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What Works: Gender Equality by Design
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What Works: Gender Equality by Design

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  320 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Gender equality is a moral and a business imperative. But unconscious bias holds us back, and de-biasing people s minds has proven to be difficult and expensive. Diversity training programs have had limited success, and individual effort alone often invites backlash. Behavioral design offers a new solution. By de-biasing organizations instead of individuals, we can make sm ...more
Hardcover, 385 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by Belknap Press
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4.22  · 
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 ·  320 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: managers, teachers, politicians, designers, behaviorists, marketers, women
This book was SO much better than I anticipated, and I am glad I happened across a recommendation for it. Iris Bohnet says in the back that this was a 10 year project, and in my opinion that shows in the level of concise, fascinating, and actionable material.

As a game designer, the details on how to affect behavioral change were delicious. She does a great job of setting up how each chapter problem generally manifests, common mistakes to fix it, ways change have backfired, and successful methods
Oct 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this book for my work book club, and and I took down a LOT of notes. My library didn't have a copy, so I bought my own, which I NEVER do, but now I'm glad I did it because I kept my pages tabbed for future reference. We had a really good discussion about Chapter 6, which is about interviewing and hiring, and it was so interesting to hear different teams' methods and what people think "culture fit" means. I think this book is best read slowly and as a conversation-starter. Each section is ...more
Christopher Litsinger
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
probably the most pragmatic books on changing organizational culture that I've ever read. Over the course of the book, Bohnet offers 36 research-grounded design suggestions for achieving gender equality in the workplace. The use of the word "design" here is intentional: Bohnet is a behavioral economist, and the book offers much in the way of behavioral design from that perspective. Bohnet presents a careful review of current research -- occasionally, this can be a bit dizzying as she walks throu ...more
Apr 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Best for schools or other large institutions looking for politically safe ways to reduce gender (and, to some extent, racial) bias. The relentless push for experimentation and measurement is unfortunately not especially practical for organizations too small to run experiments with any kind of statistical significance. However, for these smaller groups, this book can act as a conservative introduction to unconscious bias, and it does offer some specific organizational changes that have been demon ...more
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was right up my alley. The application of organizational design to this sticky topic was successful, even though I am not sure my organizational would move to implement her suggestions.
Dec 02, 2015 added it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: attended her Gender Initiative seminar at HBS
Shelves: gender, nonfiction
I saw the author present some of the highlights from her then-forthcoming book at a Gender Initiative seminar in December 2015 and became really interested to read the full book.

I was underwhelmed by the book itself.

First, she has a much more moderate approach/tone than I -- which I expect is somewhat by necessity, given the audience, but which put me off from the beginning. (I was also really put off by her use of the term "political correctness" in the "Crafting Groups" chapter. It's drawing o
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it
I thought this book was solid, and perhaps the best resource currently available in its topic area, given that it's an area that has been moving fast recently. The information is the best part about it. The weakness is in structure; it's information dumping in a series of paragraphs strung loosely together. Yes they are sorted roughly into chapters but I couldn't tell you what would be found where based on the chapter titles or overviews. Topic changes are not always signaled and there are few s ...more
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
The jolting examples of gender bias in the early chapters (the gender composition of US symphonic orchestras in the 70s and the case study analysis conducted by two groups of Harvard students) get your attention and would surely persuade the strongest of gender gap deniers that we have a problem. That said, this book left me contemplating bias in general, as much as gender bias.

How much of what we think and do is shaped by our biases (for better and for worse)? Turns out everything! Does that m
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women
Quote: "Grieg demonstrated that a candidate's assertiveness had nothing to do with his or her performance, meaning the more assertive employee, but not necessary the best performer, was being promoted."

The first half of this book is utterly depressing ("things suck and there's not much we can do about it"). The next quarter is much more positive, but not quite enough to make up for the first half.

It's about 1/4 footnotes/bibliography, which I love.

Something I'm on the fence about: Bohnet makes l
Teodora Ivanova
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved every bit of this book.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book more than I did, and still see this as an excellent resource for folks just kicking off equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives at their company. Compared to similar books, this one is easy to read and presents actionable insights. Why this wasn't rated higher for me:

1. She writes advice for how the world is, not how the world should be. Similar to 'Lean In', Bohnet is NOT wrong to encourage women to, say, negotiate more for their pay. She IS wrong to stop there,
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ich bin gespalten.. im Kern ist es ein gutes Buch, das zum Nachdenken über die Gestaltung unserer Arbeitswelt anregt. Welche Bilder hängen wir auf, welche Werte vermitteln wir den Angestellten und wie lässt sich überhaupt ein Umfeld schaffen, in dem Diversität möglich wird. Hier kann man viel mitnehmen. Dies aber vor allem dann, wenn man sich noch nie mit dem Thema beschäftigt hat.

