Research Portfolio Post #9: Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research

For my interpretivist model of my research project I want to understand how international organizations have conceptualized female empowerment.  I have observed that there are different discourses on women’s empowerment, including the view that female education provides a way toward development with the inclusion of democratic values of equality.  I discuss a promotional video of the Malala Fund to understand how these organizations construct women’s educational empowerment as an innately good structure.[1]  The Malala Fund creates videos that highlight the stories women whose lives have been impacted by their education despite their challenging circumstances.

The Kenya video featuring Whitney, a 19-year-old from a Nairobi, opens with scenes of a slum at night as she describes the dangers of living there.[2]  The video transitions into Whitney’s educational journey and shows her determination to achieve a better life and to give back to her own community.  This video helps me to see how organizations conceptualize the issue of women’s empowerment by understanding how they construct this issue for public consumption.  Education represents the key factor in empowering and transforming individual lives and potentially societies by shifting toward ideas of equality.  The women speak to an unseen individual in documentary style who represents the public who can empathize with these women and support the work of these organizations through awareness or money.  In many ways, women are portrayed as resilient underdogs with the support of education, rather than helpless victims of insurmountable opposition.  This text connects to the discourses of documentaries, news media, and international organizations like the United Nations who might view empowerment more politically or economically.  The discourse of elite governments on female empowerment might create an interesting conversation between the goals of the empowered vs. those becoming empowered.  As of now I am restricting my context to the discourse of international organizations (based in western ideals) in the past decade rather than to a specific geographical region.  I justify this because many of the organizations describe issues like child marriage and sexual violence which span cultures and are not necessarily region specific.  The individuals interviewed in the Malala Fund video and similar interviews tell their stories and resist the stereotype of the helpless, marginalized, and un-educated girl.[3]  While the video does not ignore the marginalizing circumstances, the women empowered in education programs emerge with hope and agency for their futures.

[1] “Malala Fund Programmes: Kenya” (The Malala Fund, 2015), accessed November 23, 2016,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Research Portfolio Post #8 Qualitative Data Sources

In order to research the question of “what explains women’s empowerment” in a small-n design I begin to operationalize my dependent variable of empowerment through its psychological dimension.  More specifically I look to sources like the World Values Survey in order to find indicators which measure whether social values of equality exist prevalently within populations.[1]  These “values” overlap with the empowerment dimensions of female political participation and economic independence.  I will most likely choose cases across different levels of development or choose a small number of cases within the same region so that I might best identify differences in levels of empowerment.  Most of the survey questions provide nominal data and use the Likeart scale to gage responses to “valued” statements.  For example, one survey question asks “when jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women.  Though this data is typically used quantitatively, I might use this indicator qualitatively to select countries where values of gender equality are/are not (yes/no) present in female populations.  Based on these results I might look to more specific sources like state constitutions to see if labor equality laws are present there.  Then I might follow Howard’s logic by creating a twofold definition to evaluate the effectiveness of such laws.[2]  For example, equality laws may exist in print rather than in practice for many newer states that are in transition.  I would also need to find evidence that these laws are enacted in practice in labor force outcomes.  So far I have struggled to find case specific sources like country specific labor legislation or evaluation reports of labor laws.  As I continue my research for my small-n model I hope to also find data to operationalize educational (knowledge) as a dimension of empowerment- specifically the success or failure of female educational systems.  Again I might imitate Howard’s methodology by creating a twofold definition of “success” of education.[3]  Firstly, I might measure the presence of formal female educational structures in states.  Secondly, I might evaluate “outcomes” which better integrate women into the workforce.  With more exploration, I hope to find country specific legislation relating to labor force equality and educational accessibility, in comparable cases, in order to build up my own definition of empowerment.


[1] WORLD VALUES SURVEY Wave 6 2010-2014 OFFICIAL AGGREGATE v.20150418. World Values Survey Association ( Aggregate File Producer: Asep/JDS, Madrid SPAIN.

[2] Lise Marje Howard, “Introduction: success, failure, and organizational learning in UN peacekeeping” In UN Peacekeeping In Civil Wars, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 11 & 353-354.

[3] Ibid.