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Gender Initiative

Gender Initiative

Our Vision and Mission

Kaisa Snellman

Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour Academic Director, INSEAD Gender Initiative

The Gender Initiative produces and promotes cutting-edge social science research to transform practice and policy. Our goal is to challenge tired assumptions and to provide evidence-based practical insights for current and future leaders looking to advance diversity and inclusion in their organisations.

Kaisa Snellman

Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour Academic Director, INSEAD Gender Initiative

In the Spotlight

Gender Research Lab

Y2023-2024 Speakers

Maria Guadalupe (Economics and Political Science, INSEAD), Daisy Pollenne (Oxford University), Kaisa Snellman (Organisational Behaviour, INSEAD). Norms at Work: Masculinity, Well-being, and Performance in Academia, March 2024.
Joint Research Seminar with the Economics & Political Science Area.

Academia is a competitive and individualistic environment where stereotypically masculine behaviours are the norm. Using detailed survey data from staff and faculty at five business schools, we assess the implications of these hyper masculine norms for workplace well-being, turnover intentions, and performance. We adopt a novel approach to identifying norms, using individuals’ subjective perception of the norm as predicted from what it actually is in relevant reference groups. Our results suggest that masculine norms associate with higher turnover intentions and worse workplace well-being. To overcome limitations of survey data, we match faculty survey responses to indicators of research performance collected for the universe of faculty members across the five business schools. Here also, our data suggests negative implications for both research quantity and quality.

Luisa Carrer (PhD Student at Toulouse School of Economics). Municipal-level Gender Norms: Measurement and Effects on Women in Politics, January 2024.
Joint Research Seminar with the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Centre for the Study of Wealth Inequality and the Economics & Political Science Area.

We study the implications of traditional gender norms for legislators’ engagement with women’s issues. We leverage rich data from Facebook on the popularity of gender-related interests (processed using machine learning algorithms) to develop a granular Gender Norms Index (GNI) at the municipal level within Italy, a geographical resolution that would otherwise be unavailable. After validating our index, we leverage this local variation in norms to isolate their impact on legislators’ policy activity in the Italian Parliament. We show that while female legislators generally sponsor more gender-related bills than their male counterparts, their engagement is substantially smaller if they were born in a gender-conservative town. This result persists even when comparing legislators within the same party, constituency or with similar characteristics. The absence of such a systematic impact on non-gender legislation further reinforces the causal interpretation of our estimates. Supplementary evidence on voting behaviour suggests that traditional gender norms also negatively affect the passage of pro-equality legislation. Overall, our findings highlight the importance of social norms and sexist culture in lawmaking, thereby slowing down reform for the expansion of women’s rights.

Luisa Wallossek (PhD Student at Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich). The Marriage Earnings Gap, January 2024.
Joint Research Seminar with the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Centre for the Study of Wealth Inequality and the Economics & Political Science Area.

What happens to earnings upon marriage? Linking administrative and survey data from Germany, we show that there is a marriage earnings gap. Even after accounting for the child penalty, women's earnings drop by 20% after marriage. We show that the marriage earnings gap results from both the extensive margin (women stop working) and the intensive margin (women work fewer hours), but not from a decrease in hourly wages. Labor supply disincentives from joint taxation can explain about one third of the marriage earnings gap, while we find no effect for labor supply incentives from changes in divorce law. Leveraging variation in norms created by the German separation, we find that gender norms are another important driver behind the marriage earnings gap.

Gabriele Guaitoli (PhD Student, University of Warwick). Firm Localness and Labour Misallocation, January 2024.
Joint Research Seminar with the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Centre for the Study of Wealth Inequality and the Economics & Political Science Area.

Limitations to workers’ spatial job mobility reduce access to productive jobs, misallocating labour and lowering output and welfare. Several policies aim to mitigate this misallocation by bringing workers closer to productive firms. Nevertheless, they substantially differ in how they affect the local costs firms face. For example, reducing planning regulations in productive locations lowers local rental costs. In contrast, making productive locations more attractive increases them by fostering congestion. I show that the effectiveness of these policies crucially depends on which firms are more sensitive to changes in local costs. I call this sensitivity localness. Using UK microdata, I find that productivity and localness are negatively correlated. I evaluate the effectiveness of different types of policies using a spatial general equilibrium model that, as a novelty, accounts for the observed joint distribution of productivity and localness. I find that accounting for localness heterogeneity dampens, by up to 35%, the aggregate welfare gains from policies that decrease costs in productive locations. Intuitively, lower rental costs lead to the creation of low-productivity jobs rather than productive ones, as productive firms are less local. Conversely, policies that indirectly increase local costs in productive locations are more effective, since not many productive jobs are destroyed. Finally, I show that localness heterogeneity has broader implications for how these policies shape the distribution of wages.

