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IWD 2021

Choose to Challenge

How do psychological and behavioural science help address gender inequality?

In social psychology, the challenge lies in questioning our very taken-for granted worldviews, what we term social representations.

Dr Natalia Concha

For International Women's Day 2021 (IWD), we invited faculty, early career researchers and alumni from PBS to nominate work that addresses some of the issues in gender inequality today.

In addition, we invited students from across PBS to write a blog post, addressing the IWD 2021 Choose to Challenge theme, touching on research that is important to them. Below you will find the series of those who responded.

We appreciate that the work shown here does not fully represent the work of the department or of all the women who make up our academics, researchers, or students both now and historically. 

PBS student blog series for IWD

Who wants to be a Unicorn? Creating communities of young women in tech by Polly Lagana, Executive MSc Behavioural Science. Read it here.

"Art to the rescue? Using applied theatre to fight discrimination" by Natalia Voutova, Executive MSc Behavioural Science. Read it here.

What's wrong with the feminist label? by Lucie Mathieu, MSc Psychology of Economic Life. Read it here.

Taking Feminism Beyond Gender, Sabrina Paiwand, MSc Social and Cultural Psychology. Read it here.


Do Mobile Connections Improve Women's Lives? by Julia Burchell and Kiki Papachristoforou, in Gallup (2019). Read it here.

Kiki Papachristoforou is a Strategic Partnerships Consultant at Gallup and studies Executive MSc Behavioural Science at LSE. In her role, Kiki supports the development of new measurement frameworks to better understand attitudes and behaviours on some of the most pressing challenges facing society.

If firms start measuring the gains of flexible working, women will benefit, by Dr Grace Lordan for the LSE COVID-19 blog.

Black women least likely to be ‘among top earners in Britain’ new report from The Inclusion Initiative (TII), reported in the Independent, 3 March 2021.

Dr Grace Lordan is the Founding Director of The Inclusion Initiative, Director of the MSc in Behavioural Science and an Associate Professor in Behavioural Science at LSE.

Reducing gender inequality in the home to reduce gender based violence by Britt Spyrou, published on LinkedIn (2019)

Britt Spyrou is a lawyer interested in behaviour change. Britt studied Executive MSc Behavioural Science at LSE.

How Women Footballers Can Overcome Negative Stereotypes by Dr Ilka Gleibs for LSE Behavioural Science blog (2015).

Dr Ilka Gleibs is Associate Professor in Social and Organisational Psychology.

Comment by Dr Natalia Concha


"Four decades ago, Audre Lorde (1980) (with many others) called for a rebellion against binaries: to deconstruct them. Her generation of critical feminist and decolonial thinkers saw the power of how instituted, socialised thoughts and attitudes are regimented, transmitted, and acted upon in society. 

For me, this International Women’s Day is not about statistics on gender inequality. We have the numbers (here’s a starting point). A central underlying problem is the heteronormative representations which have, in the history of our species, helped to maintain a system of patriarchy. WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic) societies continue to be at the centre of these representations and the effects of these have for centuries spilled over to the world.

If the pandemic truly is a chance to re-build, there needs to be a discussion about how to disrupt heteronormative representations and enable women and mothers to grow and occupy any sphere they can imagine. This means acknowledging a kaleidoscope of possible pathways because no one stands from one mutually exclusive place.

I call for us all to be more reflexive in our views and assumptions and explore the internalised oppression that we have been subjected to (and by “we” I mean a very inclusive one that we must all own, not just women). In social psychology, the challenge lies in questioning our very taken-for granted worldviews, what we term social representations

Representations are powerful because they were instilled in us throughout our socialization by our referents and role models, many who were maternal caring giants in our eyes but who were subjected to the same system of binary divisions. Hence why it is difficult to break away; we feel it impacts our identities and ancestry. But we have to move forward.

In this spirit, I join the Latin American feminist voices, scholars and activists who do not let these critical perspectives become empty claims. From the Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú in Guatemala, to the human rights activist Francia Márquez in Colombia and importantly the vast number of women and mothers fighting to survive the everyday, they tell us it is not about responding to machismo with counter-phrases. Instead, it is about collective mobilisation to demand basic human rights and social justice. Unlike those of us who are sitting in front of a laptop, many are at the sharp end of survival. With strength, perseverance, critical thinking and resistance, they adhere to a pa’delante (going forward) attitude fuelled by the desire and need to break from the historical links of oppression, violence and inequalities, which have relegated their civic and human rights."

Admitting our privilege is an initial step against an exhausted Global North society geared towards false efficiencies, which spill over into the majority world, disproportionally impacting women and all those who stand at the intersecting peripheries. The pandemic opens the possibility of re-building but can we face this inevitable reality? 

Dr Natalia Concha is a Research Officer in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at LSE.


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LSE’s Ilka Gleibs discusses the psychology behind diversity LSE professor discusses why people need to stop blaming women’s behaviour for a lack of diversity within economics and central banking. A podcast for Central Banking, 2018.


Dr Grace Lordon 2020

Is Gender Equality Possible? For LSE IQ (2019). Sarah-Banet-Weiser, Grace Lordan and Shani Orgad, examine issues of gender inequality in our culture, work and home lives. A podcast for LSE IQ.

Comment by Dr Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington

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"In order to tackle gender inequality, we first need to notice it, yet my research shows that this depends on our underlying motives. 

In a paper soon to be published, my co-authors and I found that those who are motivated toward equality were better at spotting whether men had more money than women in a rapid cognitive task, and if men spoke more than women in a televised panel discussion. However, egalitarians weren’t particularly attentive to cases in which women spoke more than men, suggesting they home in on imbalances that mirror, and may underlie, inequality in wider society.”

Behind the comment: Waldfogel, H., Sheehy-Skeffington, J., Hauser, O., Ho, A. K., & Kteily, N. S. (in press). Ideology selectively shapes attention to inequality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington is Assistant Professor in Social Psychology in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at LSE.