This paper is intended as a contribution to the agenda-setting activities of the Pathways of Women's Empowerment RPC. The paper is concerned with Pathways' theme of empowering work, more specifically with women’s access to paid work and the pathways through which such work might translate into empowerment. This focus on the transformative potential of paid work can be seen as one strand in a broader research agenda on the material dimensions of women's empowerment, an agenda which would also include women's property rights, access to credit, social transfers, skills training and other kinds of economic resources. However, different resources have their own forms of materiality in that the changes associated with them are likely to take concrete shape through somewhat different pathways in women's lives. In order to keep the discussion in the paper focused, Kabeer deals primarily with paid work but draws on research relating to these other economic resources for illustrative purposes.