Women?s bargaining power is generally analyzed only with individual level and household level variables. We add a third level, namely institutional bargaining power. We define this as bargaining power which one party freely derives from unequal social norms. In the bargaining literature there is a common paradoxical finding, namely that more access to and control over individual resources sometimes decreases rather than increases women?s bargaining outcomes. With household survey data from Ethiopia and making use of multi-level modeling and an aggregate model with interaction terms, we suggest that this paradoxical effect can be explained by very unequal gender norms – gendered institutions – at the group level. In our case, we used ethnic groups to show that in groups where gender norms are very unequal, individual and household level bargaining power variables effects are mediated by ethnic gendered institutions. A policy implication of our findings is that gender policy may become more effective with shifting the emphasis from a largely individual approach to an institutional approach to support women?s empowerment.