Sarah Khan - Making Police Officers Responsive to Women in Gender Segregated Societies: Evidence from Pakistan

Encina Hall West, room 400

How can we make bureaucracies more responsive to women’s concerns? Existing literature differentiates between integrating women into existing spaces, versus creating separate spaces. Drawing on experimental and qualitative evidence from a community policing intervention in Pakistan, we challenge this binary, and argue that norms of gender-based segregation, which differ across institutions and society, shape the design choices for policy interventions. We study the effects of a “gender responsive” model of community policing (CPOPG), which accommodates norms of physical gender-based segregation in public, yet challenges task-based gender segregation within the police force. Compared to a “gender-neutral” model (CPOP), which perpetuates women’s exclusion, we find that that CPOP-G sees high women’s participation in public forums, and the public voicing of concerns around gender-based violence (GBV). Moreover, we document lasting changes in police officers’ beliefs about citizens’ prioritization of GBV over other community issues, as well officers’ own prioritization of GBV as a top concern for police. Our findings show how contextual norms of segregation perpetuate unequal outcomes when ignored in policy design, but also demonstrate the promise of lasting gains when reforms are designed taking norms into account.


Sarah Khan is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Yale University. She completed her Ph.D. in political science at Columbia University, and was previously a doctoral candidate fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C. 

At Yale, she is a member of the South Asian Studies Council (SASC), and the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) Council. In Pakistan, she is an Associate Fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (IDEAS) and a Fellow at the Mahbub ul Haq Research Center (MHRC). She is also a member of the Empirical Research on Gender (EGEN) and Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP) research networks.   

Her research interests lie at the intersection of gender and comparative politics, with a regional specialization in South Asia. In her work, she studies gender gaps in political preferences, patterns of preference expression, and the barriers to women’s political participation and representation. In another strand of research, she explores questions related to the prevention of violence against women. She designs research projects in collaboration with civil society organizations and government institutions to evaluate policy impact and generate actionable evidence. Her research is published or forthcoming in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Experimental Political Science and PS: Political Science and Politics.