Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators

Choosing Gender Indicators

What are Gender Indicators?

An indicator is simply the way we measure progress towards the outcomes we are aiming to achieve. An indicator needs to be observable, measurable and specific. Without indicators, we wouldn’t know if our strategies were making a difference. By capturing data against these indicators before we begin implementing our strategies and then again at regular intervals, we can track whether these indicators are moving in the right direction. For example, if we are aiming for a gender diverse board, we can track the percentage of women board members over time and hopefully through our interventions that will eventually reach our target (e.g. 50% women on our board)

A gender indicator measures your progress towards achieving gender-related changes over time, for example making your program marketing collateral more inclusive to all genders. These indicators can capture quantitative changes, for example the number of women, men and other genders who raised capital as part of your program, or they can capture qualitative changes, for example how confident your women entrepreneurs feel after attending your workshop on negotiation skills.

You can measure how a specific intervention or program is contributing towards gender equality (e.g. the outcomes of a particular policy on advancing gender equality in your team) or you can measure changes in the status of different genders (e.g. women participation in decision making, as well as changes in perception or how different genders relate to one another.

Consider your local context

Along with this toolkit, we have provided some example indicators that, where possible, are aligned with industry standards for impact measurement (like IRIS and GRI) but they are simply a starting point.  The best indicators will be tailored to your specific needs and context. What does progress or impact look like in your particular country or in your particular organisation, and for your intervention? 

In order to do this, we suggest engaging your founders, employees, partners, and stakeholders in the conversation – what does progress or impact around gender equality look like for them? Consulting with a range of stakeholders will give you a broader perspective and help to protect against any bias (e.g. your male dominated board believing that progress around gender equality simply means having more female representation on the board/team, while your (mostly female) employees believe it should mean equal pay and more inclusive policies like paid parental leave).

  • Organisation

    The strategies that increase a sense of equality, belonging and inclusion in your workplace may not work in another. For example, in your organisation, progress may look like all genders  feeling heard and respected in team meetings and as decision makers. For another workplace, that may not be an issue and instead it may be that while opinions are equally heard and respected, employees of different genders  are still not being paid equally. Alternatively, you may have identified the absence of paid paternity leave as a key barrier still holding women back from the workplace in your context, and so prioritising and measuring the success of implementing these kinds of policies may be an important indicator for you.

  • Program

    If one of the biggest barriers for women in your context is the lack of inclusion in primarily male dominated local entrepreneurial networks, you may decide to focus on indicators and targets around the number of women attending entrepreneurial networking events that you hold. Or perhaps in your local context, you have good representation from women and men but transgender entrepreneurs face significant barriers and stigma. Progress towards gender equality in this context may look more like a dedicated program for transgender individuals or a program that specifically targets participants from this gendered group and explicitly caters to their unique needs.

  • Ecosystem

    Perhaps in your particular ecosystem, there are good numbers of women participating in Accelerators and Incubators but very few that are accessing capital and successfully scaling their ventures. In designing indicators for your particular ecosystem impact, you may want to focus on measuring your efforts to educate key players and decision makers in the ecosystem like investors, mentors, or policy makers around the necessary growth support and investment readiness requirements for women.  This might be done through speaking at industry conferences, holding individual meetings, or initiating an ecosystem working group to address this specific challenge.

Consider who or what is driving the data you need to collect

There will be a number of factors that play a role in determining the kind of data you collect. We acknowledge that you may have an overall MEL framework that guides your work and impact measurement or you may have specific MEL frameworks that are developed for each program. Often, the funder of the project may have specific expectations around what should be measured. If your MEL frameworks are donor-led, consider ways you can communicate the importance of measuring gender to your donors and partners.

  • Organisation

     Ideally, in the context of your own organisation, you will have full control over what you want to measure. That said, particular funders and partners may like to see that you ‘practice what you preach’, for example have diverse gender representation on your board. There may be other key stakeholders who also influence the kinds of indicators you want to apply internally. 


  • Program

    Your program location and culture, the program funder or partner, and your program budget or capacity may all play a role in determining the kind of data you need to collect. Understanding who will be using the data and what they will be using it for can help you hone in on the best indicators to track.

  • Ecosystem

    There may be ecosystem leaders who influence how you decide to measure your impact on the ecosystem or it may be driven internally through your own determination of the kinds of strategies that you believe will shift the needle in your local context. If you do find yourself often developing donor-led MEL frameworks for individual projects, you are uniquely placed to influence the ecosystem by educating those donors/partners on the need to incorporate gender indicators into those frameworks. So you may decide to measure the number of donors/partners that you introduce to the importance of applying a gender lens and measuring the success of those efforts.