Michael Bikard (Strategy, INSEAD). Standing on the Shoulders of (Male) Giants: Gender Inequality and the Technological Impact of Scientific Ideas. January 2024.

This paper shows that gender inequality affects the extent to which scientific ideas are used to develop new technologies. Despite strong incentives to select the most promising ideas, we claim that inventors are more likely to build on men’s rather than women’s science. We exploit the occurrence of simultaneous discoveries – i.e., instances when a man and a woman publish the same idea around the same time – and track the citations that those papers receive in patented inventions. The papers led by female scientists receive on average 40% fewer patent citations than their male-led twin. We examine several explanations for this gender gap in inventors’ attention. The pattern of results is consistent with inventors’ value expectations being a driver of the attention gap, beyond differences in the salience, overall productivity, and academic impact of scientists’ research. These findings have implications for our understanding of frictions in science-based technology development, as well as for broader theories of how gender inequality shapes cumulative innovation.


Elizabeth Wolf (Organisational Behaviour, INSEAD). Work Over Life: Gender Stereotypes and the Commodification of Men’s Health and Personal Lives. November 2023.

Traditionally, men are assumed to be more dedicated and committed workers than women, in part because women are assumed to have more personal commitments outside of work than men. Past research has explored many consequences this masculine ideal worker schema has for women, including generating pay and status gaps between men and women. Here, we explore a negative consequence the masculine ideal worker schema has for men: greater assignment to work that interferes with men’s health and personal lives. Across 2 studies, we explore how men and women are differentially assigned to work demanding excessively long working hours (Study 1a) and dangerous working conditions (Study 1b). We find that people tend to prefer women for assignments with good work-life balance and safe working conditions, but prefer men for work with poor work-life balance and dangerous working conditions. In Study 2, we examine how pay may serve as a justification for assignment men, but not women, to work that interferes with personal lives and health.


Daisy Pollenne (Research Associate, INSEAD - Doctoral student, Oxford University). Subjective well-being implications migrants' employment in the UK. October 2023. 
Joint Research Seminar with the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Centre for the Study of Wealth Inequality and the Economics & Political Science Area. 

This article determines subjective well-being (SWB) implications of migrants’ employment in the UK, based on their initial reason for migrating to the country (i.e., employment, family, study and asylum reasons). Related research alternately points to higher SWB losses and gains from employment for migrants compared to the local-born population. Since different migration reasons associate with different access to resources and support in host countries, on the labour market and beyond, this conflicting evidence could result from considering migrants as a homogeneous group. In the UK context, we use the Annual Population Survey (APS) to provide several key insights on associations between migrants’ happiness, life satisfaction and employment status. First, family and study migrants have significantly lower life satisfaction gains from employment, relative to the UK-born. Second, these associations evolve with years of residence, in a way which reflects that migrants’ right to remain in the country is often contingent on remaining employed. As such, migrants’ SWB and employment outcomes progressively decouple over time. After conducting several robustness checks, the article discusses SWB implications of policies restricting migrants’ access to employment, including in the UK as part of the Brexit process, but in destination countries more broadly.

Y2022-2023 Speakers

Liao Zhenyu (Organization Development, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY). The Gendered Liability of Novelty: Norm Violation Judgments and Social Approval Forecasting of Novel Ventures from Women Entrepreneurs. June 2023

To hedge unforeseen risk, investors may seek to fund male-led ventures that they anticipate most other investors will prefer, arriving at decisions biased against women. Yet, little is known about how investors infer such gendered preferences and when they are particularly likely to do so. Integrating insights from third-party bias research with social role theory, we posit that when women propose novel ventures, investors are more apt to make unpromising social approval forecasting - an anticipation of the extent to which other investors will endorse these ventures - and thus withhold funding support. This is because the intensified gender role violations due to women being entrepreneurial in tandem with being novel lead investors to impose harsher judgments that these ventures violate normative business practices. Our hypotheses received support from results of three methodologically complementary studies, including one archival study of Shark Tank (2009-2019) and two preregistered online and field experiments. By casting light on how venture novelty, a key determining factor of entrepreneurial success, makes third-party bias against women particularly salient, our work identifies a less overt “entrepreneurial gender dilemma,” which could provide new insights into policymaking for helping women entrepreneurs surmount financial and social barriers in the innovation-based economy.


