Gender Action Lab

Image of resume with the text : Gender Action Lab - Best Evidence to Debias the Workplace


The Gender Action Lab will increase women’s power by redesigning the workplace based on the best evidence, helping organizations fix systemic imbalances in opportunities and outcomes.

  • “Create Evidence”: GAL will facilitate research collaborations between academics and organizations to expand the evidence base around gender equality at work. Researchers will run experiments to rigorously evaluate the impact of organizational interventions and establish causality. We aim to maximize both “internal” and “external” validity, i.e., the transferability of findings from one context to another.
  •  “Equip with Evidence”: GAL’s online platform leverages the momentum and 440,000-person audience of the existing Gender Action Portal while scaling its reach even further. GAL’s online tools can be easily used by organizations advising on best evidence to achieve equity, including for specific marginalized populations. Additionally, GAL’s online educational resources will expand the scope and scale of existing programs at HKS with a more targeted and global approach to creating a new generation of gender equity leaders.
  • “Change Through Evidence” will create an ecosystem of high-level leaders and changemakers to take this initiative forward through a Coalition for Evidence-based Gender Equity. GAL will freely share with existing consultancies and focus on empowering all organizations invested in gender equity through conferences and workshops. In addition, GAL will draw on the Coalition's expertise to shape its initiatives, to create a novel diagnostic tool, and to accelerate matchmaking among academics and practitioners to create a community of changemakers to advance uptake and buy-in.

Women, especially women of color, are particularly affected by the pandemic in their economic and personal lives. Essential workers include a disproportionate share of women of color and working from home has put additional burdens on caregivers. Layoffs triggered by COVID-19 have fallen disproportionately on women, especially women of color, who represent a larger share of the hardest hit sectors (e.g., hospitality, retail, domestic and informal work), have shorter tenure and are more likely to be affected by automation. These trends underscore the importance of disseminating evidence and using it as the basis for making equitable workplace decisions. De-biasing organizations is perhaps more crucial now than ever before, given that organizations are already adapting and redesigning their processes due to COVID-19. GAL will inform those redesigns and evaluate the impact of new policies, practices and procedures to ensure that workplaces support all women’s equitable access to power and influence.

Talent Management: Everyone wants to benefit from 100 percent of the talent pool, but this is easier said than done. From hiring and performance evaluation to work allocation and promotions, gender biases can creep in. Research shows that nobody is immune from them. Merely knowing the gender of a person can subject evaluators to unintentional and implicit bias, such as choosing or promoting a candidate not based on a rational assessment of their capabilities but instead based on stereotypes that are not useful in predicting future performance. GAL will include interventions that can make all stages of the employee lifecycle more inclusive and fair. 

Organizational Policies: Organizational policies create the playing field for employees, yet in many cases, that playing field is not level. Our individual unconscious biases are often baked into the policies that we create, thereby unfairly advantaging some groups over others.  Designing and implementing equitable and gender-neutral policies is essential in order to fully debias the workplace, and can yield results at surprisingly low cost and  high speed.  

Culture and Inclusion: Inclusive workplaces can increase retention, improve productivity, and increase general well-being for employees of all backgrounds. Once we get underrepresented groups in the door, it is essential to create an environment where they — along with all employees, managers, and leaders — can thrive and bring their whole selves to work.