A community of optimists hosted by Melinda French Gates

Iris Bohnet is a behavioral economist who studies what works to advance gender equality.

As professor, co-director of the Women and Public Policy Program and academic dean at Harvard Kennedy School, she researches, teaches, writes and speaks on how we can redesign how we live, learn and work to create more inclusive environments where all can thrive. She is the author of the award-winning book, What Works: Gender Equality by Design, serves on various for-profit and non-for-profit boards, and advises governments and companies from around the world on how to close gender gaps.

Iris grew up in Lucerne, Switzerland. She studied in Switzerland and received her PhD in economics from the University of Zurich. She spent a year as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California Berkeley and joined the faculty at Harvard in 1998. Her work has always focused on behavioral economics, combining insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making in organizations and society, often with a gender or cross-cultural perspective. She lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with her husband and their two children.


On Sunday afternoons, you can find me…

Someplace where there is water. I love swimming, scuba diving, sailing, or just walking along the beach and staring at the blues, greens and purples of the water.

Tell us about someone you admire.

The family that recently stood up for me as I was transitioning from one flight to another in Zurich airport, coming from Boston and on my way to Singapore. I was late and would not have made it standing in line. When I asked someone whether I could cut in, the person let me but people behind started complaining. Then, a family at the very front spoke up, inviting people to be their generous selves and showing empathy with joy. It is these small acts of kindness and courage that I think define our humanity.

Please share a favorite quote.

"Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain…” - Vivian Greene.
The quote is hanging in our kitchen and I look at it almost every day.