Nudging technique: Mindfully setting the default
Also: Transform social expectations of women and inspire girls
In Tanzania, the ILO recognized that job segregation was taking place in the hospitality branch. Women seemed to be mostly in administration and cleaning jobs, while men were working in managerial jobs. Upon looking at how people were trained in the hotel training center, the ILO team recognized that this was not just because of cognitive biases (wherein people associate some jobs with a specific gender) during hiring. They found that when choosing career track specializations in the hotel school, women tended to choose specializations that were typically seen as women’s work, while men were more likely to specialize in the management track. This strongly influenced their career choices at the end of their training. The team decided to eliminate specializations, so that students would try all career tracks during their training.
They found that students began to reconsider their career options, opting for the careers they tended to perform better in and enjoy more, rather than ones that conformed to gender expectations. In addition, the employers were able to see how people had performed in different activities, and select candidates from a wider pool. More broadly, it nudged people to rethink their ideas and expectations of a specific gender in a specific job. Seeing is believing. It became clear that individual tendencies toward different job skills are based on personality rather than gender.
Other hotel schools in Africa are now interested in replicating this approach.
Where in the policy cycle can this approach be used?
Potential for change
By making sure that everyone can experience all the different options available to him or her, we can change the way people think of expertise and the best fit for a certain role. In these cases, consider nudging toward this objective evaluation by setting a default that equalizes the playing field for all participants.
Interview with ILO staff member, Skills Development section, ILO (13 October 2016).