ESS Newsletter: June 2021

Welcome from ESS Director

Welcome to the Spring 2021 edition of the Engendering Success in STEM Newsletter. Since our last issue in December 2020, our team has continued to adapt and work through challenges facing pre-pandemic planned research activities. Though the past year has proved challenging and unfortunately devastating for so many people, I am consistently inspired by the resilience and resolve among our team and partnering organizations and the ongoing work many of our team members do in their advancement of greater equity and inclusion. I wish each and every one of you a smooth transition as we slowly regain some sense of normalcy in our everyday and working lives. For ESS, this means a return to collecting data in person, meetings face-to-face, and eventually, in 2022 back to an in-person ESS Annual Meeting. 


In the meantime, we are excited to share several updates about the activities and accomplishments of the ESS Consortium over the past six months. We want to take this opportunity to showcase how each project has shifted their research goals over the past year and what lays ahead as we cautiously move beyond the pandemic. As well, we would like to highlight the results of SSHRC’s positive review of the ESS Midterm Report submitted last fall, and a new graduate training initiative called Quantitative Training for Intersectional Diversity in Engineering (Quant-TIDE), being spearheaded by Dr. Elizabeth Page-Gould and members of the ESS Consortium. 

We wish you and your loved ones a safe and enjoyable summer!

    Toni Schmader

  Project CLIMB

Project CLIMB is excited that they have been able to fully resume research at Science World, one of ESS’s partner institutions. Several new undergraduate students have joined the research team and two new graduate students will be joining the CLIMB team later this summer. In terms of data collection, we have completed data collection on several studies examining whether adults hold different gender-math stereotypes for male and female children (compared with male and female adults). We are in the middle of analyzing these data, which have been collected from over 400 participants, and will be able to provide an update on these findings during our next project summary. Related, we are still collecting data from children on the same project in order to make appropriate developmental comparisons regarding the emergence and specificity of gender-math stereotypes. We anticipate completing that data collection later this summer if all continues to go smoothly. We look forward to launching several new studies this summer including one that will look at the effectiveness of non-verbal body language for changing implicit bias. We also plan to begin piloting a novel measure of implicit gender stereotypes (for both math and science) that will allow us to more quickly measure such cognitions in early childhood. The CLIMB team has also been quite busy with publishing papers. We’ve had one paper accepted for publication that explores gender bias in political leadership positions and draws both symmetries and asymmetries to our understanding of gender bias in STEM. Another paper has been accepted pending revision that showcases a modified method for measuring gender stereotypes in children as young as age 3. We have several other papers under various stages of pre-submission and under revision at academic journals and hope to provide updates on those later this year.

  Project PRISM

Adapting to COVID-19 challenges, Project PRISM will be testing our successful intervention for adolescent girls, previously validated in-person, in an online format this summer. With support from our partners running Engineering Science Quest and Geering Up! summer camps at University of Waterloo and the University of British Columbia, our team will conduct a follow-up randomized-control trial of a one-on-one intervention designed to increase girls’ sense of belonging in STEM and interest in STEM careers. Additionally, our team has a manuscript in the final stages of submission that summarizes findings from three summers of a simple conversation-based intervention with adolescent boys that increased their respect for the STEM abilities of girls and women. Once pandemic-related restrictions and closures are less widespread (likely in the 2022-2023 school year) we look forward to testing longer-term impacts of these interventions on girls’ and boys’ STEM achievement and attitudes.

  Project SINC

Project SINC began several data collection efforts this year, despite needing to pivot at the last minute due to COVID-19. With the help of our collaborators at the University of Waterloo and McMaster, we have recruited over 150 students on their first engineering co-op job. In this study, each student completes several surveys tracking their experiences at work. This data will help us understand the factors that contribute to burnout and experiences of social identity threat. In another project we collected data from over 200 first year engineering students at McMaster reflecting their experiences working on project teams. This rich dataset contains social network metrics of students’ intragroup perceptions across 4 team experiences, as well as physiological and video recordings of students working in teams. With this project we will be able to identify factors that facilitate team inclusiveness and subsequent fit and success as an engineering student. Data collection only finished in the last month, but we will be excited to share data from our work in the upcoming year.


We have had many wonderful successes in our group in the last few months. Dr. Joyce He landed an Assistant Professorship at the University of California Los Angeles Anderson School of Management, where she will begin this Fall. Dr. Francine Karmali was awarded the competitive SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship. Jacklyn Koyama won the General Motors Women in Science and Mathematics Awards. Dr. Sonia Kang was identified by the Globe & Mail’s Report on Business as one of Canada’s Change Makers. Dr. Elizabeth Page-Gould’s Canada Research Chair in Social Psychophysiology was renewed.

