Last updated: 19 Jan, 2021

The Leading Thinker residency, "Behavioural insights and gender equality", concluded in December 2020. Read the Final Report and watch the Highlights Reel to learn more about what was achieved.

VicHealth Leading Thinkers Highlights Reel

Download: Leading Thinker residency: Behavioural insights & gender equality - Final report (PDF, 1.3 MB)

Gender equality is a core principle of a fair, respectful, safe and inclusive society, and is a critical determinant of good health and wellbeing. The theme builds on VicHealth's history of leading research and supporting programs to prevent violence against women and continues the Leading Thinkers' support of innovative emerging approaches such as behavioural insights.

As part of this residency Professor Iris Bohnet and Dr Jeni Klugman– two of the world’s foremost experts in behavioural insights and gender equality – have shared their knowledge with VicHealth, the Victorian Government and other cross-sectoral partners. Click here to read the report on behavioural insights and gender equality.

An independent evaluation of the second Leading Thinker Residency, conducted by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Program Evaluation, found that 

  • 76%  of respondents “Agreed/Strongly Agreed that “Being part of the Leading Thinker activity introduced me to new ideas”
  • 69%  of respondents Agreed/Strongly Agreed that  “Accessing the knowledge of thought leaders was the most valuable part of the Leading Thinkers’ Residency"
  • 61%  of respondents Agreed/Strongly Agreed that “The Leading Thinkers Residency increased my understanding of gender equality”

“It is a rare privilege for everyday people working in the field to be able to connect to some of the top thinkers (the Leading Thinkers) at a personal level. Normally we can only just hear them speak and maybe get a chance to ask an audience question, but rarely get the chance to interact and learn from them in the forum like the symposium and workshops. This was a distinctive strength of this program”

-Survey Respondent 



Throughout this residency we have:

  • worked with a range of partners to invest in behavioural insights trials to build new evidence on what works to address unconscious gender bias, gender stereotyping, role modelling and social norms around gender. Current activity focuses on the analysis of gender bias in the media, in sports reporting. Read more here
  • hosted a series of events that highlighted practical ways in which organisations can bring gender equality strategies to life including a flagship symposium event which brought together prominent Victorian and Australian leaders to discuss the question: “Behavioural Insights & Gender Equality: How can we make it easier to go from intention to action?” The program included Keynotes by Prof Iris Bohnet, the Hon. Julia Gillard AO and the Hon. Gabrielle Williams (Minister for Women); case study workshops hosted by influential partner organisations such as the Male Champions of Change, Office for Women & Behavioural Insights Team and the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, and a Panel discussion. 


  • A Deliberative Forum was also convened to discuss and deliberate the question: “Behavioural Insights & Gender Equality: How can we make it easier to move from intention to action”? Over 70 academics, policy makers and practitioners heard from 20 “What Works” case studies from a range of organisations and deliberated on practices and approaches that could best advance action in gender equality efforts. The final Participant Report captured the intellect, ideas and personal commitments of participants to progressing this work

  • The latest Leading Thinker project is the first ever, large-scale big data analysis of the extent and nature of the portrayal of women and men in Victorian sports print media. Read more about this project


VicHealth’s current Leading Thinkers: Professor Iris Bohnet & Dr Jeni Klugman

Professor Iris Bohnet

Iris BohnetIris Bohnet is the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government and the Academic Dean of Harvard Kennedy School. She is a behavioural economist, combining insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making in organisations and society, often with a gender or cross-cultural perspective. Her most recent research examines behavioural design to de-bias how we live, learn and work.

She is the author of an award-winning book about gender equality and advises governments and companies on the topic around the world. Professor Bohnet is the co-director of Harvard’s Women and Public Policy Program, and the faculty chair of the executive program: “Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st Century” for the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders.

She serves on the boards, advisory boards or as a patron of Credit Suisse Group, Applied, Edge, genEquality, TaketheLeadWomen, We Shape Tech, Women in Banking and Finance, and the UK Government’s Equalities Office as well as numerous academic journals. She was named one of the Most Influential People in Gender Policy by Apolitical in 2018 and 2019 and received an honorary degree from the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, in 2016.


Dr Jeni Klugman

Jeni KlugmanJeni Klugman is Managing Director at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. Dr Klugman’s previous positions include Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank, fellow at the Kennedy School of Government’s Women in Public Policy Program at Harvard University, and director and lead author of three global Human Development Reports published by the UNDP.

She is a member on the Lancet Commission on Gender and Global Health, and regularly participates in major global gender policy initiatives. Most recently these include: the Lancet Series on Gender Equality, Stanford University; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Women’s Economic Empowerment; and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion and Global Growth. She is currently advising UN Women, the World Bank and partners on justice for women; the World Bank on gender dimensions of forced displacement; and the UN Development Program on human mobility.

Jeni holds a PhD in Economics from the Australian National University and postgraduate degrees in both Law and Development Economics from the University of Oxford where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She was included in the Apolitical Inaugural List of the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Gender Policy in 2018 and in 2019.



Below is a summary of projects & trials undertaken in the Leading Thinkers Residency- Behavioural Insights & Gender Equality

Big Data & Machine Learning: Sports Media Analysis View more

The latest Leading Thinker project is the first ever, large-scale big data analysis of the extent and nature of the portrayal of women and men in Victorian sports print media. The report, Buried Treasures and Missed Opportunities in Victorian Sports Reporting, provides new evidence to both inform the debate and to highlight challenges and opportunities.

These important findings are a major step forward in better understanding gender portrayal in sports reporting and what needs to be done to reach gender equality goals in women's sports reporting. This report is vital to anyone who talks about, writes about or reports on sport.

This research was supported by Swinburne Social Innovation Research Institute. 

Behavioural Insights Storytelling Project View more

We know that involvement in community sport is good for physical and mental health. It helps prevent health problems like cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, helps to control weight and prevent obesity, improves people’s social connections and increases a whole range of skills that improve quality of life. Yet we also know that women face unique barriers to being involved in community sport and that involvement in sport drops off during adolescence.

VicHealth’s Behavioural Insights Storytelling Project captured stories of ‘ordinary’ role models in community sport organisations funded by VicHealth’s Active Club Grants to increase female sport participation.

See example stories below:

Quick Wins View more

Women’s participation in sport is increasing in Victoria, particularly in AFL and Cricket, and Sporting clubs are looking for ways to make their environments welcoming and inclusive. 

In response, VicHealth’s Leading Thinkers supported our local sporting club partners to introduce easy and attractive ideas to help them create inclusive and welcoming environments for women and girls. These ideas are aligned with some of the most advanced and cutting-edge global thinking in gender equality.

The Quick Wins Checklist was developed as a short and sharp list of ten powerful, simple and often zero-cost ideas that a grass-roots sporting club can implement easily. 27 gender assessments, including 12 international audits, 10 Australian audits and four local/municipal council audits were reviewed to inform the development of the Quick Wins Checklist.

The actions in the Quick Wins Checklist are proven to make a difference in shaping role models, busting stereotypes and making a club a welcoming environment for all.

Recruitment trials View more

Our Leading Thinker Professor Iris Bohnet worked with VicHealth to design a Behavioural Insights trial to build evidence on the effect of gender-neutral language in job advertisements on the gender representation of applicants.

The trial was included as part of the Victorian Government’s Recruit Smarter initiative, who worked with a range of partner organisations across government, private and not-for-profit sectors. See the Recruit Smarter Report here.