Asher Lawson (Decision Sciences, INSEAD). Hiring Women into Senior Leadership positions is associated with a reduction in Gender stereotypes in Organizational Language. November 2022

Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions. This underrepresentation is at least partly driven by gender stereotypes that associate men, but not women, with achievement-oriented, agentic traits (e.g., assertive and decisive). These stereotypes are expressed and perpetuated in language, with women being described in less agentic terms than men. The present research suggests that appointing women to the top tiers of management can mitigate these deep-rooted stereotypes that are expressed in language. We use natural language processing techniques to analyze over 43,000 documents containing 1.23 billion words, finding that hiring female chief executive officers and board members is associated with changes in organizations’ use of language, such that the semantic meaning of being a woman becomes more similar to the semantic meaning of agency. In other words, hiring women into leadership positions helps to associate women with characteristics that are critical for leadership success. Importantly, our findings suggest that changing organizational language through increasing female representation might provide a path for women to break out of the double bind: when female leaders are appointed into positions of power, women are more strongly associated with the positive aspects of agency (e.g., independent and confident) in language but not at the cost of a reduced association with communality (e.g., kind and caring). Taken together, our findings suggest that female representation is not merely an end, but also a means to systemically change insidious gender stereotypes and overcome the trade-off between women being perceived as either competent or likeable.


Isabelle Solal (Management, ESSEC). 'Not My CEO’: Gender Effects in Employee Evaluations of the Chief ExecutiveOctober 2022

We explore the impact of gender on a CEO’s ability to garner the support of their employees. Employing the lens of social identity theory and status competition between groups to understand reactions to female leadership, we theorize that employees are less likely to approve of female than of male CEOs. Moreover, we consider how heightened perceptions of threat may moderate penalties for women CEOs, and posit that the approval gap will be wider when female leaders are perceived as more of a threat to the existing gender hierarchy, notably for male employees, and among firms that pursue diversity initiatives in support of women and minorities. Exploiting data from more than 1.2 million employee reviews of U.S. listed firms from, we show that female CEOs receive lower employee approval ratings compared to male CEOs, and that this is driven primarily by male employees. Our results are robust to controls for firm performance, reviewer ratings of employment conditions, as well as indicators of managerial quality as measured by educational credentials, board memberships, and other achievements. We further find that the organization’s diversity ratings moderate the relationship between CEO gender and employee approval. Implications for female leadership are discussed.


Year 2023

30 October 2023
"Sustainability at the scale of the Games, navigating careers and female leadership". A fireside chat with Georgina Grenon, Sustainability Director for the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics and INSEAD MBA99J. Event hosted by the Gender Initiative. 

11 September 2023
"The power of Inclusive Leadership". A fireside chat with Emmanuel Goldstein, Country Head and CEO of Morgan Stanley France and INSEAD MBA00D, the founder of OUTSEAD - INSEAD's LGBTQIA+ Network. Event hosted by the Gender Initiative. 

25 April 2023
"Inclusion in the Workplace".  As part of Barilla Group Associate Spotlight session, this virtual panel discussion focus on advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Featuring IGI Executive Director as one of the panelists.  Event hosted by Barilla Group in collaboration with the Gender Initiative. 

12 April 2023
"Women in AI".  An interacting panel discussion about advancing diversity and inclusion in the Tech and AI industries. Featuring IGI Executive Director as one of the panelists.  Event hosted by WAI and IBM in collaboration with the Gender Initiative.

30 March 2023
"Leading The Way".  An engaging and interaction discussion in-person fireside chat in celebration of Women's Empowerment and Equity. The panelists shared on their journey of success in the workplace, and how they break boundaries and drive progress in their career and community. Featuring IGI Executive Director as one of the panelists.  Event hosted by Cloudflare in collaboration with the Gender Initiative.

28 March 2023
"DigitALL: How do we harness Innovation and Technology to drive Gender Equality". This event brought together an esteemed group of senior women leaders to share their career journeys and insightful reflections on how to thrive professionally and personally in the current global landscape of the gender inequalities with respect to innovation and technologies.  Featuring IGI Executive Director, Vinika Rao as one of the panelists. Event hosted by MasterCard AP in collaboration with the Gender Initiative. 

15 March 2023
The 2nd Annual International Women's Day Symposium - "Leading Fearlessly with Your Authentic Voice". Panel discussion on the importance of your unique voice and being true to yourself in your leadership style (as well as the challenges and benefits of doing so). The panelists shared their personal experiences, lessons learned, and strategies for navigating difficult situations while staying true to their authentic selves. This event is designed to encourage attendees to reflect on their own leadership style and authenticity in their respective fields. Featuring the Gender Initiative Executive Director, Vinika Rao as one of the panelists. 

07 February 2023
"Exploring the Meaning of DEI in Global Communities".  An engaging and interaction discussion on DEI core concepts, best practices, and strategies to foster allyship and inclusive environments.  Featuring the Gender Initiative Executive Director, Vinika Rao as one of the panelists. 

19 January 2023
"The Role of Allyship in Advancing Gender Equality & Inclusive Leadership".  INSEAD commits to cultivating a community that pursues equity, exemplifies inclusion and cherishes diversity in all its dimensions. During this event, experts shared insights on how allyship can advance gender equality and inclusive leadership in the workplace throughout Asia. Featuring the Gender Initiative Executive Director, Vinika Rao as one of the panelists.