What Is Meant by Empowerment?

Empowerment: what’s it about and who benefits?

While empowerment has become a term that is parroted with little thought, it’s probable that most users know roughly what it means.  After all, it has the word ‘power’ stuck in the middle and power is something everyone is a keen to have a piece of. So clearly “empowerment” is a strong thing and must be something we all need – whatever it is.

Many see empowerment as some kind of modern magic. They may not be clear on the detail, but they understand that somehow, when you ‘get empowered’ you get some sort of positive result – a bit along the lines of the three wishes.

And perhaps in its own wonderful way, that’s just what empowerment  is – a magic wand to create positive change.

Empowerment does create change. Or can.

Because – as Wikipedia explains – empowerment  is an action that enables people “to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence and to recognise and use their resources.”

 It all seems so simple. Butit’s not quite that easy: this definition of empowerment is one of many: and each is slightly different.

“The term empowerment refers to measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority.”

“It is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.”

“Empowerment as action refers both to the process of self-empowerment and to professional support of people, which enables them to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence, and to recognise and use their resources. To do work with power”


The Business Dictionary comes from a slightly different angle.

 It offers: “Empowerment is … a management practice of sharing information, rewards, and power with employees so that they can take initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance.”

“Empowerment is based on the idea that giving employees skills, resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, as well holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their competence and satisfaction.”

Read more: Business Dictionary

If you research the empowerment bandwagon on the web, you’ll probably end up more confused than you started. But this next extract puts it squarely where it belongs.

In an “Essay on Women Empowerment: Its Meaning and Importance”, the team at www.importantindia.com analyse the meaning of empowerment as it applies to women – or at least the women of their particular society. Their work reads, in part:

“Women Empowerment refers to the creation of an environment for women where they can make decisions of their own for their personal benefits as well as for the society.”

“(It) refers to increasing and improving the social, economic, political and legal strength of the women, to ensure equal-rights to women, and to make them confident enough to claim their rights, such as:

  • freely live their life with a sense of self-worth, respect and dignity,
  • have complete control of their life, both within and outside of their home and workplace,
  • to make their own choices and decisions,
  • have equal rights to participate in social, religious and public activities,
  • have equal social status in the society,
  • have equal rights for social and economic justice,
  • determine financial and economic choices,
  • get equal opportunity for education,
  • get equal employment opportunity without any gender bias,
  • get safe and comfortable working environment.”

Now, while that seems a simple charter perhaps designed to bring the women of third world countries onto an equal par with those in western society, it actually bears a lot of thought.

Because even in so-called ‘entitled’ communities, too many women still need the right to get their voices heard and to make the changes they need in workplaces, violent homes and unsafe communities.

So, perhaps it doesn’t matter where you come from, or how you choose to define empowerment, it has enough common elements to benefit everybody. And it’s yours to grasp and use to create the changes you want – at any time!

Self determination  |  The power to change  |  Initiative  |   Confidence  |  Equal rights  |  Overcoming powerlessness  |  Influence  |   Self worth  |  Legal strength  |  Political credentials  |  Authority.

All of these positives  – and more – are contained in the magic wand we call empowerment.

In our recent Administrative Professionals’ Day celebration webinar, our inspiring guest speaker, Debbie Blumel, touched on some of these key components of empowerment and how they have impacted her career. In her presentation, Debbie shares lessons on how to back yourself, create your own space and set your own narrative. You can watch the recording of this webinar here.