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.
We conduct a field experiment to evaluate the effect of extrinsic rewards, both financial and non-financial, on the performance of agents recruited by a public health organization to promote HIV prevention and sell condoms. In this setting: (i) non-financial rewards are effective at improving performance; (ii) the effect of both rewards is stronger for pro-socially motivated agents; (iii) the effect of both rewards is stronger when their relative value is higher. The findings illustrate that extrinsic rewards can improve the performance of agents engaged in public service delivery, and that non-financial rewards can be effective in settings where the power of financial incentives is limited.
Although prior research suggests that fusiform gyrus represents the sex and race of faces, it remains unclear whether fusiform face area (FFA)–the portion of fusiform gyrus that is functionally-defined by its preferential response to faces–contains such representations. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate whether FFA represents faces by sex and race. Participants were scanned while they categorized the sex and race of unfamiliar Black men, Black women, White men, and White women. Multivariate pattern analysis revealed that multivoxel patterns in FFA–but not other face-selective brain regions, other category-selective brain regions, or early visual cortex–differentiated faces by sex and race. Specifically, patterns of voxel-based responses were more similar between individuals of the same sex than between men and women, and between individuals of the same race than between Black and White individuals. By showing that FFA represents the sex and race of faces, this research contributes to our emerging understanding of how the human brain perceives individuals from two fundamental social categories.
We posit that household decision-making over fertility is characterized by moral hazard due to the fact that most contraception can only be perfectly observed by the woman. Using an experiment in Zambia that varied whether women were given access to contraceptives alone or with their husbands, we find that women given access with their husbands were 19% less likely to seek family planning services, 25% less likely to use concealable contraception, and 27% more likely to give birth. However, women given access to contraception alone report a lower subjective well-being, suggesting a psychosocial cost of making contraceptives more concealable.
Female “empowerment” has increasingly become a policy goal, both as an end to itself and as a means to achieving other development goals. Microfinance in particular has often been argued, but not without controversy, to be a tool for empowering women. Here, using a randomized controlled trial, we examine whether access to and marketing of an individually held commitment savings product lead to an increase in female decision-making power within the household. We find positive impacts, particularly for women who have below median decision-making power in the baseline, and we find this leads to a shift toward female-oriented durables goods purchased in the household.
Trust involves a willingness to accept vulnerability, comprised of the risk of being worse off than by not trusting, the risk of being worse off than the trusted party (disadvantageous inequality), and the risk of being betrayed by the trusted party. We examine how people’s status, focusing on sex, race, age and religion, affects their willingness to accept these three risks. We experimentally measure people’s willingness to accept risk in a decision problem, a risky dictator game, and a trust game, and compare responses across games. Groups typically considered having lower status in the US – women, minorities, young adults and non-Protestants – are averse to disadvantageous inequality while higher status groups – men, Caucasians, middle-aged people and Protestants – dislike being betrayed.
When physical objects or words are encountered, to what extent is their primary semantic meaning also accompanied by secondary social category associates of semantic meaning? Does such an effect occur without conscious control over the activation of secondary meaning as is true of primary meaning? Automatic priming of the social categories “female” and “male” was demonstrated in two experiments using picture and word stimuli as primes and targets. Experiment 1 used a mixed–modality priming design to provide a stringent test of priming. Primes were words consistent with gender–stereotypic roles (e.g., mechanic, hairdresser) or words containing gender–specific suffixes (e.g., congressman, congresswomen). Targets were pictures of male and female faces that communicated gender as primary meaning. Even though modalities were mixed, gender priming effects were obtained, with stronger effects with female than male primes. Having established the presence of gender priming with items that denote gender primarily (male/female faces), Experiment 2 included a broader set of pictures, using them both as primes and targets to explore the critical hypothesis that even when gender is not the primary meaning communicated by the picture, that mere association to gender leads to systematic and automatic activation of “maleness” or “femaleness.” Although, as expected, the strongest priming effects were observed with pictures that unambiguously denoted gender, the effect was also present for pictures that merely connoted gender through association (e.g., oven mitt vs. baseball mitt). The results are interpreted as evidence for the importance of social category knowledge in knowing and understanding.
Implicit (unconscious) gender stereotyping in fame judgments was tested with an adaptation of a procedure developed by L. L. Jacoby, C. M. Kelley, J. Brown, and J. Jasechko (1989). In Experiments 1-4, participants pronounced 72 names of famous and nonfamous men and women, and 24 or 48 hr later made fame judgments in response to the 72 familiar and 72 unfamiliar famous and nonfamous names. These first experiments, in which signal detection analysis was used to assess implicit stereotypes, demonstrate that the gender bias (greater assignment of fame to male than female names) was located in the use of a lower criterion (B) for judging fame of familiar male than female names. Experiments 3 and 4 also showed that explicit expressions of sexism or stereotypes were uncorrelated with the observed implicit gender bias in fame judgments.