Research Insights

Positioned within Harvard Kennedy School, the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) is a research center that focuses on closing gender gaps in economic opportunity, political participation, and education by creating knowledge, training leaders, and informing public policy and organizational practices.

WAPPP looks at what policies, organizational structures, and leadership techniques help close involuntary gender gaps—those that occur due to constraints rather than choice—either due to explicit barriers (laws or the absence thereof) and/or implicit barriers (stereotypes, biased judgements, and discrimination). Conducting research to provide evidence-based insights and recommendations, we identify small to large-scale successful interventions, while examining the impact of closing gender gaps.

Our world-class faculty—including Iris Bohnet, Hannah Riley Bowles, Dara Kay Cohen, Jane Mansbridge, and Rohini Pande—have deepened our understanding of the evolving landscape of gender gaps and the mechanisms we can employ to close them.

Recent Publications

Sana, Amal El. “Managing the tensions between service and advocacy: The case of the AJEEC Social Change Service Organization, Naqab, Israel”. International Journal of Social Welfare (2020): , 1-14. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The tension between providing services to marginalized groups and organizing them for advocacy to challenge power structures is a fundamental dilemma for Social Change Service Organizations (SCSO). This dilemma exists in many civil society organizations, especially those that work with indigenous communities, such as the Bedouin in Israel, where providing immediate services and advocating for policy change are crucial. Literature shows the tensions that arise from combining service provision and advocacy. However, there are very few studies showing how these organizations manage and overcome these tensions sustainably. The present study is an exploratory case study using the AJEEC (Arab‐Jewish Center for Empowerment, Equality, and Cooperation) in the Naqab as an instrumental single case. It provides an in‐depth understanding of the tensions AJEEC is facing and reveals AJEEC’s unique approach and strategies for managing these tensions effectively and sustainably within the social, political, and cultural contexts. It presents implications for research, policy, and practice.
Kennedy, Alexis R., Sebawit G. Bishu, and Nuri Heckler. “Feminism, Masculinity, and Active Representation: A Gender Analysis of Representative Bureaucracy”. SAGE Journals (2019). Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Representative bureaucracy examines how identity impacts bureaucratic decision-making. Under certain circumstances, identity congruence between government officials and citizens will result in positive outcomes. This article explores how representative bureaucracy literature studies the effects of gender identity and matching. Although studies demonstrate that context and organizational environment impact identity, scholars don’t systematically analyze how outcomes are affected by gender, rely predominantly on binary gender variables, seldom acknowledge organizations as masculine spaces, and don’t problematize masculinity. Using critical gender theory, we offer new proposals for how to expand our understanding of institutionalized gender norms as they relate to public sector decisions.
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Gender Action Portal

A collection of summarized research evaluating the impact of specific policies, strategies, and organizational practices to close gender gaps in the areas of economic opportunity, politics, health, and education.

The Gender Action Portal (GAP) focuses on experimental approaches to evaluate policies–both in the field and in the laboratory–and draws from multiple disciplines, including economics, psychology, and organizational behavior.

GAP serves as an online tool for decision makers across sectors to utilize evidence-based research in order to create better informed policies and procedures.

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New Research on the Gender Action Portal

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