Promoting women’s economic empowerment is a strategic operational priority of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), governments, and civil society in Pacific developing member countries. ADB’s Strategy 2030 aims to support quality job-generation and higher value-added entrepreneurship opportunities for women as a way of narrowing gender gaps in the world of work. Micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) play a huge role in economic development in the Pacific island countries and offer pathways to women’s leadership and economic empowerment. This literature review summarizes the state of knowledge on women’s economic empowerment in the Pacific developing member countries, focusing on women entrepreneurs and women-owned MSMEs in the formal and informal economies.
The report focuses on the ownership, formalization and expansion of women-owned businesses, the association between women’s economic empowerment and violence against women and girls, and the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. It provides recommendations for further research, policy and programmatic actions to increase women’s economic participation and promote economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs and women-owned MSMEs in the Pacific. In total, 204 published papers and studies, as well as data from 11 quantitative databases, were reviewed and analyzed. Available evidence was synthesized under each research question where the strength of evidence was assessed and key evidence gaps highlighted. As anticipated, there is more extensive data and analytical resources on women’s access to assets, services, networks, and opportunities than on women’s voice and agency.