Summary of What Works

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9 Overall

9 Applicability

9 Innovation

8 Style


Harvard professor Iris Bohnet seeks to determine “what works” when it comes to increasing gender equality. In that pursuit, she offers a focused, meticulous review of efforts to change human behavior to foster inclusion and ethical practice. Bohnet analyzes surveys, lab studies, corporate actions, meta studies and the law from a broad array of disciplines: politics, business, social science, gender studies, and more. The result can be overwhelming, but her prose is always engaging and useful. The author is exceptionally honest. She flatly states how ineffective certain well-intended programs have been. This clarifies her ethical commitment and makes her conclusions more persuasive. getAbstract recommends Bohnet’s insight to anyone interested in clear thinking, social science and a more inclusive society.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why “unconscious bias” is common,
  • How organizational efforts to create greater equality succeed or fail, and
  • How to make your workplace more equitable and diverse using the “DESIGN” process to create and sustain change.  

About the Author

A native of Switzerland, Iris Bohnet, PhD, is a behavioral economist at Harvard University. She is a professor, the director of the Women and Public Policy Program, and co-chair of the Behavioral Insights Group at the Kennedy School of Government.



Why “Behavioral Design”

In 1970, only 5% of the performers in the five best American orchestras were female. Now more than 35% are. This didn’t happen by accident. Following the lead of the Boston Symphony, orchestras shifted to blind auditions, wherein judges hear musicians play but don’t see them. Directors always believed they cared only about a musician’s skill. “Unconscious” bias led them to select a majority of men. When they auditioned musicians behind a screen, they chose differently.

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