The United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney together with the Behavioral Insights Group, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School and the Women and Public Policy Program, Harvard Kennedy School invited participants to the inaugural W21 workshop on Leadership for Gender Equality and Organisational Excellence facilitated by Professor Iris Bohnet of Harvard University, a world-leading scholar on women, leadership and gender equality. 

With gender equality increasingly a business imperative, in addition to being a human right, many leaders across the sectors wonder how we can get there. Building on research conducted around the world and curated in Harvard’s searchable online platform, the Gender Action Portal (GAP), the workshop focused on what works to close gender gaps. It is based on insights from behavioural economics and helped participants design their organisation for gender equality and excellence.

  • How can hiring and promotion procedures be restructured to make sure you do not discriminate against talent that does not look the part? 
  • How can we create diverse teams that excel? 
  • How can we create inclusive work environments where men and women can thrive, contribute and take on leadership roles? 
  • How can we empower leaders to treat men and women equally, embrace diversity and lead more effectively? 

Smarter gender design is a win-win for employers and employees. It helps employers design mechanisms allowing them to benefit from the whole talent pool, increase retention rates, take into consideration a diverse set of opinions and become a leader in our increasingly global and diverse world. It helps employees navigate the system, compete successfully and thrive. It builds on insights into how our minds work to understand why biases exist and how to overcome them. Behavioural economics incorporates psychology and economics and draws on evidence, often derived from field experiments, to understand what works. It has been used to inform decision and policy making in many different domains, ranging from fiscal policy to energy consumption to marketing. We now also apply it to questions of management and leadership to promote and benefit from gender equality.

A unique experience

The workshop was designed to be highly interactive and for the participants to learn from each other. It included exercises, case studies, small group problem solving and real world applications. Participants were encouraged to bring an issue they would like to fix in their organisations to the workshop.  

Who attended

Senior executives with decision making authority. Both women and men were invited to participate from a broad range of sectors including government and private sectors.  


Professor Iris Bohnet: Professor of Public Policy, Director, Women and Public Policy Program, Co-Chair, Behavioral Insights Group, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and Visiting Professor, United States Studies Centre

Supported by Women's Leadership Institute Australia