The International Finance Corporation (IFC) commissioned SEO Amsterdam Economics (SEO) and the Kandy Consulting Group (KCG) to conduct an impact evaluation of its Women in Work (WiW) program in Sri Lanka. Established in 2017, the WiW program was a six-year partnership between the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and IFC, and ended in June 2023. IFC commissioned the evaluation in order to (1) assess the results of the program, in particular its strategic relevance and overall effectiveness; (2) distill lessons learned and recommendations for similar future interventions.

The program aimed to deliver impact across three key areas (“pillars”): 1) enhancing women’s participation in the private sector, 2) increasing access to financial services for women and women-owned MSMEs, and 3) strengthening linkages between women (entrepreneurs) and other  supply chain actors. The program aimed to impact policy and shift gender norms individuals, corporate and public institutional levels.

SEO and KCG carried out the evaluation between April and September 2023, which encompasses assessments at both the program level and the three individual pillars.

Key Findings
The overall finding is that the WiW program was relevant and effective. In particular, there was evidence that WiW contributed to creating change towards gender equality at the level of individuals, firms, as well as at public institutions.

  • Relevance: The program aimed to tackle barriers that hinder the success of female employees and women entrepreneurs, both in the workplace and in accessing financial resources. These issues hold significant importance for women in Sri Lanka. Moreover, IFC also had the relevant expertise to intervene and the ability to operate at scale, mobilize other organizations and draw upon international best practices as its key advantages.
  • Effectiveness: The program was effective in creating policy-level change within participating firms, and in creating demonstration effects through multiple dissemination events. Employees of participating firms reported small improvements in employment and leadership opportunities and family-friendly work options. However, there was less evidence that policy-level changes already translated into effects at the employee level.
  • Additionality: The program provided valuable support that was often unavailable elsewhere. Larger firms had often already been working on improving the legal aspects of gender policy (with the help of consulting firms), but required additional support and guidance when it came to implementing these policies and translating them into practice within their organizations. For smaller firms, especially those targeted through the TWC partnership, the program was even more additional, as these firms had taken fewer steps toward gender equality before IFC’s intervention.
  • Coherence: Although there was little overlap with other development partners (DPs), there was room for strengthening cooperation with other DPs and local organizations to maintain a more holistic approach. This collaboration could be particularly beneficial for addressing issues that significantly impact the program’s overall effectiveness but are beyond the scope of IFC’s mandate.
  • Sustainability: The WiW program was found to contribute to sustainable results, as it worked with highly committed firms, institutionalized change in several participating firms, and built the capacity of local organizations and trainers.

SEO and KCG evaluated the WiW program along the lines of the OECD-DAC evaluation criteria. As requested by IFC, the primary focus was on the criteria of relevance and effectiveness. At both the program and pillar level, the evaluation team used a mix of quantitative and qualitative information sources, which were carefully triangulated:

  • Extensive desk research, including project documents, previous evaluations and national statistics data
  • Around 30 on- and offline key informant interviews (KIIs) and 10 focus group discussions (FGDs) with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Analysis of the available M&E data for each project, including logframe data and completion reports
  • Statistical analysis of data from surveys conducted by the evaluation team with two sets of end-beneficiaries of the WiW program (male and female employees of participating firms, and women entrepreneurs).