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ib_01Iris Bohnet, the Roy E. Larsen Professor of Public Policy, is the Academic Dean of Harvard Kennedy School. She is a behavioral economist, combining insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making in organizations and society, often with a gender or cross-cultural perspective. Her most recent research examines behavioral design to de-bias how we live, learn and work. She is the author of the award-winning book What Works: Gender Equality by Design, (an example of a book talk can be viewed HERE) and advises governments and companies on the topic around the world. Professor Bohnet is the co-director of the Women and Public Policy Program and the faculty chair of the executive program “Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st Century” for the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders. She serves on the boards or advisory boards of Credit Suisse Group, Applied, Edge, genEquality, We Shape Tech, and the UK Government’s Equalities Office as well as numerous academic journals. She was named one of the Most Influential People in Gender Policy by apolitical in 2018, a Leading Thinker of Victoria, Australia, 2016-2019, and has received an honorary degree from the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, in 2016. She is married and the mother of two children.

Recent Publications

Iris Bohnet,, van Geen, A., & Bazerman, M. H. (2016). When Performance Trumps Gender Bias. Joint Versus Separate Evaluation. Management Science , 62 (5), 1225-1234. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We examine a new intervention to overcome gender biases in hiring, promotion, and job assignments: an “evaluation nudge,” in which people are evaluated jointly rather than separately regarding their future performance. Evaluators are more likely to focus on individual performance in joint than in separate evaluation and on group stereotypes in separate than in joint evaluation, making joint evaluation the money-maximizing evaluation procedure. Our findings are compatible with a behavioral model of information processing and with the System 1/System 2 distinction in behavioral decision research where people have two distinct modes of thinking that are activated under certain conditions.

Iris Bohnet,, & Saidi, F. (2016). Informational Inequity Aversion and Performance (Working paper).Abstract

This paper provides experimental evidence on how informational differences may translate into performance differences in competitive environments. In a laboratory tournament setting, we manipulate beliefs about the effort-reward relationship by varying how much information people receive on the potential impact of luck on outcomes. We find that an informational disadvantage worsens the understanding of the effort-reward relationship, and significantly lowers performance. Our study is inspired by informational differences in the labor market where some individuals have less data on the determinants of economic success than others -- due to social networks or the availability of similar others to learn from.

Iris Bohnet,. (2016). What Works: Gender Equality by Design . Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

 What Works in HARDCOVERWhat Works

Gender Equality by Design

Iris Bohnet


Gender equality is a moral and a business imperative. But unconscious bias holds us back, and de-biasing people’s minds has proven to be difficult and expensive. Diversity training programs have had limited success, and individual effort alone often invites backlash. Behavioral design offers a new solution. By de-biasing organizations instead of individuals, we can make smart changes that have big impacts. Presenting research-based solutions, Iris Bohnet hands us the tools we need to move the needle in classrooms and boardrooms, in hiring and promotion, benefiting businesses, governments, and the lives of millions.

What Works is built on new insights into the human mind. It draws on data collected by companies, universities, and governments in Australia, India, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, and other countries, often in randomized controlled trials. It points out dozens of evidence-based interventions that could be adopted right now and demonstrates how research is addressing gender bias, improving lives and performance. What Works shows what more can be done—often at shockingly low cost and surprisingly high speed.

Product Details

$26.95 • £19.95 • €24.50
ISBN 9780674089037
Publication: March 2016
400 pages

Iris Bohnet,, Herrmann, B., Paryavi, M., Tran, A., & Zeckhauser, R. (2017). Improving Outcomes in the Trust Game: The Games People Choose in Oman, the United States, and Vietnam. In Trust in Social Dilemmas . Oxford, Oxford University Press.Abstract

This chapter shows how people in three culturally different contexts, Oman, the United States and Vietnam, deal with trust situations. We offer two trust-fostering mechanisms principals can choose from—a mitigation-based approach, decreasing the principal’s cost of betrayal, and a prevention-based approach, increasing the agent’s benefits of trustworthiness. We refer to the former as “insurance” and to the latter as “bonus.” We measure what choices principals make, how agents respond to them and how both parties’ behaviors compare to a situation where insurance or bonus was assigned by chance.  We find some differences among the studied countries; but overall, our results show strong similarities. About two-thirds of our principals prefer the safety of the insurance mechanism.  However, by insuring themselves, they make it less likely for their trust to be rewarded. The remaining one-third of our principals prefer sending a bonus, making themselves vulnerable to the agent. This vulnerability pays off by tripling the likelihood of trustworthiness compared to when insurance is chosen. Still, when a bonus is chosen, only about half of the agents reward trust. This fraction is not sufficient to make the principals whole.  In terms of expected payoffs principals would be better off with insurance.


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