Shaping inclusive network cultures

Our Approach and Goals

Promotion and retention at work is tied to an employee’s integration in social networks and positive and productive interactions with colleagues. Unfortunately, women in male dominated fields like STEM often report subtle signs of exclusion in their interactions with others. These experiences of exclusion exert pressure on women to effortfully manage their gender identities at work, thus contributing to burnout. Further, women’s exclusion from professional networks means that they often miss out on key opportunities to advance their careers.


Project SINC aims to increase integration of women in social networks as they transition from university to the workplace. Specifically, we explore how to best create the mentoring support and inclusive networks that young women need to launch their careers successfully.



Key Obstacle

Social exclusion in professional networks


Meaningfully Integrate people of all genders so that they can collaborate effectively and promote each other

SINC uses advanced methods (e.g., daily diary studies, physiological measurement, qualitative analysis) to understand the daily experiences of engineering students. Our research captures the lived experiences of engineering students as they transition from university to the workplace to understand how these experiences map onto key outcomes like burnout. Our approach uncovers important findings about how early-career engineers navigate critical transitions in their professional development.


Research Spotlight

Qualitative Interview Study

In a qualitative study of engineering students navigating their undergraduate degree, we find that undergraduate students construct their engineering identity through a “culture of suffering” – complaining and commiserating with fellow students about extremely difficult workloads and demands. This process causes undergraduate students to become attached to their collective engineering identity, which then leads them to dismiss and defend their engineering community against evidence of gender bias in engineering. This project offers novel insights into how early career engineers understand what it means to be an engineer, and how institutions’ attempts to foster inclusive communities may unintentionally perpetuate inequality. 

Co-Op Experience Sampling Study

In another experience sampling study with co-op students in engineering, we find that on days where women’s conversations with men signal a lack of acceptance and respect, women experience more feelings of being judged negatively because of their gender (gender identity threat). We didn’t see this same effect for men. Higher rates of gender identity threat, in turn, contributed to more feelings of burnout and poorer daily working memory performance for women co-op students. This project helps us understand the impact of students’ interactions with work colleagues and how they might contribute to students’ success at their first job.  

Studying Marginalized Individuals’ Teamwork Experiences (SMITE)

Project SMITE collected data from first year engineering students about their teamwork experiences in an 8-month project-based course. Teamwork is a fundamental part of STEM work and a critical time in which women’s social experiences impact their well-being and likelihood of persisting in STEM. We explore how experiences working within teams differentially impacts social network positions, physiological and behavioural stress responses, and downstream sense of fit in STEM as well as academic outcomes such as course grades. We show that women and men have differential social and physiological experiences in team meetings which is associated with a reduced sense of fit as an engineering student for women. Furthermore, we show that this reduced fit has downstream academic consequences such as higher levels of burnout in women. This rich field data provides opportunities to identify conditions under which women experience greater inclusion and success in STEM teamwork settings.


Photo Credit: Engineering Science Quest

Explore Our Findings


Key Leaders

Elizabeth Page-Gould PhD

Canada Research Chair in Social Psychophysiology, University of Toronto Read Bio
A headshot of Sonia Kang

Sonia Kang PhD

Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Identity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Department of Management, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, and Special Advisor on Anti-Racism and Equity, University of Toronto Mississauga Read Bio

Will Hall PhD

Assistant Professor, Brock

The Team

The Project SINC team combines expertise in the science of implicit gender bias, bias reduction, intergroup contact, diversity, and STEM outreach.

A headshot of Grusha Agarwal

Grusha Agarwal

Graduate Student, University of
A headshot of Alice Choe

Alice Choe

Graduate Student, University of

Joyce He PhD

Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations, UCLA
Read Bio
A headshot of Shernell Hines

Shernell Hines BA (Hons)

Graduate Student, University of
A headshot of Leo Huang

Leo Huang MA

Graduate Student, University of

Francine Karmali PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of

Read Bio
A headshot of Jacklyn Koyama

Jacklyn Koyama PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of
Read Bio

Angie Minah Park PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Management, University of Toronto Mississauga and the Gender and the Economy (GATE) Institute, Rotman School of
Read Bio

Lesley Shannon PhD

NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (BC/Yukon); Professor, School of Engineering Sciences, Simon Fraser University Read Bio

Steve Spencer PhD

Professor of Psychology, University of Waterloo; Robert K. and Dale J. Weary Chair in Social Psychology, Ohio State University Read Bio
A headshot of Sheryl Staub-French

Sheryl Staub-French PhD

Professor of Civil Engineering, and Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Faculty of Applied Science, University of British Columbia Read Bio

Mary Wells PhD

Dean of Engineering, University of Waterloo Read Bio

Stephen Wright PhD

Canada Research Chair in Social Psychology, Simon Fraser University Read Bio

Project Partners

Project SINC proudly partners with University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, University of Waterloo, Simon Fraser University, Engineers Canada, the Engineering Change Lab, the Ontario Network for Women in Engineering (ONWiE), the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST), and the Network of NSERC Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering.


Explore The Projects





Changing the Learning of Implicit Math Biases

Project CLIMB




Promoting Rising Inclusion and STEM Motivation

Project PRISM




Shaping Inclusive Network Cultures

Project SINC

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Early Career

Realizing Identity Safe Environments

Project RISE

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