Understanding the barriers to creating networks for self-employed women in Pakistan

Last registered on April 13, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Understanding the barriers to creating networks for self-employed women in Pakistan
Initial registration date
April 08, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
April 13, 2023, 3:56 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

Tufts University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Female entrepreneurs face multiple challenges that constrain their ability to grow their businesses. For example, in developing countries like Pakistan, with unprogressive social norms, women face challenges such as lack of mobility, market access, capital, skills, information, social networks, etc. As a result, women-run firms are usually informal, small-scale, and operate from home. Given this context, I aim to explore whether networking skills and network access help small-scale female business owners have better business outcomes. Moreover, I study why women do not form networks with other self-employed women on their own. I focus on two potential reasons: the need for family support to interact with people outside the home and competition with other small-scale female business owners. I also study whether these preferences differentially vary by loan growth, confidence, and trust levels. I use a randomized evaluation strategy and embed an experiment within phone surveys. I prime respondents in the two treatment groups to increase the salience of family support/involvement in business discussions or competition and then measure the impact on their preference for networking with other self-employed women.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Shaukat, Sarah. 2023. "Understanding the barriers to creating networks for self-employed women in Pakistan." AEA RCT Registry. April 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.10937-1.0
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Preference for network access
- Interest in access to a network with self-employed women
- Interest in access to a WhatsApp network/group with self-employed women

Perceived benefits of networking
- Believe networking helps in getting advice
- Believe networking helps by collaborating on new business ideas
- Believe networking helps by sharing information about customers
- Believe networking helps by sharing information about suppliers
- Believe networking helps by sharing resources
- Believe networking helps by getting financial support
- Believe networking helps by providing a way to market products/services
- Believe networking helps by learning from what others are doing

Current networks
- Part of network/groups with other self-employed women
- Number of female entrepreneurs in contact with outside family
- Take business advice from people outside the family

In-person training on how to network
- Interest in training on how to network
- Amount willing to pay for networking training

Online training on how to network
- Interest in online training on how to network
- Amount willing to pay for online networking training
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
To causally evaluate whether family support and competitiveness explain network preference for women, I use a randomized evaluation strategy and embed an experiment within phone surveys with self-employed women. I have access to information on clients of a microfinance institution in Pakistan, using which I classify female business owners into high-growth and low-growth groups. Following Ellis et al. (2023), I classify using data on their loan growth. I then randomly sample 7,500 women from this pool of female micro-entrepreneurs, assuming a 20% success rate for the phone surveys and ensuring the random sample has an equal number of women from the high-growth and low-growth groups. Stratifying on the growth status, I randomly assign 2,500 of these 7,500 women to each of the two treatment arms or the comparison group. Budgetary limitations permit around 1,500 phone surveys. Therefore, the survey team would continue conducting the surveys in the two treatment arms and the control group till all groups have at least 500 completed surveys.

The methodology I use is priming, that is, the activation of concepts through subtle cues in the survey. The treatment group receives subtle cues to increase the salience of family support/involvement in business discussions and competition. The enumerators ask questions that prime survey respondents in the treatment group on family support and competitiveness. The following primes are used in the two treatment arms:
T1 Family Support Priming: "We are interested in how you make decisions about your business. Have you discussed any of your business decisions with your family in the last month?" (Subramanian, 2020)
T2 Competition Priming: "How competitive do you consider yourself to be? Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the highest." (Buser, Niederle, & Oosterbeek, 2021)
C Control Group: No priming question asked.

After asking the above priming questions during the phone survey, the enumerators explain how networks are being created for female clients of the MFI. Soon after, they are asked if they want to join a network with other self-employed women. Those who say yes receive a text after the survey to confirm their preferences and contact information.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Simple random sampling
Randomization Unit
Individual level, stratifying on the growth status of the female micro-entrepreneurs
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
1,500 female micro-entrepreneurs
Sample size: planned number of observations
1,500 female micro-entrepreneurs
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
500 in each treatment arm
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Tufts Social, Behavioral & Educational Research IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials