Social Inclusion of Women by Male Colleagues in STEM Fields Can Improve Their Workplace Experience

A new study by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and the University of British Columbia finds that the social inclusion of women by male colleagues in STEM fields can improve their workplace experience.

Using a sample of 1,247 professional scientists and engineers from nine organizations, the researchers had participants complete a survey that measured their social networks, workplace outcomes, and implicit gender stereotypes. To gain insight into social network structures, participants listed up to five teammates and then indicated who, including themselves, sought out each person for informal socializing. Then, to measure workplace outcomes, participants completed a self-report of workplace engagement, efficacy, social fit, social identity threat, and workplace support.

Researchers found that even a small amount of social inclusion of women by male colleagues can go a long way toward reducing the gender barriers experienced by women in those fields. Hilary Bergsieker, a professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo and co-author of the study, explains that “merely working in a mixed-gender team — or even feeling respected as highly competent by men — is not sufficient to protect women from the psychological costs of experiencing social exclusion from male coworkers. When women and men have ample opportunity to interact informally and forge workplace friendships, these bonds can meaningfully improve women’s feelings of fit and engagement in STEM fields.”

Emily Cyr, a Ph.D. candidate in social psychology at the University of Waterloo and the lead author of the study, added that “when men made even small gestures of social inclusion, for example, chatting with female teammates during breaks, women reported feeling less worried about being stereotyped at work and more engaged in their careers.”

The full study, “Mapping Social Exclusion in STEM to Men’s Implicit Bias and Women’s Career Costs,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields

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