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Behavioral Design & Experimental Validation: How to promote gender equality in leadership positions?

We measured the effect of 3 interventions to promote the application of women to leadership positions.

Photo by Unsplash


One of the most recognized financial institutions in Colombia offering a wide range of banking and financial services to both individual and corporate clients.

Description of the context:

The institution faces an underrepresentation of women in leadership positions, and seeks to increase its applications for management positions. This challenge implied addressing critical factors such as the ambiguity of job descriptions, which often discourages potential female candidates. In addition, the need to change perceptions and implicit barriers that limit gender diversity at senior management levels was recognized. The goal was to create a more inclusive and equitable environment by promoting greater participation of women in leadership roles.

What we did:

In order to increase the participation of women in leadership roles and the affect produced by job advertisements, we designed an experiment with four behavioral science-based job advertisements. We then evaluated the effect of each call on women's application and the affect generated by reading it, as follows:

  • We designed the first solicitation with ambiguous and incomplete information (control group).

  • In the second call, we sought to reduce uncertainty based on more specific and concrete information (uncertainty reduction principle).

  • In the third call, we used the same uncertainty reduction principle and added a message in which we made explicit the gender equality opportunities provided by the organization.

  • Finally, in the fourth call we integrated the uncertainty reduction principle + the video of a woman leader to reinforce the role of women as leaders.


  • Behavioral Design.

  • Experimental validation (lab-in-the-field experiment).

Key results:

  1. Redesigning the recruitment calls by providing more specific information about the functions, requirements and benefits of the position increased the intention to apply among both men and women (Call with reduced uncertainty).

  2. Adding a message emphasizing the organization's gender equality policies further increased both men's and women's intention to apply, and reduced participants' perception of negative affect about the announcement (Announcement with uncertainty reduction + equality message).

  3. The most effective strategy, which achieved a 46% overall increase in intention to apply and a 49% increase in intention to apply for women, included a video of a female leader amplifying information and highlighting the organization's efforts to promote equal opportunity in leadership roles (Call with uncertainty reduction + video of a female leader).

  4. In addition, the call that transmitted the information through a video of a female leader generated a greater amount of positive affect and no negative affect, compared to the rest of the treatments. 53% of the participants assigned to this treatment indicated feeling joy, gratitude, tranquility, happiness, pride or hope when viewing the information presented.

Women's willingness to apply

Note: ANOVA analysis indicated that the effect of the experimental groups on the Level of Willingness to Apply were statistically significant (p < 0.001); that is, differences in intention to apply depended on the treatment to which participants were assigned.

Affects generated by the call
Note: the analysis indicated that the job offer with the highest negative affect was the ambiguous call, followed by the job offer with uncertainty reduction. The most successful offer to generate positive affect was the job offer with uncertainty reduction + video of a woman leader. This job offer not only succeeded in increasing positive affect to neutral affect, but it was the only job offer that did not generate any negative affect.

Insights for decision making:

Clarity in the call for applications and the inclusion of some elements, such as equality messages and female role models, can increase women's applications for leadership positions (without affecting men's applications). These findings provided the organization with valuable insights to design more effective advertisements and promote gender diversity in leadership positions. A key finding for the work of behavioral designers is that, through audiovisual media, it is possible to provide more information without necessarily causing cognitive overload.


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