Meine Probleme sind:

1. Diese amerikansiche Art der Vermittlung per Massen an Beispielen bläht das Werk unnötig auf.
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: learn
While I'm currently not in a position that allows me to implement techniques described in this book, it was an interesting read. While some changes the author proposes are small, not so controversial and undoubtedly beneficial, I am still not entirely convinced about others such as the much disputed quotas for females on boards and in politics. Studies to support them are not so conclusive right now about them, but I'm curious to see how things go in countries that have already implemented them. ...more
Sabrina Ahmad
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really useful book to be reading in my line of work (Diversity and Inclusion programme designer) with some really fantastic insights, a few of which are already well-known or common sense but many of which are new and impactful.

One star taken off for occasional redundancy - certain passages I felt were pointless as the point had already been made earlier without any new information given.

Overall though, a huge fan of Bohnet and I consider this recommended reading for absolutely anyone who's curr
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Can be a little dry at times, but a great data-based analysis of behavioral science and how we can harness what we know about how people behave to make the workplace fairer. I particularly like how she re-frames the zero-sum mentality that many hold about gender equity with a "100% talent pool" image. It seems like a much more positive spin on the saying that 'when you're used to privilege, equality feels like disadvantage.' Overall, a great and compelling read.
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A comprehensive and readable literature review across the fields of behavioral economics and industrial psychology.

Information-dense, with lots of specific recommendations. If you are in a leadership position of an organization and do not walk away from this book with obvious next-steps, you're doing it wrong.
Martin Dubeci
Dec 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Dobrý nápad, s popisom praktických, väčšinou vnútrorganizačných postupov ako zlepšiť gendrovú rovnováhu. Pekné aj praktické veci, ktoré sa stratili v súčasnom US-business-slang písaní a nekonečných prehľadoch literatúry. Plus, vždy keď sa niekto cituje a spolu s tým sa droppuje, že je v boarde tej či onej tech firmy, viem, že je zle.
Reva Abrol
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for policy wonks, current and aspiring leaders, and behavioural design fanatics. This book accepts the premise that changing minds is hard – so how can we work with what we know to get better results?
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think the first portion makes an excellent primer on “yes, gender inequality in the workplace is a thing” for folks who may need some convincing. The book really shines when Bohnet moves from that introduction into what we can actually do to nudge our cultures towards equality and improvement.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amy McLay Paterson
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Focusing on the practical and bulwarked with many controlled studies, this book focuses on putting gender equity ideals into practice but also has many ramifications for other equity-seeking groups.
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
I can't stop quoting this book. It's brilliant and helpful. I've never had the subject of gender inequality discussed in such a practical way.
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rus Funk
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: org-development
Awesome read! Well documented, easy to read, comprehensive... a thorough investigation into how we can design work and educational spaces to promote gender and other forms of equality
Karin Bodewits
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I believe it is the best book (both practical and well-written) I ever read on the topic 'gender' (I did read quite a few ;)
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A deeply insightful book highlighting the lack of (mainly gender) diversity in workplaces. Iris Bohnet details the different biases we all have and provides suggestions on how we could improve the scenario. I like the fact that the book is heavily based on a number of research findings. But what bothers me is the generality of many of the suggestions (things I would have encountered on blog posts). Overall a great read!
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
helpful, especially to understand biases and design structures accordingly -- not only for gender, but race/ethnicity, etc
Jim Johnston
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What Works is a thoroughly researched, compelling work that addresses questions that have become increasingly compelling and important as companies of all sizes consider how to address gender equality in the workplace. Bohnet walks the reader through multiple aspects of the situation from research, long-held assumptions, to the techniques that just seem to work.

Her focus is on removing biases not from individuals, but institutions whether this is through better policies or specifically engaging
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
An interesting and somewhat depressing summary of studies on the topic. This book won't come as a surprise to anyone with an interest in these issues. I think I have come across references to most of the studies cited, especially on women and negotiation.

A clearer, more direct title might help it reach its target audience better. I agree with another reviewer's comment that the chapter summaries weren't really that useful.
Aug 13, 2016 rated it liked it
It is a simple,well written book, with a focus on the practical. There is so little out there on what to do about diversity that just having an easily readable book on simple experiments is a big win. I only wish that there was more rigour - there are too many sweeping statements too frequently coming out single small studies.
It is a good book to start thinking about design and a great first step for anyone starring to look at this area.
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Iris Bohnet, Professor of Public Policy, is a behavioral economist at Harvard Kennedy School, combining insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making in organizations and society, often with a gender or cross-cultural perspective. She is the author of What Works: Gender Equality by Design, published by Harvard University Press in 2016. Her most recent research examines behavior ...more
“Controlling for a large number of additional variables, they found that firms with at least one woman among the first hires were more successful and stayed longer in the market than all-male start-ups.” 1 likes
“In their otherwise depressing review of the efficacy of diversity training programs, Frank Dobbin and colleagues found accountability to be one of the most important mechanisms related to the diversity of the labor force. Assigning responsibility for managing diversity to taskforces, diversity officers, or some similar committee was strongly associated with an increase in workforce diversity, including in the fraction of women.” 1 likes
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