There’s no debate about the importance of women for rural economic growth and poverty reduction. They fill many crucial roles, as farmers, wage labourers and small-scale entrepreneurs, as well as caretakers of children and the elderly. Rural women have the potential to lift their households and communities out of poverty. But they are hampered by persistent gender inequities that limit their access to decent work, which they need as a vehicle for economic empowerment, social advancement and political participation. Policymakers and researchers seeking to respond to this situation are hindered by gaps in data and analysis. To tap rural women’s potential contributions and channel investments appropriately requires an understanding of the complex and dynamic challenges women face.