Consortium Member Profile:
Kate Block, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, University of Amsterdam
Toni Schmader, Ph.D.
Spring is the air and Engendering Success in STEM is still going strong! In the months since our last newsletter, each of our four project teams have made exciting discoveries and started new projects. Project CLIMB has launched new studies examining gender stereotypes on science interest in young children. Project PRISM is fine-tuning a new school-based intervention study. Project SINC is exploring psychological and physiological experiences of engineering students. And Project RISE released a report of promising key findings from their randomized control trial of Inclusive Innovation Training.
In this newsletter, we welcome several new graduate student members of the consortium and provide profiles on two former graduate students with recent promotions: Anthea Pun, a Post-Doctoral Researcher with Andy Baron at UBC, and Kate Block, now an Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam. We also extend our congratulations to several consortium members who have won awards or are starting new academic positions, including founding fellow, Elizabeth Croft, the incoming Provost at the University of Victoria.
Save the dates – November 17-18th, 2022 – for our Sixth Annual ESS Consortium Meeting happening virtually this fall and spread the word to graduate students in social science and engineering about Quant-TIDE happening August 8-12th, 2022. Our team has been busy in the last six months giving talks, media interviews, and publishing relevant research. Some of that is sure to be featured in this fall annual roundup. In the meantime, check out successinstem.ca to read our two newest white papers, and follow us on Twitter (@ess_consortium) or Facebook (@ESSConsortium) to keep up to date on the latest consortium news and research findings.
We wish you and your loved ones a safe and enjoyable summer!
Project CLIMB has completed data collection for two studies at Science World and we are busy analyzing those data. We also launched two new studies for children ages 5-12. In one study, led by graduate student Cameron Hall, we are examining how the language used to frame coding camps influences boys’ and girls’ perceptions of those programs. In the other study, led by graduate student Jessica Lee, we are examining how the gender representation in a summer camp (gender balanced or gender imbalanced) affects how children reason about those groups (e.g., in terms of group cohesion, inclusivity, belonging).
In one of the studies we recently completed, we explored the development of gender stereotypes about science in children ages 6-11. Our aim was to understand the similarities and differences in the emergence and development of gender-math and gender-science stereotypes. In the second recently completed study (with child and adult participants) we explored whether gender-math stereotypes interact with the age of the target (e.g., asking whether participants hold stronger gender-math stereotypes for adults compared with young children).
In addition to this work, our new projects aim to achieve several new goals. First, in exploring the language used to describe science- themed camps, we hope to gain a better understanding of whether the values that frame these camps (e.g., emphasizing competition vs. helping others) might signal different messages to body and girls about the likelihood that they would enjoy participating in those programs and whether this influences their perceptions of belongingness.
In our other new study, we hope to better understand how and when during development children’s decisions about the activities they pursue are influenced by their perception of whether they will be in gender minority. This work also measures whether children reason differently about majority and minority group exemplars (as being more or less prototypical) and whether their ability with a same gender peer is affected by whether that individual is a member of the gender minority group. More generally, this work will speak to whether the gender representation of a group signals a welcoming or unwelcoming message to boys and girls and how this might interact with stereotyped domains (e.g., groups doing science).
With the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions, Project PRISM is preparing to get into schools in the Toronto and Metro Vancouver regions in the upcoming school year. We are currently working on finalizing a class-level intervention that targets high school students and aims to change girls’ attitudes and perceptions of STEM and affect their course selection. We also hope to have an intervention to change boy’s perceptions of girl’s STEM ability and to change teacher’s behaviour to promote growth mindset. In the next months, we will set up collaborations with schools to support these goals.
Additionally, our team has a manuscript that we plan to submit in the next couple of weeks describing the intervention for girls in STEM summer camps at University of Waterloo, Simon Fraser University, and University of British Columbia. We find that a diverse set of STEM role models increases girl’s future STEM career aspirations and does so through increasing girl’s sense of future fit in STEM. We find that these middle school girls feel that they fit in their science and math classes but anticipate not fitting in when they go to university. Our intervention which allows them to connect with a lot of different women pursuing STEM in university facilitates these girl’s belief that they will fit in if they study STEM in University.
Project SINC has been pushing forward on several projects including a qualitative study of engineering students navigating their undergraduate degree, an experience sampling study with co-op students in Engineering at McMaster and Waterloo, a gender audit of the P.Eng licensure process with Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO; the licensing body for engineers in Ontario), and a physiological synchrony study of engineering students who are completing their capstone projects in engineering at McMaster.
As a collective, our projects are beginning to uncover important findings about how early-career engineers navigate critical transitions in their professional development. For instance, our qualitative interview study with engineering undergraduate students has provided insights into how engineers construct and manage their identity as an engineer. This project will offer new ideas about how early career engineers understand what it means to be an engineer.
Our experience sampling study explores another important early career transition: from university into the workforce. This study of engineering co-op students explores how the interpersonal context in engineering impacts important outcomes like workplace burnout. This project will help us understand the impact of students’ interactions with work colleagues and how they might contribute to a students’ overall success at their first job.
