Women’s Leadership Pathways


The Women’s Leadership pathways (WLP) research project explores the experiences of identified and aspiring women leaders in social, political and economic spheres in Asia and the Pacific region. The research illuminates the enabling factors that support and sustain women leaders and the obstacles they must overcome. Importantly, it will illustrate why women are motivated to lead, given the significant barriers they face.

WLP is a multi-stakeholder, feminist participatory research project, which strengthens partner capacity, while collecting data that values women’s voice and priorities.




  1. How, given these significant barriers, have women become leaders in the political, social and economic spheres?

  2. Why, when women are threatened with violence and social exclusion, do women still pursue political, social and economic leadership?


Women have the right to influence decisions that affect their lives, but are drastically underrepresented in leadership at all levels of society. The percentage of women in Pacific parliaments is 7.2% – the lowest in the world (2017).  And women’s representation is also below the global average in Southeast Asia, at 19.41% (2018.

Public attitudes and institutions uphold and reinforce traditional ideas about gender roles and women’s rights.  These norms are significant barriers to women’s rights, and are often compounded with violence against women, which limits women’s ability to live freely and restricts women’s leadership and voice.

There is a significant evidence and information gap on women’s leadership in Asia and the Pacific region.  This lack of data is a concern as it hides trends on women’s representation at all levels of decision-making and makes measuring progress difficult.

Yet we know that despite these serious barriers, women have successfully become political, social and economic leaders, and continue to forge their own pathways to leadership.


It is anticipated that research findings will influence programming and advocacy work, contribute to academic and social discourses on women’s leadership, and demonstrate the value of feminist participatory research.


WAVE is a ground-breaking women’s leadership program that brings together and supports individual women, organisations, and movements in Asia and the Pacific region to increase the representation of women in diverse leadership positions.

WAVE is working to close this data gap by researching and documenting the lived experiences of diverse women. In partnership with women’s organisations that are firmly rooted in local communities, WAVE conducts feminist participatory research, which strengthens partner capacity while collecting data that values women’s voice and priorities