Reality over Priority


What Works: Gender Equality By Design by Iris Bohnet
Harvard University Press, March 1, 2016

Iris Bohnet's What Works: Gender Equality By Design argues persuasively that using behavioral design will help to dismantle gender and other forms of bias in the future. The moment we learn the sex of a person, says Bohnet, "gender biases are automatically activated, leading to unintentional and implicit discrimination." To counteract that, she offers useful questions and checklists that can be broadly applied across sectors to help decision makers become more adept at designing for gender equity. Behavioral design begins, she says, with data collection. For example, ask "How many men and women has your [institution] hired and promoted, to what positions and at what salaries, over the past five years? Are boys and girls in your school gaining proficiency at reading, staying the same, or becoming less proficient? How many of the portraits in your organization's lobby or conference rooms are of women, and how many are of men?" Bohnet advises decision makers to "collect data to understand whether and why there is gender inequality; experiment with what might close gender gaps; and, informed by behavioral insights, nudge behavior toward more equality." Behavioral design, critical to all sectors but especially to education, can help to ensure that gender equity becomes not just a priority but a reality.

Submitted By: Jessica Flaxman, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

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