Building Gender Balance Through Behavioural Design

Motivated by many conversations with global business leaders working toward creating gender equality and gender balance who are struggling along these lines, we at INSEAD’s Gender Initiative ( are investigating solutions ourselves, and watching for others’ rigorous scholarly work. Thus, we were delighted to host Professor Iris Bohnet on our Singapore campus. She presented insights from her book and current work with organisations, and we share a few highlights here. This article is co-authored by Clarissa Cortland, and it is published on our Knowledge website.

What can organisations do when changing mindsets isn’t enough?

For advocates of workplace gender balance, one of the chief obstacles is the immobility of mindsets. Regardless of our intentions, traditional stereotypes about how men and women work dwell within most of us and can affect our decision making without our necessarily being aware of them. And because unconscious gender biases often have deep cultural foundations, they can be very difficult to shift.

MORE Philippe Mellier’s (MBA 80) route to the top at De Beers

Philippe Mellier’s route to the top at De Beers

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When De Beers was looking for a new chief executive in 2011, the most obvious qualification that Philippe Mellier had for the job was probably “outsider”. The world’s best-known diamond miner wanted to bring in a leader with a fresh perspective to prepare it for a new era. In Mellier — with 30 years in cars, trucks and trains behind him — the headhunters certainly found one. The 60-year-old Frenchman, then working at French industrial group Alstom, recalls plenty of industry scepticism about whether someone with no experience of diamonds or mining could sparkle in the role. Four years later, he has gone through big changes — including De Beers’ ultimate ownership — and has embraced the mystique of the world’s most coveted gemstones.