Field-Based Diagnostic

Field-based questions investigate the “why” behind the country-specific data generated during the automated desktop diagnostic and review of supplementary questions and data, helping teams gain better understanding of the current environment for women entrepreneurs and the challenges they face.

The field- and desk-based research will take approximately 20 days to conduct, including data generation and analysis, advance stakeholder research, in-country interviews, and the process of combining information from the desktop diagnostic and field-based interviews into a final report. The guides outline how to prepare for focus group discussions and individual interviews, including tips on encouraging the active participation of all stakeholders and keeping discussions on point.

Teams should review desktop data and conduct preliminary online research related to focus group participants. In addition, they should become familiar with any in-country government programs, relevant support organizations, and private sector initiatives to support women entrepreneurs. After this initial research, teams should tailor the discussion guides accordingly.

The guides are designed for flexible use and should be adapted to individual circumstances, such as group dynamics or time constraints. Broad, open-ended questions (marked in bold), should first be asked to build a foundation. These can then be followed up with deeper, more specific and probing questions, depending on the data analysis findings, participants’ responses, and the direction being considered for the project; listed under “Further Detail,” these additional questions may potentially reveal nuances and more detailed explanations.

An additional goal of the field-based work in a given country, across topics and stakeholder categories, is to gather information on technology use and digital enablers to determine if women entrepreneurs are operating their businesses in a low-, medium-, or high-tech environment. Project teams will be able to assess the level of technology available in each context and the extent to which women entrepreneurs are able to harness its potential. The field investigations should be directed toward answering two questions: First, what technology is currently being used? And second, what technology isn't being used but could be employed with relative ease?

Stakeholder Identification

Carefully selected participants for the focus groups and individual interviews will lead to robust, relevant information from a representative array of stakeholders. It is important to have suitable representatives from each group who can speak to the issues raised in the discussion guides and adequately answer the questions asked, thus enabling project teams to better evaluate context through a gender lens. Stakeholder views will differ; some may not be concerned at all about constraints faced by women entrepreneurs, as determined by the desk analysis, but rather express worry over other issues. This unexpected information is equally important to consider in project design.

In many instances, the field-based process can establish common ground among the participants, clarify the benefits of collaboration, and serve to draw in stakeholders who might otherwise obstruct the project team’s efforts. Ideally, stakeholders will represent a diverse set of experiences and opinions (new and established businesses, men and women, older and younger individuals, the full range of a country’s ethnicities, urban-rural, and so on). For country-level analysis and projects, representatives of the four key groups should come from a range of sectors and scales of operation, including local, regional, and national perspectives. In cases where the stakeholders come from a more concentrated, homogeneous population — from a specific industry/sector or geography or sharing a common characteristic (such as youth, ethnic minority, refugee status, and so on) — the focus groups and interviews should reflect this emphasis, allowing more in-depth analysis and better-targeted and designed interventions.

Discussion Guides

Questions in the discussion guides for women entrepreneurs, government officials, support organizations, and private sector entities mirror the topics covered by the indicators in the desktop diagnostic and share the focus on the three overarching horizontal themes (social norms, business climate, and technology) and four main vertical constraint areas (legal and regulatory framework; access to finance; training, skills, and information; and access to markets).

The questions seek to unearth details about the barriers preventing women from starting, operating, and growing successful businesses. Qualitative field research is also very important in order to avoid drawing incorrect conclusions based on data provided through the automated desktop indicators.

For example, access to finance may be restricted due to sector-specific characteristics, such as a higher firm failure rate or smaller firm sizes. In addition, these sectors may have a higher concentration of females, such as in the services and textiles industries; women entrepreneurs in these sectors, unlike men in sectors viewed more favorably by financial institutions, may be unable to obtain credit.

Such cases require a different approach than simply interpreting from the automated desktop diagnostic that females are discriminated against unilaterally. Thus, after the desktop diagnostic has been completed and an analysis of the data performed, project teams will use this this country-specific, desktop information to customize questions in the interview guides to establish the circumstances behind what is revealed in the data. The downloadable, editable guides below allow for this customization. To access read-only, fully laid-out guides, click here.

