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, Erica Chenoweth, and Zoe Marks—have deepened our understanding of the evolving landscape of gender gaps and the mechanisms we can employ to close them.

Recent Publications

Harris, Allison, and Maya Sen. “How Judges' Professional Experience Impacts Case Outcomes: An Examination of Public Defenders and Criminal Sentencing”. Working Paper. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract
How do judges' previous professional experiences affect case outcomes? In this short article, we investigate the question by documenting the effect of judges' previous criminal justice experience on sentencing. Leveraging thousands of federal sentences from 2010 to 2019, we find that defendants with charges assigned to a former public defender are, on average, less likely to be incarcerated. In some cases, their sentences are also shorter, which we show is partially attributable to former defenders being less likely to give out extremely long sentences. The findings make two key contributions. First, they contribute to growing evidence of disparities in the criminal legal system, particularly those associated with judge characteristics. Second, the findings showcase the potential impact of judges' previous professional experience (as opposed to demographic characteristics) on decision-making. Both illustrate a new strategy in how political actors can influence policy through judicial selection on the basis of professional experience.
Mlambo-Ngcuka, Phumzile, and Rangita Silva de de Alwis. “Redefining Leadership in the Age of the SDGs: Accelerating and Scaling Up Delivery Through Innovation and Inclusion”. Working Paper: n. pag. Print.Abstract

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Rangita de Silva de Alwis jointly conducted a study titled, “Redefining Leadership in the Age of Sustainable Development Goals: Accelerating and Scaling Up Delivery." This research was conducted as a joint study with Harvard Law School's Center on the Legal Profession, advised by Professors Iris Bohnet and David Wilkins of Harvard, Professor Deborah Rhode of Stanford University, and Dean Theodore Ruger of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. She is a Nonresident Senior Fellow of the Center on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School; Nonresident Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Women and Public Policy Program (2019-2020). She is the former Vice President of South Africa.

Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Center on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School and Nonresident Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Women and Public Policy Program (2019-2020).

 

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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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