Iris Bohnet, the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government and the Academic Dean at Harvard Kennedy School, came to Bridgewater where she presented on topics from her book, What Works: Gender Equality by Design. A behavioral economist, Bohnet explained the significance of organizations debiasing management systems when implementing Diversity and Inclusion strategies.
Through her research, Bohnet found that companies often attempt to build inclusion by sponsoring trainings that address the behavior of individuals. She explained that without the complement of inclusive management systems, individual training is likely to wither: “we can’t fix this by just focusing on fixing people or fixing mindsets, instead we need to fix our systems.” She continued by describing how today, many companies have functions where bias and subjectiveness play an important role in decision making — negatively affecting women and minorities at a disproportionate rate.
She advised for companies to reflect, and ask themselves, “What are the design choices that we make automatically, or by default, without much thinking, and therefore might fall into traps of misunderstanding, misleading, or have outcomes that they did not intend?” By evolving formal processes such as job advertisement, employee feedback, and career advancement, she believes that organizations can make the necessary adjustments needed for an environment where inclusion is inherent.
Whichever path organizations choose to become a more equitable workplace, Bohnet says individuals should still feel accountable. She reminded leaders that they each have a responsibility to build and maintain the culture and environment of the firms they run — “you have to think about the collective, the norms that you want to uphold, and you have to make it easier for everyone to get this right.”