurship can help increase the bargaining power of women in their relationships.

  • Participation in an entrepreneurship and gender equality training helped reduce gender disparities in household financial bargaining power within a couple.
    • Couples where at least one partner participated in the training had significantly higher ratios of female to male bargaining power (0.853 for couples where both partners participated and 0.746 for couples where only females participated) than couples that did not participate (0.392).
    • Male participation in trainings did not significantly increase gender equality in household bargaining power, thus female participation in the trainings was sufficient to decrease gendered bargaining disparities.

Entrepreneurship and gender training can reduce gender disparities in personal spheres, potentially helping establish deeper norms of gender equality.



A random sample of partnered, female Vietnamese entrepreneurs underwent a longitudinal training of nine modules aiming to improve their entrepreneurship skills (seven modules) and gender equality (two modules). Training sessions were held in two Vietnamese provinces, Vinh Phuc and Ha Noi. 187 lending centers of a large national microfinance organization hosted the trainings and were randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups or a control. In 70 centers, male partners were invited to join the trainings and offered a financial incentive. In 31 centers, male partners were not invited to join the trainings. In 86 centers, no trainings were provided.

Bargaining power in relationships was measured using convex-time budget (CTB) games. 115 couples from the male and female condition, 110 from the female-only condition, and 114 from the control condition were randomly selected. Each participant was asked to allocate 20 times a budget of 80,000 VND (4 USD, roughly one day of income for unskilled labor) for “immediate use” in 4/28 days, or “later use” in 32/56 days. Allocating money to the later period gives participants a pre-specified rate of return. Games were first played separately by wives and husbands, then jointly as a couple. A quantitative measure of relative bargaining power was calculated from money allocation as an individual versus as a couple.

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