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Iris Bohnet: How to Close the Gender Gap in Leadership

The Maliheh Paryavi Podcast

Release Date: 03/06/2019

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Iris Bohnet is a Behavioral Economist at Harvard University, Academic Dean of Harvard Kennedy School, and author of the award-winning book, "What Works: Gender Equality by Design."

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Iris Bohnet is a Behavioral Economist and Professor of Business and Government at Harvard University, Academic Dean of Harvard Kennedy School, Co-Director of the Women and Public Policy Program, and author of award-winning book, What Works: Gender Equality by Design.

I had the great fortune of having Iris Bohnet as my Ph.D. advisor at Harvard. In all the years I’ve known her, we would always prioritize discussing my growth, dissertation, and our research. This was the first time we had the chance to actually talk about her! I was able to see a whole new side to Iris during this podcast recording, and I feel so grateful to have had this opportunity. Iris opened up about how she balances all of her commitments as a scholar, leader, and mother, what energizes her, and what keeps her going. We also talked about why we need more women in leadership, “what works” to get them there, and how to make sure they thrive.


Episode Breakdown:

  • 01:28 - How does Iris manage her numerous commitments?
  • 04:37 - How does Iris keep a work-life balance?
  • 09:11 - How does Iris stay motivated?
  • 12:58 - Iris’ inspiring journey towards becoming a leading scholar on gender equality
  • 17:29 - Why is it so important to have more women in leadership positions?
  • 22:13 - Is promoting gender equality a zero-sum game?
  • 27:38 - "What works" to close the gender gap in leadership?
  • 34:03 - Having the right support to thrive as a leader
  • 37:03 - How to challenge the status quo: I introduce my idea of imagining a “Women Designed World” and discuss it with Iris.


Exercise: Imagine a “Women Designed World”

For the most part, we have inherited a world that was originally designed by men, for men. Imagining what I call, a “Women Designed World” is an exercise to help us identify the gaps in our world, challenge the status quo, and create systemic changes that will improve everyone’s lives.

Listen to the conversation starting at 37:03, then allow yourself to imagine a different life in a different world. What do you think a woman designed world would look like? What would it be like to live in a world designed by women? If you can’t think of anything, start by imagining how you would redesign your own life to better meet your unique needs. What would you love to change?

Share your ideas! #womendesignedworld

And remember:

You have the power to redesign your life, your organization, and your world!

More about Iris Bohnet:

Iris Bohnet, the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government and Academic Dean at the Harvard Kennedy School, serves as co-director of the Women and Public Policy Program, an associate director of the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory, and the faculty chair of the executive program “Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st Century” for the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders. She serves on the boards, advisory boards or as a patron of Credit Suisse Group, Applied, Edge, genEquality, TaketheLeadWomen, We Shape Tech, Women in Banking and Finance, and the UK Government’s Equalities Office as well as numerous academic journals. She was named one of the Most Influential People in Gender Policy by apolitical in 2018, a Leading Thinker of Victoria, Australia, 2016-2019, and has received an honorary degree from the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, in 2016.

Professor Bohnet teaches organizational design, decision-making, negotiation and gender in public policy and leadership in degree and executive programs, and has been engaged in the teaching, training and consulting of private and public sector leaders in the United States, Australia, Europe, India and the Middle East. Some of the larger consulting, research or speaking clients include the UK and US governments, BlackRock, Deutsche Bank, Citi, Deloitte, EY, Fidelity, GE, Google, the IMF, Johnson & Johnson, KPMG, the OECD, Salesforce, Sanofi, Schroders, UNESCO, UNICEF, UN Women, Unilever, and the World Bank.

A behavioral economist, she combines insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making in organizations and society, often with a gender or cross-cultural perspective. Her most recent research examines behavioral design to de-bias how we live, learn and work. Her academic work has been published in the best journals of her profession, including the American Economic Review, the American Political Science Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics,and Management Science. Her book What Works: Gender Equality By Design (Harvard University Press 2016) provides decision-makers from across the sectors with scientific insights on how to redesign organizations, school and society.

A Swiss citizen, she received her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Zurich in 1997 and spent a year as a research fellow at the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley from 1997-1998. She joined the Harvard Kennedy School as an assistant professor in 1998 and was made full professor in 2006. She is married to Michael Zurcher, and she and her husband have two children.