Consider your capacity

How many indicators do you want to ideally measure and what is realistic given your current capacity? If you are a small team that is just starting out, don’t be afraid to start lean. What you will be able to measure will be drastically different from what an Accelerator or Incubator with thirty staff and a dedicated Monitoring & Evaluation staff member can measure! Determine which indicators will be most useful for you to measure the changes that will have the biggest impact on gender equality in your organisation and programs first and foremost. Impact on the wider ecosystem is something you can consider as your capacity grows.

  • Organisation

    In a small team, you will want to conduct desktop research or an internal survey to identify what you believe to be the biggest barriers to equality in your organisation and focus on those . Or you may want to choose one core indicator each to measure your efforts to apply a gender lens at the board level, in your team and in your organisational culture.  This is a great starting point and won’t require too much of your time and energy. At a larger organisation, you will likely have the resources to measure multiple indicators in each of these areas that will help to give you a fuller picture of the gendered experience within your organisation and better inform the strategies you can implement to improve it.

  • Program

    Again, for smaller teams, you can start small here. You may choose to focus simply on ensuring your recruitment process is equitable for all genders and begin tracking the number of applicants of different genders you receive and how many you accept into the program. It would be easy to also separate by gender the usual indicators you collect from all ventures (like revenue growth, employee growth, and investment or funding received) which can provide excellent insights (see below for more on the importance of disaggregated data). As you grow, you can begin to look at additional indicators around the experience different gendered participants have within the program and how they engage with your program design, content and delivery.

  • Ecosystem

    If capacity is an issue, we suggest prioritising measuring the impact that you can have by educating and/or influencing ecosystem players like mentors and investors who are directly involved in your programs. This might involve tracking the impact of gender training you provide to mentors or the development of a code of conduct or policies and procedures to guide mentor/investor engagements with your ventures and communicate acceptable behaviour. As your organisation’s capacity grows, you could consider measuring additional activities you may be doing to influence policy or the wider ecosystem.

Include both qualitative and quantitative indicators

As a reminder, a quantitative indicator is a measure of the number of something – usually a count, ratio or percentage. This kind of data is usually helpful in communicating statistics. For example, you may measure the number of women, men and transgender individuals on your board to understand the breakdown of gender representation of key decision makers. This kind of data is often easiest captured through surveys. This kind of data usually provides straightforward and clear results that are easy to analyse and compare. However, it can be difficult to capture and understand more complex concepts or the reasons and meanings behind these numbers.  

A qualitative indicator is a measure of the narrative of something rather than something countable . It helps to describe the ‘how’ and ‘why.’ For example, you may ask your board members how valued they feel their opinion and contributions are to the organisation and why they feel this way to understand whether there are differences between genders. This can also be captured via surveys but often an interview, observation or focus group may be more helpful in giving you a greater depth of understanding of the data you are gathering. Qualitative indicators aren’t as easy to collect, analyse and compare. They can take much more time, for example, to transcribe and review interview notes and attempt to draw out themes, but they can tell a richer story of impact and give you a deeper understanding of more complex concepts like whether someone feels a sense of belonging and inclusion in your company culture and why.  

The best approach is to combine both types of data so you have the full picture. For example, women may be well represented in the leadership and management of your organisation (quantitative) but to what extent do they feel that their opinions are equally valued (qualitative)? Don’t forget to measure the more intangible indicators of gender equality like empowerment, belonging and inclusion. For example: 

  • Organisation

    Measure the number of women involved in the conceptualisation and design of projects (quantitative) and ask employees “- To what extent do you feel empowered to contribute to discussions compared to your colleagues of  another gender in a similar position? Why?” (qualitative).

  • Program

    Measure both the percentage of applicants who are female, male or identify with another gender (quantitative) and ask participantsTo what extent do you feel the recruitment process was accessible and inclusive? Why?” (qualitative).

  • Ecosystem

    Measure the number of gender resources created and shared publicly (quantitative) and ask yourself or other ecosystem players how you/they have contributed to networks, projects or partnerships that focus specifically on advancing gender equality (qualitative).

Focus on outcomes over outputs

Where possible, we want to measure the outcomes (measurable impact) of the strategies you are putting in place, not just the outputs (direct products of your activities). You will no doubt measure your outputs but it is crucial to know the outcome those outputs will ideally lead to and then ensure you are measuring that outcome as well. For example, it is helpful to understand that you have more women participating in your programs (output), but at the end of the day, what is most important is to understand whether that participation has impacted their business growth to the same degree as the men in your programs (outcome). 

There may be some instances where it is not possible to measure the outcome, or the level of effect might be limited as outcomes of interventions often take a longer time. For example, if you run training on creating an e-commerce platform, you may be able to measure the change in the level of knowledge around the skills directly after the training, but you may not be able to capture the confidence levels or applicability of that skill until months down the track when the entrepreneur begins to build their own online shop. Depending on the type of support your program provides, you may no longer be still engaged with the entrepreneur, so wouldn’t be able to capture the final outcome of that training.

