By Justin Chin

On May 1-2, 2024, Harvard’s Center for International Development (CID) will host the 15th annual Global Empowerment Meeting (GEM). GEM24: Breaking Barriers for Women and Girls will bring together changemakers from academia, government, business, civil society, media, and philanthropy to tackle the formidable challenge of creating a world where women and girls can thrive, regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic circumstances.

GEM is an action-focused conference, and its primary goal is identifying new cross-sector partnerships that will generate cutting-edge research and impactful solutions. A core group of leading Harvard faculty who focus their research on gender-related topics will play a key role at the conference by sharing their expertise and guiding the exchange of ideas.  

With decades of research specific to issues of gender inequality, the individuals highlighted below are just a few of the Harvard faculty who are changing the circumstances for, and bringing understanding and hope to, women and girls in developing countries around the world. 

GEM24 is co-sponsored by Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP). 

Harvard Faculty Making a Difference on Gender Equity 

Daniel Agbiboa, Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard College, focuses his research on topics concerning insurgency and political violence in Africa, the informal economy, urban change, mobility and immobility, and youth politics. In countries where women have been historically the targets of violence, he has taken a different perspective by considering instances when women have been the ones to counter violence. Agbiboa draws conclusions that given the appropriate conditions, women can become empowered to occupy important roles in giving protection to their communities, such as frontline fighters, state informants, and vigilante technology operations. His geographic focus is Africa.  

They Eat Our Sweat: Transport Labor, Corruption and Everyday Survival in Urban Nigeria 

Out of the Shadows: The Women Countering Insurgency in Nigeria 

Iris Bohnet headshot

Iris Bohnet, Co-Director of the Women and Public Policy Program and Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School, is a behavioral economist. She looks at combining insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making in organizations and society, often with a gender or cross-cultural perspective. Through her research, Bohnet looks at issues of gender equity around the world. 

What Works: Gender Equality by Design

Incorporating DEI into Decision-Making

michela carlana headshot

Michela Carlana, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy school, specializes in inequality and education research, primarily on gender and immigration. Her studies extend from gender stereotypes to occupational decisions of immigrants.  By supporting groups that face barriers to entering the workforce, wage and opportunity gaps can be bridged. Carlana’s proposed interventions target groups that are disproportionately disadvantaged and would benefit from economic empowerment. Her geographic focus is Italy and Brazil.  

Hacking Gender Stereotypes: Girls' Participation in Coding Clubs 

Goals and Gaps: Educational Careers of Immigrant Children 

Jessica Cohen headshot

Jessica Cohen, Bruce A. Beal, Robert L. Beal, and Alexander S. Beal Associate Professor of Global Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is a health economist with prominent papers in the realm of maternal and child health programs and policies within the United States and East Africa. She has determined correlation between facilities and mortality outcomes in countries like Kenya, as well as examined factors that affect the quality of work for health professionals.. Using economic concepts combined with psychology, Cohen has been critical for the evaluation of health system policies and their impacts on maternal and child health, seeking ways to ensure high standards. Her geographic focus is low- and middle-income countries.  

Impact of reliable light and electricity on job satisfaction among maternity health workers in Uganda 

Delivering quality: safe childbirth requires more than facilities 

Dara Kay Cohen, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, focuses her research and teaching around causes and consequences of civil war and other forms of political violence, qualitative and mixed research methods, and gender and conflict. In some of her gender-specific work, she examines the intersection of politics and gender in regions of conflict, concluding that improved international security is likely tied to societies that have more equality for women. Her geographic focus is Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, and Haiti.

Does More Equality for Women Mean Less War? Rethinking Sex and Gender Inequality and Political Violence | International Organization | Cambridge Core 

Conflict-Related Sexual Violence | Annual Reviews 

Asim I. Khwaja headshot

Asim I. Khwaja, Director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University and Sumitomo-Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development Professor of International Finance and Development at Harvard Kennedy School, focuses his research on economic development, finance, education, political economy, institutions, and contract theory/mechanism design. He is also the co-founder of the Center for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP). Khwaja's geographic focus is Pakistan, and through his work with CID he has purview into projects in over 115 countries around the world. 

Asim Ijaz Khwaja seeks to build a thriving world for all

Opinion: E-learning can prevent another lost generation in Afghanistan

Eliana La Ferrera headshot

Eliana La Ferrera, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, concentrates her research on development economics and political economics, distinctly social factors, and the role they play in economic development. Suggested policy interventions intersect different factors like psychology and socioeconomics, such as in her examination of changes within individual aspirations and investments. La Ferrera has also investigated the effect of television on fertility in Brazil, analyzing naming patterns and late phases of fertility. Her geographic focus involves low- and middle- income countries.  

Soap Operas and Fertility: Evidence from Brazil - American Economic Association

Interaction, Stereotypes, and Performance: Evidence from South Africa  

Kathleen McGinn headshot

Kathleen McGinn, Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, incorporates gender in her research of employment when she studies households, schools, workplaces and communities on an international scale. Her work has explored the impact of maternal employment on the outcomes of children as they become adults. McGinn has also investigated factors that play a role in women’s decisions when it comes to employment, noting that they differ from men as parenthood becomes integral in their lives, especially with lower socioeconomic status. Her geographic focus is Mexico, India, and Zambia.  

Learning from Mum: Cross-National Evidence Linking Maternal Employment and Adult Children's Outcomes 

Gender, Social Class, and Women's Employment 

Natalia Rigol

Natalia Rigol, Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School, advocates for women’s empowerment by examining how to improve the socioeconomic position of women with greater financial inclusion. In many countries, such as India, where women’s labor force participation remains low, she has tested how norms may be the constraint that inhibits their economic growth. Rigol’s research contributions offer potential solutions for bridging economic gaps between men and women. Her geographic focus is India.  

On Her Own Account: How Strengthening Women's Financial Control Impacts Labor Supply and Gender Norms 

Household Matters: Revisiting the Returns to Capital Among Female Microentrepreneurs 

Emiliana Vegas headshot

Emiliana Vegas, Professor of Practice at Harvard Graduate School of Education, researches strategies and interventions for minimizing the education gap within developing countries. Her work extends from technological advances that improve employment opportunities to dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on learning outcomes among students. Vegas’ experience encompasses a variety of educational development strategies, including addressing teacher effectiveness, school finance policies, and technology integration within classrooms. Her geographic focus is Latin America.  

The promises and perils of new technologies to improve education and employment opportunities  

Learning and working in the digital age: Advancing opportunities and identifying risks 

aisha yousafzai headshot

Aisha Yousafzai, Professor of Child Development and Health at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is an expert in early childhood interventions across south Asia, east Africa, and central/eastern Europe. She has written about programs that address risks to early child nutrition and development; some of which include working with fathers to become more involved in the care of their children and improving accessibility to childcare for low-income families. Her geographic focus is Tanzania, Brazil, India, and South Africa.  

A meta-analytic review of the implementation characteristics in parenting interventions to promote early child development 

Effects of engaging fathers and bundling parenting and nutrition interventions on early child development and maternal and paternal parenting in Mara, Tanzania: a factorial cluster-randomized controlled trial  

Join CID on May 2nd for GEM24: Breaking Barriers for Women and Girls. Register today to hear from leaders seeking innovative solutions to advance gender equity in developing nations.
Image Credits

Individual faculty portraits are provided by Harvard University. Thumbnail image courtesy of Matt Teuten.

Read Next Post
View All Blog Posts