Discussion guides

I. Focus Group Guide

Women Entrepreneurs

Questions in this interview guide follow the topical areas covered in the desktop diagnostic. Questions presented aim to solicit feedback about how and to what extent the growth, or lack thereof, of female-owned firms may have been influenced by gender-related factors. Questions also seek to identify barriers women confront based on the country’s legal and regulatory frameworks and how they adapt to them and the extent to which they can obtain financial services and credit, save money, access markets, and gain the skills necessary to grow their businesses. Overall, these questions help reveal social norms that may prevent women from using digital technology in their business operations, evaluate how advanced women are in employing technology-enabled financial services, and gather information on their use of technologies such as email, social media, ecommerce, and business websites to access new customers and markets

Questions provided are intended for focus group discussions with women who own and/or managing MSMEs in either urban or rural settings. Participants in these discussions should reflect the characteristics of the project’s target population in terms of business size, years in operation, number of employees, sectors, and revenue. If a target population has not been determined, it is important to segment the group based on projected profiles of beneficiaries that may be targeted, because constraints will vary by subgroup (urban/rural, micro/SME, and so on).

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II. Interview Guide

Government Officials

Individual interviews with government officials are intended to solicit firsthand information about current public programs or reforms that support women entrepreneurs as well as about the extent to which public entities are aware of and working to close gender gaps pertaining to entrepreneurship. Questions assess the extent to which the government is working to improve women’s economic participation through specific programs and what results, if any, have been achieved. Ultimately, the questions seek to reveal whether addressing gender gaps in entrepreneurship is a government priority and whether the government programs in place and specific measures being taken are benefiting women entrepreneurs. Questions about technology are integrated and evaluate the extent to which the government uses and promotes technology to support female entrepreneurs.

The questions are intended for government administrators, ideally in the Ministry of Economy, Small Business Administration (if applicable), Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Finance, Financial Consumer Protection Agency, and Central Bank. If a Ministry for Women’s Affairs exists, it is important to determine prior to the interview whether its focus includes female entrepreneurship and, if so, the types of programs and activities it pursues. Include a wide range of government representatives in terms of seniority, gender, and agencies.

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III. Focus Group Guide

Support Organizations

Questions in this section assess the range of services that support organizations provide to female entrepreneurs and seek to reveal the organizations’ views on the entrepreneurial ecosystem within their communities. Questions focus on laws and regulations as they relate to women business owners, government-sponsored programs to facilitate entrepreneurship, the support organizations’ relationships with financial institutions, angel investors, and other early-stage financing vehicles. They also probe into programs that support women’s access to finance, skills, and markets. In addition, technology-related questions seek to reveal the degree to which organizations deploy technology to support female entrepreneurs.

Participants in this focus group should include local and international NGOs that implement SME development programs, business associations, chambers of commerce, or other support organizations that specifically include or serve WSMEs. The ideal participant assembly will include a wide range of stakeholders representing various support organizations.

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IV. Focus Group Guide

Private Sector

Questions for private sector entities elicit information about businesses´ interactions with WSMEs. The aim here is to understand the level of engagement between large firms and women entrepreneurs, whether the firms offer special programs or participate in activities that support female entrepreneurs, and more specifically whether these activities deploy digital technology. Particular attention is paid to the country’s key value chains, especially those in agriculture and light manufacturing. Where relevant, the role of women in the gig economy will also be addressed.

Questions also seek to understand attitudes toward women-owned businesses and barriers firms identify in doing business with WSMEs: from providing them with services to using them as suppliers. They also look into company policies and practices, including whether they track relevant gender data on percentage of female suppliers or customers and other information.

Participants in this discussion group should include business managers, procurement officers, and industry representatives; key members of the financial sector from commercial banks, microfinance institutions, co-ops, and credit unions; and digital financial service providers, including mobile network operators (MNOs) and fintechs that may potentially work with WSMEs or on WSME-related financing initiatives. If determined relevant, teams should also consider meeting with telecommunications companies. The exact composition of these groups will depend on the nature of the project, but they should not include WSMEs, in order to offer space for independent information gathering from private sector partners.

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