  Project RISE

Over the past six months, the Project RISE team has been continuing data collection on current projects, working toward publishing existing data, and designing new research. RISE 2.0, the virtual version of the RISE Inclusion Workshop study launched in June 2021 using a waitlist control design. A key focus of this new study is to more directly intervene with men and women who already work closely together to boost the sense of accountability to one another to foster greater inclusion in the workplace. The RISE team is seeking additional organizational partners to participate in the virtual study. If your organization is interested in participating, if you would like to recommend an organization to participate, and/or if you have recruitment suggestions, we would love to hear from you! Please email We are also completing data collection on follow-up assessments with participants from the RISE 1.0 study carried out in 2019. In summer 2021, we will be analyzing these data to begin writing up our findings for dissemination. 
Our team has also been busy preparing and submitting other manuscripts. Lucy De Souza published ground-breaking work in the field’s premier journal, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Her research reveals that men and women tend to underestimate the degree to which men believe that gender bias is a problem, and that this ‘pluralistic ignorance’ of men’s true beliefs might be one barrier that inhibits men from speaking out as allies to women in STEM contexts. Emily Cyr (along with Bergsieker, Dennehy, and Schmader) have work under review showing the men’s implicit stereotypes predict the degree to which they socially exclude women, and women’s social exclusion predicts their more negative career outcomes. Dr. Will Hall (with Schmader, Inness, and Croft) have work under review showing that changing norms about gender inclusion in the workplace predict changes in women’s (but not men’s) organizational commitment.  Eric Jansen (with Bergsieker, Huynh, Dennehy, & Schmader) are submitting work showing that the frame one has (focus on inclusion versus focus on leadership) when viewing an ambiguously biased encounter changes one’s intentions to intervene as an ally the woman targeted by the biased action. Holly Engstrom (with Laurin and Schmader) has work showing that people use more dominant strategies when leading men/boys versus women/girls. Finally, Dr. Toni Schmader (along with Dennehy and Baron) have a conceptual paper under review analyzing why bias interventions need not fail.


Consortium Member Feature: Dr. Lesley Shannon

Professor, School of Engineering Science, P.Eng., SFU, NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for BC/Yukon Region, Chairholder for the Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (WWEST)

What was the path that led you to be interested in and to study Computing System Design?
This was definitely not a straight path (path might actually be too strong a word). In high school, my interests were music, theatre, yearbook, and debate. I didn’t do science fairs or learn coding (or play computer games). However, I was very good at math and english, and I took physics. However, when I was in grade 11/12, one of the UC schools/Stanford, announced a new masters program in electrical and computer engineering for music, theatre and film. That was the first time I considered doing engineering (as opposed to applied maths or english).
I eventually decided to do a bachelors in electrical engineering in the computer engineering option. During that time, I focused on the digital signal processing of sound and images, particularly sound, which was the focus of my undergraduate thesis. When I decided to do a Masters, I was working at a small design and development firm, where my work focused on audio processing for tracking fish. However, one of the major areas the firm worked in was using a computing technology called “Field Programmable Gate Arrays” (FPGAs). These devices allowed you to reconfigure the actual hardware to create and design new circuits and new designs. Basically, you were able to be an architect for computer chips, which was rather analogous to being an architect for building a house. The combination of creativity and science was really appealing, so I started looking at supervisors for two different areas for studies for a Masters (audio processing and FPGAs).
In considering a graduate supervisor, I was keen to make sure that I would have an advocate and supporter in my studies (as I had been the only woman in my computer engineering cohort). I remember someone suggesting that I reach out to Paul Chow at the University of Toronto.  I googled his web page, and unlike every other faculty page I had seen, he had a picture of Calvin and Hobbes dancing (instead of his personal photo). His clear sense of humour really appealed to me and made him seem more approachable. He was also one of the few faculty members I reached out to that had ever supervised a woman. I did my research asking students and staff what they thought of him and everyone had nothing to say but strong praises.
This made me confident that I would have a good human experience during my studies, which was actually more important to me than the topic. While I had no experience or expertise in his area (of computing system design and FPGAs), I was really excited to learn. It was definitely the right choice. If I hadn’t studied with him, I likely would not have had such a good supportive experience and I never would have even considered doing a PhD (much less becoming a professor).
These days, while working on questions of how to integrate and leverage heterogeneous resources in computing system design (a very apropos parallel and analogy to my EDI work), I also still do significant work on creating custom computing solutions for various application areas that largely focus on sound, image and video processing. So I guess my point is what you learn now may still be extremely valuable later, even if it isn’t obvious why. Arguably, my other point, is that what computer engineers do (and what people think we do) don’t overlap particularly well.


You are the Chairholder for the Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (WWEST) from 2015-2022. Can you share with us some of your achievements over your term and what you enjoy most about holding this position?
What I enjoyed most was having the opportunity to make some changes, advocate and empower others.
What achievements I’m most proud of:

1) Our open source STEM outreach apps. The first module of this app is called “Tune Twister.” The app provides an opportunity for children in grades 4-8 to learn about the science of sound. This can be downloaded and installed on windows and mac workstations. We are also currently working to create a web-based version of the app (beta testing) that can be used wherever there is internet connection. We will be handing these off to Science World and Actua for continued use in their programming after my chair ends.