  • Organisation

     If the outcome or goal you are aiming for is to decrease the incidents of gender discrimination or harassment in your organisation, you may take your team through gender equity training. Rather than measuring the output (e.g. number of people attending the training) you want to measure the outcome (e.g. number of incidences of discrimination or harassment) to see whether there has been a decrease (your end goal).

  • Program

    If your outcome is to improve confidence levels for the women founders in your program, rather than measuring the output (e.g. number of founders participating in imposter syndrome and self-esteem training), you want to measure the outcome (e.g. the % increase in confidence levels in female founders, measured via pre and post program surveys) to see whether your program had a direct impact on their confidence.

  • Ecosystem

    Ecosystem change is a long-term goal and measuring the outcome of an improved ecosystem when it comes to gender equality would involve research into the state of the ecosystem now and measuring the change over the next few years. This is a worthy project but one that your organisation may not have capacity or budget for, unless influencing the ecosystem is already one of your core objectives. Therefore, we suggest focusing on measuring what is within your control, which is your contributions and advocacy (your outputs). Alternatively, if you are an active participant in a community of practice around applying a gender lens, there may be opportunities to collaborate with other organisations to pool data and analyse the patterns, trends and progress that that community of practice is seeing, which could be representative of ecosystem change.

Disaggregate all data by gender wherever possible.

By separating the data we collect by gender, we can uncover new and important insights that give us a deeper understanding of how each gender experiences a particular issue or process and can better guide our decision making. A classic example of the importance of this is the fact that for many years, we did not collect gender-disaggregated data on car crash injuries and deaths. Once that data began to be disaggregated, it was discovered by the University of Virginia that women were 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash. This difference was due to the fact that crash test dummies were developed in the likeness of the male physique and therefore car safety was designed to keep men safe without taking into consideration how a woman’s physique may require different safety features. With gender-disaggregated data, we can uncover potential inequalities and ensure that the needs of all genders are adequately met. 

When asking for gender in surveys, there are a few things to consider: 

Know why you are asking and communicate this. Is it to tailor a particular product/service for a certain gender? Or in our case, to better understand and respond to the unique needs of your diverse customers? Explaining what you will be doing with the information will help people feel confident providing it. 

Know what you are asking for. Do you need to know biological sex (male/female), or their gender identity (woman, man, transgender man/woman, other)? If you are collecting data on potential customers for a company that sells sanitary products, you will likely be asking for biological sex. As an Accelerator or Incubator on the other hand, you are likely more interested in your founder’s gender identity. 

These distinctions from American University’s Center for Diversity & Inclusion may be helpful in determining what you should be asking for and how:

Sex refers to the biological make up in terms of chromosomes, hormones, and primary and secondary sex characteristics. When asking about sex as a category, words like male, female and intersex should be used.

Gender identity refers to the internal/psychological sense of self, regardless of what sex a person was assigned at birth. When asking about gender as a category, words like woman, man, and trans* should be used.

Sexual orientation refers to a person’s emotional, physical, and sexual attraction to other people. When asking about sexual orientation as a category, words like gay/lesbian, bisexual/pansexual, and heterosexual should be used. Please note that homosexual is not recommended as it is often used in a pejorative tone.

Include the option ‘prefer not to say’. Not everyone will feel comfortable providing their gender and your survey should offer an option to refrain from answering. 

Consider your local context and audience. If you run a program for only women, you may not ask for gender at all, or may want to understand whether the women participating are cisgender (a female who identifies as a woman) or transgender woman (a male who identifies as a woman). Alternatively, your local language may not even recognise ‘gender’ and only recognise biological sex as is the case in Cambodia.

  • Organisation

    You may already gather annual feedback through something like an employee engagement survey. Unless the data you collect from these surveys are split by gender and analysed for differences, you may not realise that, for example, women are significantly less likely to recommend your company as a great place to work. Hopefully seeing that pattern of difference between genders in your workplace would inspire some investigation into why that exists and what you could do to change that.

  • Program

    By collecting gender-disaggregated data for your general program indicators like ‘number of beneficiaries’, you may find that while you support many female founders, the majority of your ventures’ beneficiaries are men and boys. This may inform a new organisational priority to recruit more ventures that create products/services specifically designed to benefit women and girls. Alternatively, when disaggregating your data by gender, you may uncover the fact that you have a number of transgender participants who do not feel adequately supported or included in the program. This may inspire shifts to your program design or the support you offer in order to make it more inclusive and attractive for these individuals.

  • Ecosystem

    In the context of the ecosystem, you may find disaggregated data helpful in understanding the differences in behaviours and experiences of male and female mentors or funders/investors. These insights can help you adapt your program or ecosystem engagement to respond to the needs or behaviours of each gender.


Collecting Data