Over the past year, ideas42, the World Bank, and the project management team of Liberia’s Youth Opportunities Project (YOP), implemented by the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS) and the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) in partnership with Educare Liberia, collaborated to apply a behavioral lens to the Small Business Support (SBS) component of the YOP, which supports urban youth in opening and running small businesses. We developed a memo highlighting the lessons learned from this collaboration, which was generously supported by the RSR Gender-Smart Social Protection Multi-Donor Trust Fund and an anonymous donor.

One aspect of the collaboration focused on understanding barriers women face in reaching their full economic potential and identifying ways to help them overcome those barriers. We found that one of the first steps to opening and operating a successful business is selecting the ideal sector for the business. But fully considering all potential sectors before making a decision was something many SBS participants seemed to struggle with, especially women.

One reason women do not fully consider all potential sectors when identifying the optimal sector in which to open a business is that observed social norms can limit women’s perceptions of their own business options and areas in which they can excel. When women constantly see others around them participating in traditionally female-dominated, less profitable sectors, this can overshadow the less visible reality that some women have started breaking out of these traditional sectors with success.

Behavioral science offers insights that can help encourage women to consider all potential business sectors, including male-dominated industries or sectors. In many cases, choices that are perceived as the norm because they are more publicly visible may not accurately represent new trends and possibilities, and in such cases highlighting a positive but hidden trend can make a powerful difference.

Read the full article about using behavioral science to drive economic outcomes by Catherine MacLeod, ideas42, Sarika Gupta and World bank at ideas42.