Researcher Profile: Rachel M. Gershon

The Promise of Ranked Choice Voting: Overcoming Electability Concerns to Increase Votes for Underrepresented Candidates

Rachel Gershon is the Assistant Professor of Marketing at Haas Business School. Before attending graduate school at the Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis, Rachel studied Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience. The research that Rachel began in February of 2020 focuses on voters and the impact that the electability for under-represented political candidates has on the candidates success. To further examine this concept, Rachel began to test “an alternative voting system — Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)” and if it had the ability to “mitigate the influence of electability concerns on voters” and increase support for under-represented candidates.

What inspired you to conduct the type of DEI research that you do?

This work is fueled by the urgent need to reform voting systems to ensure fairer and more inclusive representation. RCV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If one’s top candidate fails to secure enough votes, their vote may be allocated to their subsequent choice, potentially reducing the need for strategic voting. We will experimentally test the impact of candidate demographics on electability concerns, the influence of such concerns on voting decisions, and the potential of RCV in alleviating electability concerns. This research highlights the prospective power of voting reform in promoting more balanced political representation.

How have findings from your research in the past influenced your own perspectives and leadership approach?

My research has taught me the importance of fostering unique interactions and the value of transparency in creating authentic connections. Additionally, my work has aided in my understanding of the complex influences of individual and group identities to create better intergroup dynamics.

Who is a notable Equity Fluent Leader who inspires you? What are the traits that make them such an effective leader?

An Equity Fluent Leader who inspires me profoundly is my mother. She directs a nonprofit that collaborates with Ukrainian women, focusing on leadership development, gender equality, and public health promotion. Amidst the current conflict, she has adeptly shifted her organization’s emphasis to meet the urgent humanitarian demands of women and girls in the region. Her leadership is marked by an impressive ability to bridge disparate cultures and perspectives, adapting the nonprofit’s objectives to changing circumstances. What sets her apart is her unwavering commitment to self-improvement and knowledge expansion, coupled with a keen awareness of her boundaries. She exemplifies effective leadership by strategically partnering with others, elevating their expertise, and ensuring that collaboration underscores every initiative.



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