Iris Bohnet

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Iris Bohnet is an expert in negotiations, gender, and decision-making in the context of public policy. Her research focuses on trust and decision-making, often with a gender or cross-cultural perspective. She is Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Director of its Women and Public Policy Program. She holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Zurich.


Summaries of Recent Research Findings in Behavioral Science

When Performance Trumps Gender Bias (2015)


Gender bias in job candidate evaluation persists in business, government and academia; little is known about overcoming it.


‘Joint evaluation’ may help overcome gender bias in hiring, promotion, and job assignments. Evaluators are more likely to base their decisions on individual achievement (irrespective of gender) in joint as compared to separate evaluation setups.


As evaluators are more likely to base their decisions on group stereotypes in separate rather than in joint evaluation, it is suggested that joint evaluation is the profit-maximizing evaluation procedure.


Trustworthiness in Gulf and Western Countries (2010)


Private investment is low in Gulf countries compared to Western countries.


In the Gulf, trust is traditionally built primarily through personal relationships, whereas in the West formal rules, such as contract law, play a larger role. Experiments reveal that Gulf citizens pay much more than Westerners to avoid having to trust another party (thus opening themselves up to potential betrayal).


Understanding the culture-specific reference points for trustworthiness can help inform international relations in commerce, investment, and diplomacy.


What concept(s) from behavioral economics have had the most relevance to gender equality?

Nudges change organizational practices. How can we change the environment slightly so that the organization maximizes its performance by hiring the most qualified candidate rather than hiring based on stereotypes? Comparative evaluations can erase stereotypes. When people examined one candidate at a time, stereotypes tended to bias thinking, but if comparison information was available, performance information tended to prevail. Thatís a very easy way for companies to think about hiring and promotion decisions. Weíre encouraging companies to think creatively about the decisions they make and to build on insights from behavioral decision research to restructure their environments.

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