Five ways to make skills training work for women


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One way to close the gender gap is through skills training such as technical training as well as entrepreneurial or business training programs.
One way to close the gender gap is through skills training such as technical training as well as entrepreneurial or business training programs.

Across the globe, women are less likely to work for pay, and, when they do, they make less.  This gender “jobs gap” is driven by many factors, both on the demand and supply side. One way to close the gap is through skills training such as technical training as well as entrepreneurial or business training programs.

However, obstacles related to social norms, childcare, and mobility keep women from accessing and successfully completing such programs. Training programs should not be blind to these constraints in their design. Our Jobs Policy note Adapting Skills Training to Address Constraints to Women’s Participation outlines specific suggestions, based on emerging evidence, on how to re-think training programs to maximize their role in closing the jobs gap.

Here are five ways to help skills training programs boost women’s participation in the workforce.

Five ways to help skills training


Accompany training with access to finance

Women typically face more financial constraints than men. This affects their ability to pay for training or related costs, such as transportation. Women also have less access to finance to support expanding their businesses after receiving training. This inhibits participation in skills training itself as well as putting that training to good use.

Offering cash grants conditional on attendance and financial capital to use upon completion of training can help overcome these barriers.  And specific features, like secure savings, as well as coupling with mentors, can maximize impacts.

Prevent and address sexual harassment

Skills training programs need mechanisms to prevent, respond to, and report cases of sexual harassment and abuse.  Sexual harassment is a leading cause of high job turnover and school and work absenteeism. Addressing it is not only moral but also smart in terms of program success. Among other features, skills training programs should have an anti-sexual harassment policy and code of conduct, a complaints mechanism, training, and awareness-raising for students, instructors, and other program staff.

Support childcare

Childcare is a leading barrier preventing women from participating in skills training. In most (if not all) countries, women bear an unequal responsibility for childcare and household chores. When the youth training program Jovenes en Acción in Colombia offered childcare subsidies and day care at schools, it saw increased participation of women with children under seven.  In addition, employment rates and income for women participants improved more than for men in response to childcare provision.

Support safe transportation

Transportation can be a constraint to women’s participation. Not only do women have less income to spend on transportation, but they are more likely to report safety concerns with transportation options than their male peers. Mobility limitations decrease women’s ability to participate in training and income-generating opportunities.  In Peru, the youth labor training program ProJoven program doubled the stipend to female trainees with children under the age of five for transportation, meals, and medical insurance, resulting in long-term positive benefits in formal employment for women.

Encourage women to enter traditionally male occupations

Growing evidence shows that women benefit from crossing into traditional male occupations, which pay better.  In Uganda, women who moved into male-dominated sectors such as carpentry, electricals, and metal fabrication, made as much as men, and three times more than women who remained in female-dominated sectors.

One way to facilitate this shift is to provide women with information about male-dominated industries (what they pay, availability of relevant training programs). It’s also important to complement skills training with peer groups, networks, and mentorship opportunities. Professional networks are less available for women. When offered as part of business training, peers and mentors can be valuable as business partners or for support or career counseling. This will help increase the likelihood that women find employment in sectors with higher returns.

This blog is based on the Adapting Skills Training to Address Constraints to Women’s Participation Solutions Note, published in May 2020.


Kathleen Beegle

Research Manager and Lead Economist, Human Development, Development Economics

Eliana Rubiano-Matulevich

Senior Economist at the Poverty and Equity Global Practice for Latin American and the Caribbean at The World Bank

Dianne Porter
October 16, 2020

It is my experience that it is essential that girls continue to study Math in High School. Dropping Math say goodbye to trades!! Start early to keep the options open.
Perhaps departments of education — those who set curriculum and establish graduation criteria— should make more math credits essential. It will be a spring board to trades and also jobs like dental hygienists, nurses, IT, and many hundreds more jobs. M A T H !!!!

Ann Starrs
October 19, 2020

This is an excellent and comprehensive overview of key components of skills training programs to enable women to engage more, and more effectively, in the workforce. I was struck, however, but the absence of access to family planning as a key enabler of both girls'/women's ability to pursue educational as well as income-generating opportunities -- the essay references child care, which I agree is essential, but so is access to services to enable women to decide on the number, timing and spacing of their pregnancies. I would love to see this point included.

Achiro Enid
August 24, 2021

This is beautiful and powerful. To increase women participation in skills trainings, i strongly believe inclusion of cross cutting issues into any skills training program is key. forexample:

1. Gender issues: A sandwich training which includes gender issues as experienced by each participant at household level will help build the confidence of women as their importance is highlighted and boost the male gender appreciation of women involvement in decision making. The impact here is an improved self esteem among women and a drive to achieve higher by taking advantage of opportunities presented to them.

2. Basic Nutrition knowledge across skills training programs will attract women into trainings as they naturally feel inclined to take charge of Nutrition of their households. The vast knowledge received there- in will enable both men and women appreciate each others role, boost good health, confidence, trust, cultivate healthy relationships among both gender based on mutual respect and also have increased male support towards women participation in skills training. This will result in reducing the knowledge and literacy gap among women.

This is also because women feel quite unappreciated despite the high investment in what they do. its common in rural communities where 90% of the work done by women is unpaid labour as perceived to be a gender role. This then leaves the value of a woman in such communities at 10%. With such a mindset, both men and women would see no additional value of a woman indulging in skills training or higher formal education. Therefore concepts that will effect a mindset change and build the value of women in society are key in helping them get support from their families to take up skills trainings and any other opportunities.

Geetanjali Alamshah
August 24, 2021

Very well understood and drafted. I am trying to put up a women centric skill development program in India for the rural population. In addition I feel this provides us with an excellent platform to train them on subjects of health and hygiene which is an alarming issue at rural levels in India.