Leading Thinkers
Visit VicHealth.vic.gov.au
Visit VicHealth.vic.gov.au

The Leading Thinkers Initiative 


The work of the Leading Thinkers initiative may lead to gains in gender equality "at low cost and high speed", writes Dr Jeni Klugman.

The Leading Thinkers residency - which I am sharing with Professor Iris Bohnet from Harvard - focuses on the use of behavioural insights to transform the underlying drivers of gender equality.

Iris's recent book, What Works, Gender Equality By Design, underlines the potential for behavioural design to contribute to gender equality goals. We certainly don't claim that behavioural insights will solve all our problems, but it can help find solutions to make a difference at low cost and high speed.

We are excited by the opportunities presented by the residency to bring emerging practices and behavioural insights around gender equality to Victoria.

Government and community interest

We are excited by the opportunities presented by the residency to bring emerging practices and behavioural insights around gender equality in the US, Europe and elsewhere to Victoria. Its timing is opportune, coinciding with the launch of the state's Gender Equality Strategy and its Violence Prevention Strategy, with major budget commitments to meet the government's ambitious objectives.

The high level of widespread community interest is reflected in how quickly and broadly we have been able to establish a set of forward-thinking, influential collaborators and partners from a range of sectors, and in the willingness of change-makers to share their perspectives and approaches with us.

Meeting the people of Victoria


I was struck by the enthusiasm for discovering new ways to address gender inequality in a range of settings on my recent visit to Victoria to launch the program; at a Government House breakfast hosted by the Governor of Victoria, the Hon. Linda Dessau AC, who is also Patron-In-Chief of VicHealth, at a major corporate lunch hosted by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), at a public meeting with more than 100 university and community members at the Queen Victoria Women's Centre and at a meeting with the vibrant, youthful group at the Women in Economics Network.

My foray into talkback radio with the ABC's Rafael Epstein revealed the diversity of community thinking on gender equality (in particular, the back and forth with caller 'Richard from King Island' who didn't think a gender pay gap existed), while a session with ABC News 24 happened on a day when former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was railing against "feminist social engineering".

A collaborative effort


The work is benefitting enormously from the advice and support of our Leading Thinkers Taskforce, and we enjoyed a productive morning with the Community of Practice, which is using behavioural insights in a variety of programs around the state. The visit provided the chance to dive more deeply into the work with the staff at VicHealth, where we explored ways to introduce behavioural insights to improve the gender outcomes of programs across the board.

Major players in the media and corporate sectors came to share insights and several have joined the trials. The partner organisations working with us on the trial interventions revealed the challenges they face in promoting gender equality; what they are doing now, and how behavioural insights might contribute.

Their receptivity shows the potential for a wide range of organisations to drive gender equality objectives forward and to promote broader changes in social norms.

Gender inequality impacts all lives


It's known that adverse social norms drive persistent gender inequalities. Gender norms impact lives, shaping individual aspirations and opportunities, choices and constraints for men and women, girls and boys.

But there is still much that we don't know about how to affect gender norms. As academics, being engaged in innovative work that can add to the global evidence base is a major attraction.

We plan to share the results once they start becoming available. We're not aware of any trials of this nature and scale being undertaken anywhere else in the world, so we can truly say that VicHealth is (again) pioneering the way.

Jeni Klugman
VicHealth Leading Thinker

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