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, health, 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

Waylen, Georgina. “Nudges for gender equality? What can behaviour change offer gender and politics?”. European Journal of Politics and Gender 11-2 (2018): , 1, 1-2, 167-183. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This article explores what behaviour change, with its associated methods, approaches and policy prescriptions, can offer gender and politics. After outlining the key elements of behaviour change, it considers the potential of its associated methods, primarily field experiments. The third section considers the potential contribution of behaviour change approaches by examining one area – social norms – that has recently become more salient for gender and politics. Finally, it examines behaviour change's gender equality policy implications ('nudges'). It concludes that despite significant problems, a critical, pluralist and problem-driven gender and politics scholarship should engage critically with behaviour change while remaining aware of its limitations.
Klugman, Jeni, and Laura Tyson. “Expanding Women’sEconomic Opportunities”. From Summits to Solutions: Innovations in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Washington, D.C. Brookings Institution Press, 2018. 300. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

All 193 member nations of the United Nations agreed in September 2015 to adopt a set of seventeen “Sustainable Development Goals,” to be achieved by 2030. Each of the goals—in such areas as education and health care —is laudable in and of itself, and governments and organizations are working hard on them. But so far there is no overall, positive agenda of what new things need to be done to ensure the goals are achieved across all nations.

In a search of fresh approaches to the longstanding problems targeted by the Sustainable Development Goals, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings mounted a collaborative research effort to advance implementation of Agenda 2030. This edited volume is the product of that effort.

The book approaches the UN’s goals through three broad lenses.

The first considers new approaches to capturing value. Examples include Nigeria’s first green bonds, practical methods to expand women’s economic opportunities, benchmarking to reflect business contributions to achieving the goals, new incentives for investment in infrastructure, and educational systems that promote cross-sector problem solving.

The second lens entails new approaches to targeting places, including oceans, rural areas, fast-growing developing cities, and the interlocking challenge of data systems, including geospatial information generated by satellites.

The third lens focuses on updating governance, broadly defined. Issues include how civil society can align with the SDG challenge; how an advanced economy like Canada can approach the goals at home and abroad; what needs to be done to foster new approaches for managing the global commons; and how can multilateral institutions for health and development finance evolve.

Schwartz-Ziv, Miriam. “Gender and Board Activeness: The Role of a Critical Mass”. Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis (JFQA), Forthcoming 52.2 (2017): , 52, 2, 751-780. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This study analyzes detailed minutes of board meetings of business companies in which the Israeli government holds a substantial equity interest. Boards with at least three directors of each gender are found to be at least 79% more active at board meetings than those without such representation. This phenomenon is driven by women directors in particular; they are more active when a critical mass of at least three women is in attendance. Gender-balanced boards are also more likely to replace underperforming CEOs and are particularly active during periods when CEOs are being replaced.

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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