Sonia k

Promoting inclusion and success in STEM

Sarah Jane Silva

National team including  U of T Management professor wins SSHRC Partnership Grant

Dr. Sonia Kang, a member of University of Toronto’s Management faculty, is part of a national team that won a $2.5 million grant for a 7-year longitudinal project aimed at improving experiences and outcomes in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.

The team, including Dr. Kang, assistant professor of organizational behaviour and human resources management, recently won a Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), a federal research funding agency and the premier supporter of social sciences and humanities research in Canada.

“We’ve been seeing high rates of people, especially women, dropping out of STEM fields; from elementary school to the workplace, we see women gradually trickling out of the pipeline,” she said.

The grant, Engendering Success in STEM, is a research partnership between social scientists, STEM outreach experts, and partners in industry and education. The team includes researchers from four universities – University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, University of Waterloo, and Simon Fraser University – and is led by Dr. Toni Schmader at UBC.

According to Dr. Schmader, “A real strength of this new consortium is the ability for researchers to work alongside educational and industry partners to identify evidence-based best practices to promote gender inclusion.”

Other consortium members from U of T are psychology professor Dr. Elizabeth Page-Gould, as well as Dr. Thomas Coyle, Vice-Dean, Undergraduate Studies, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, who sits on the Advisory Board. Some of the partnering organizations include Engineers Canada, Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, General Motors, Simba Technologies, Mozilla, and Teck Resources.

“This grant will support us as we try to cultivate environments in which everyone – girls, boys, women, and men – feel like they are included and capable of success,” she said. “The Canadian economy stands to benefit greatly from higher rates of participation and success in STEM fields.”

The overall project is made up of four working groups which span the timespan from elementary school through to working life. The working groups are unique partnerships between scholars, STEM experts, and industry partners. One of the working groups Dr. Kang is involved in, SINC, aims to increase integration of women in strong, supportive friendships and mentoring relationships as they transition from undergraduate studies in Engineering to the workplace.

“We think that connecting people and helping them to build strong support systems will increase their sense of belonging, which should have measurable positive benefits in terms of their performance and progression into jobs in STEM.”

Dr. Kang received her PhD in Psychology from the University of Toronto. Her research explores the challenges and opportunities of diversity, including strategies for mitigating the far-reaching effects of stigma and harnessing the power of diversity for society and organizations. Her articles have appeared in such journals as Administrative Science Quarterly, Personality and Social Psychology Review, and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and her work has been cited in media outlets including the Globe and Mail and The Atlantic.

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