We will continue collecting and analyzing data over the summer months and hope to be able to share some preliminary results in the fall.
Project RISE has seen some very exciting results come in over the past six months. We completed data collection and preliminary analyses of Project RISE 1,0: Cultivating Collaborative Cultures, In May 2022, we shared our report of key findings with our partners. These include evidence that our Inclusive Innovation training: 1) increases participants’ ability to recognize instances of implicit gender bias, 2) increases (especially men’s) awareness of their own gender stereotypes, 3) increases the belief that gender bias in STEM is a problem, especially among those most skeptical at baseline, and 4) increases the belief that men can be particularly effective at fostering inclusion through allyship.
Although women are more likely than men to carry out their allyship action plans two weeks following the workshop, men’s allyship actions increase over time and the gender gap is non-significant 18 months later. Finally, 18 months after the workshop, participants who received the Inclusion training reported higher levels of fit and engagement than those in the Leadership condition. We are excited to be writing up these findings for publication this summer.
In addition, we have continued to run additional workshops and collect data as part of RISE 2.0: Inclusive Innovation. Schmader, Dennehy and Baron published a new paper entitled “Why Antibias Interventions (Need Not) Fail“.
Project RISE also welcomes Binnie and Dana Industries, as two new organizations participating in Project RISE’s Inclusive Innovations Study.
We spoke with Dr. Block to learn more about her research and recent move to pursue an Assistant Professor position at University of Amsterdam…
What was the path that led you to study Social Psychology?
I grew up in Germany and was always really interested in Philosophy in high school. To me, philosophy provided a fascinating window into how the human world works. During my bachelor’s degree, I thought I would major in Philosophy (though honestly I had a very narrow knowledge of it) but randomly took an Intro to Psychology course and got hooked. Psychology seemed to answer the same questions that drew me to Philosophy initially but used data-driven methods. In my second year, I took a Psychology of Gender class and basically never looked back. It blew my mind how much restrictive and sometimes harmful expectations about gender are embedded in every part of our lives. From then on, it was clear to me that I wanted to study this as my job.
Can you tell me a bit about your Ph.D. research at UBC?
I am broadly interested in how stereotypes and norms that are connected to groups we identify with (like your gender or ethnicity) influence us. So, for example, I looked at how women engineer’s own gender stereotypes about engineering might constrain their commitment to their job. During my PhD, I especially focused on understanding psychological factors that prevent men’s interest in roles in healthcare, early education, and the domestic sphere (HEED). In these roles, men are just as underrepresented as women are in STEM. For example, only about 10% of Canadian Nurses are men and only a fraction of men take all the paternity leave they are entitled to when they have children. While people tend to perceive that men “just don’t want these careers”, we find that there are a number of psychological factors at play here. On the one hand, boys and men are not socialized to value care taking (or “communal values”). This leads them to see a strong disconnect between their internal values and HEED careers that tend to be really care-oriented. On the other hand, gender role norms and expectations of discrimination also play a role in constraining men’s interest for HEED careers. So, my dissertation shows that the perception that “men just don’t want to take on these careers” is not quite right.
What are you currently working on within the ESS research team as an Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam?
I am continuing a number of lines of research that focus on gendered career interests. For example, together with Andrew Scott Baron and my Post Doc advisor Andrei Cimpian, I am continuing to examine when and how children learn gender stereotypes about communion and how that shapes their own career interest. One line of research that I am especially excited about focuses on understanding why gender differences in interest for STEM and HEED careers differ between countries. While we tend to perceive rich, western countries as more gender egalitarian than poorer parts of the world, North America and Western Europe actually show the most segregated labor markets in the world. With the help of 75 international collaborators, we gathered a dataset to study this phenomenon. Right now, we are trying to dig into how cultural factors shape women’s STEM interest across countries. You can learn more about this work HERE.
How do you see your research as applying to gender inclusion and diversity more broadly?
I believe if we want to truly understand gender inclusion and diversity, we need to study these issues in diverse contexts. True gender equality can only be achieved when we don’t focus on isolated careers but look at overarching patterns in different careers (e.g. STEM and HEED) and also consider work in the home (e.g. childcare and housework). Similarly, I think adding a cross-national perspective to the study of gender roles is enormously important, because it provides a way to understand cultural, political, and economic factors as drivers of gender inequality.
In the summer of 2021 you moved from Vancouver to New York briefly, before moving on to Amsterdam. How was that experience moving across the world during a pandemic, and what are your impressions so far?
Moving countries and positions twice in one year was both tiring and inspiring. I was really lucky to have a Post Doc with Andrei Cimpian at NYU. While it was brief, I think I still learned a lot and formed some exciting collaborations that I can carry forward. Transitioning back to Europe, where I grew up, has been a steep learning curve. The Netherlands is a really interesting place from a gender perspective. On the one hand, the country is super liberal and has progressive LGBTQ+ rights. On the other hand, the labor market is extremely gender segregated and women are highly likely to give up full-time work when they have children. So I think I have my work cut out for me.