2) Our Associate Chairs program that had regional chairs in the interior and Yukon to provide additional local support and outreach.
3) Our “Best of the WWEST” podcast that was one of the first of its kind to focus on diversity in STEM.
4) Our blog series on the depictions of women in STEM (it won us the People’s Choice Science Blog award).
5) Our photojournalism exhibit “In Plain Sight” that debuted at Science World just before the pandemic (so we also created a virtual version). It is a photojournalism exhibit of 7 different women in a variety of roles in the STEM fields, showcasing their careers and lives, to highlight that we are here and making a difference.
6) Our president’s dream colloquium on, “Women in Technology: Attracting, Retaining and Promoting Diverse talent.” It comprised 7 speakers (including ESS’s Dr. Steven Spencer) and was open to the public. The speaker series was also accompanied by a new grad/undergraduate course open to students across the university that I created and delivered. 
What are you currently working on, or planning to work on, related to ESS research goals and activities?
We are currently working on a set of white papers that inclusively describe the different types of engineering careers. We are also working on white papers on negotiation, sponsorship, and job adverts. I’m also hopeful that we can move forward on a joint research project with some of the rest of the ESS team (particularly at UBC) on inclusive job hiring.


Partner Spotlight: 

Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia

Each newsletter we interview one of our partners to share more details about their work. 
In this edition, we chatted with Marcie Cochrane from Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia.


Please tell us about Engineers and Geoscientists BC.

Engineers and Geoscientists BC is the regulatory and licensing body for the engineering and geoscience professions in BC, with over 38,000 registrants. To protect the public, we maintain robust standards for entry to the professions, and comprehensive regulatory tools to support engineers and geoscientists in meeting professional and ethical obligations. We are a not-for-profit organization governed by a council of elected registrants and government appointees. Our Council is accountable to the public through the Ministry of the Attorney General, under the Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance, for both the governance and management of the organization.


How do Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s programs help to advance the goals of gender inclusion and diversity?

Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s strategic plan identifies fostering diversity and inclusion as a key principle and this has been a major strategic focus for the organization. The organization is currently undertaking work in many areas to support the goals of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). Over the past year, we have taken several actions to advance EDI, including reviewing our volunteer appointment process to ensure a more intentional approach to EDI, offering more EDI-related topics in our Continuing Education program, embedding EDI principles into our Science Games volunteer training, developing a land acknowledgement policy and an EDI statement, advancing work to update our Human Rights and Diversity Guidelines, and embedding EDI principles into many of our program and practices. We recognize the value in partnerships, collaboration, and connection and have several different approaches to strengthening these, including a BC 30 by 30 Champions group, a Women in Engineering and Geoscience Division, and as a Catalyst Supporter. In order to advance EDI in the professions of engineering and geoscience, we have committed to building an inclusive environment within our organization, across all volunteer groups, and for registrants and registrant firms that promotes equity and diversity within our professions.


As one of our key knowledge translation partners, can you tell us about your involvement with Project RISE?

Engineers and Geoscientists BC is a proud partner of Project RISE.  As a partner, we access the resources and research information generated by Project RISE, using this information to inform the design and delivery of various programs and actions we take to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion in engineering and geoscience. We share the ESS resources with many of our partners and others who reach out to us looking for information about gender diversity in STEM. Specifically, we have used these resources within our Career Awareness program and to share with our network of BC 30 by 30 Champions. We have also been able to engage the Project RISE team to review our 30 by 30 action plan and have them provide input and supporting information on areas of focus within the action plan. Each year we participate in the annual ESS meetings, gaining valuable information from the various presentations and discussions that are held. Finally, we have had the opportunity to engage some of the ESS research team members to provide presentations to our registrants as various events, including the Engineers and Geoscientists BC annual conference, a recent BC 30 by 30 Champions meeting, and through our Continuing Education program.


What is the 30 by 30 initiative and can you tell us about your involvement as a champion?

30 by 30 is an initiative led by Engineers Canada, with the goal to increase the number of women in engineering. The program name is tied to a specific goal to increase the percentage of newly registered engineers who are women to 30% by the year 2030. Although the program name is tied to a specific measurement point – newly licensed engineers – and is specific to women in engineering, the program itself has expanded its scope in recent years, recognizing that recruitment, retention, and advancement are interconnected, and efforts are required at all career stages if we want to see meaningful, lasting change in terms of diversity and inclusion within the profession of engineering.

As a 30 by 30 Champion, Engineers and Geoscientists BC participates in a number of national working groups that connect other regulators, post-secondary institutions, and other stakeholders who are committed to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion within engineering in Canada. As a member of the 30 by 30 national working groups, Engineers and Geoscientists BC shares information, contributes to and attends the annual conference, and participates in specific projects and task forces such as the recently completed GBA+ Analysis of National Engineering Licensure Assistance and Employer Awareness Programs.