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How Policy Can Contribute to Gender Equality

A discussion of Iris Bohnet's book What Works: Gender Equality By Design and how public policy can alleviate gender inequality.
How Policy Can Contribute To Gender Equality

Iris BohnetIris Bohnet, Ph.D., is academic dean and a behavioral economist at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and author of What Works: Gender Equality By Design (2016).

Dr. Bohnet cites research delving into India’s 1993 Constitutional amendment that mandated one-third of village leaders in a district had to be women — and that the villages would be picked randomly out of a hat at each election cycle.

The effects were widespread: The likelihood that a woman would speak up in a village meeting increased by 25 percent; parents were more likely to want their daughters to study past secondary school; and villagers who had exposure to at least two female chiefs in West Bengal overcame their initial bias against women as leaders and rated male and female leaders equally, according to research on the outcome. Women were more likely to run against men for election if a council seat had been reserved for a woman in the previous election, a study in Maharashtra state showed.

And girls who observed female village chiefs spent less time on household chores and wanted to marry later. Researchers Chattopadhyay and Duflo, Ph.D., wrote about the results in “Women as Policy Makers: Evidence from a Randomized Policy Experiment in India,” Econometrica 72(5) (2004). [Excerpted from What Works: Gender Equality by Design.]

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