What Works: Gender Equality by Design | Summary and Q&A

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March 5, 2016
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Harvard University
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What Works: Gender Equality by Design

TL;DR

Harvard Kennedy School's Women in Public Policy Program discusses the importance of behavioral design in closing the gender gap and promoting gender equality.

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Key Insights

  • 😚 Unconscious bias is a major barrier to closing the gender gap.
  • 🛀 Traditional approaches to promoting gender equality, such as diversity training, have shown limited success.
  • ⚧️ Mentorship and sponsorship have been found to be effective in promoting gender diversity in the workforce.

Transcript

welcome to the women in public policy program seminar series podcast at the Harvard Kennedy School go ahead get started if we're just about almost get everybody in the room hello my name is Hannah Riley bowl-like the research director here at the women in public policy program which leads me with the pleasure of hosting our research seminar we hope... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the main focus of the discussion in the Harvard Kennedy School seminar?

The seminar focuses on the importance of behavioral design in promoting gender equality.

Q: How effective are traditional approaches, such as diversity training, in closing the gender gap?

Traditional approaches, like diversity training, have shown limited success in promoting gender equality. More research is needed to determine their effectiveness.

Q: What has research shown about the role of mentorship and sponsorship in promoting gender diversity in the workforce?

Research has shown that mentorship and sponsorship are correlated with increased gender diversity in the workforce. They have been found to be effective in helping women succeed and overcome bias.

Q: What is behavioral design, and how can it be used to close gender gaps?

Behavioral design uses insights from psychology and behavioral economics to shape behavior. It can be used to create environments that promote gender equality and challenge unconscious bias.

Summary

This video explores the concept of unconscious bias and how our natural tendency to make assumptions can result in bias, particularly when it comes to people. It suggests that behavioral design can help us overcome unconscious bias by making small changes in our organizations and society. Examples like adding curtains to auditions for orchestras and removing names from resumes have been proven to reduce bias and increase diversity. The video also highlights the importance of representation and the impact it can have on shaping beliefs and possibilities for individuals. Finally, it encourages viewers to take action and actively design solutions to address bias.

Questions & Answers

Q: How does our natural tendency to make assumptions result in bias?

Our brains are wired to take shortcuts in making sense of the world, and while this can be helpful, it can also lead to bias. For example, our brains may assume that a square is darker based on surrounding patterns, even when the shade is actually the same. When applied to people, these shortcuts can result in stereotyping and bias.

Q: What is the solution to unconscious bias proposed by behavioral design?

Behavioral design suggests that we can overcome unconscious bias by making small changes in our organizations and society. By redesigning processes and systems, we can create environments that allow our biased minds to get things right. For example, adding a curtain to the audition process for orchestras allowed the judges to focus solely on the music, leading to the selection of better talent and an increase in female musicians.

Q: How can organizations reduce bias in hiring processes?

One simple solution is to remove names from resumes, which helps eliminate bias based on gender or ethnicity. This allows access to the full talent pool of candidates and calibrates our minds to focus on the qualifications and skills of applicants. Additionally, comparing candidates to each other rather than an imaginary stereotypical applicant can also help reduce bias and lead to the selection of the best candidates.

Q: How has behavioral design impacted gender diversity in UK companies?

Through behavioral design, the fraction of women on the boards of the UK's largest companies has doubled in a short amount of time. Simple changes like including more female role models on the walls of organizations have made a significant difference in challenging stereotypical beliefs and expanding possibilities for women.

Q: What impact does representation have on individuals and society?

Seeing women in leadership roles, whether in business or politics, changes what people think is possible for themselves and their daughters. When women are visible in influential positions, it encourages other women to believe in their capabilities, speak up, and participate in important conversations and decision-making processes. This can have a ripple effect, leading to positive outcomes such as women staying in school, marrying later, and delaying having their first child.

Q: How has India addressed gender diversity in elected leadership roles?

In 1993, India mandated that one-third of seats be reserved for women to serve as elected leaders at the local level. This policy not only provided new insights into public policy but also empowered women to have a voice in community meetings. The presence of women in leadership roles also served as inspiration for girls in the community to stay in school, pursue dreams, and believe in their own potential.

Q: How has Harvard applied the concept of seeing is believing?

Harvard and other organizations have recognized the impact of seeing women in leadership positions and have taken steps to increase representation. One action they have taken is hanging up more portraits of female role models, providing visual inspiration and challenging the traditional male-dominated narrative. By changing who we look up to on our walls, we can shape beliefs and possibilities for future generations.

Q: Why is it important to actively address bias and redesign how we work, learn, and live?

Overcoming bias is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the smart thing to do. Research and tools exist to help us cheaply and quickly redesign our systems and processes to be more inclusive and diverse. By actively addressing bias, we can tap into the vast talent pool and potential that is often undervalued and underrepresented, leading to better outcomes for individuals and society as a whole.

Takeaways

This video emphasizes the power and influence of unconscious bias and the importance of addressing it through behavioral design. Small changes in our organizations and society, such as removing names from resumes or increasing diversity in representation, can have a significant impact on reducing bias and creating a more inclusive environment. The video urges viewers to take action and embrace this redesign to create a better, fairer society.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The discussion focuses on the need to address unconscious bias in order to close the gender gap.

  • Traditional approaches, such as diversity training, have shown limited success in promoting gender equality.

  • Mentorship and sponsorship have been found to be effective in promoting gender diversity in the workforce.

  • Behavioral design, using insights from psychology and behavioral economics, offers new ways to close gender gaps.

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