Gender-Focused Studies of Preliminary STEM Program

By: Elizabeth Moraff

A notable opportunity emerged from our efforts to deconstruct research addressing the presence of women in STEM subjects and their ability to persist in these fields. Specifically, our examination focused on studies of women involved in STEM at higher education levels. Our review revealed consistent themes related to experienced gender bias, lack of institutional support and impacts of stereotype threat. The resulting effects are evident in the aggregate of attitude and behavior outcomes. They are also reflected heavily in the dispositional and situational antecedents. While college-educated women make up half of the entire U.S. workforce, they are less than 28% of the total STEM workforce (National Girls Collaborative, 2018). The importance of considering these systemic, structural and institutional factors related to the transition of girls and young women in STEM through primary and secondary schools is apparent.

A number of the studies acknowledged the importance of encouraging early interest and involvement. Developmental research on the education process suggests the back-end value of these endeavors is in individual successes and economic returns (Cannon, Karoly & Kilburn, 2005). The benefits of conducting more studies focused on the interactions between and among STEM educators and female students may expose interventions as necessary for later persistence in STEM studies and careers. Creating policies and other guided mandates affords support at more consequential points in time. In developing these early stage initiatives, there is potential for increased inclusion and influence.
The City of Atlanta provides an opportunity to explore this possibility further. Atlanta Public Schools (APS) adopted a new Charter System operating model as of June 2015. This transition enabled APS with more autonomy, more accountability for student achievement and limited state regulations/controls (APS Signature Programs, 2017). Within this operating model, each cluster of schools functions through the pedagogical lens of a particular signature program. The highlight here, rests in the fact that STEM is one of three signature programs chosen by the community and adopted under the APS Charter System Operating model. Parents, teachers and community members attributed their choice to the projected growth of STEM occupations, earnings of STEM workers versus non-STEM workers and greater achievement of STEM school scholars (APS Signature Programs, 2017).

Providing educators and institutions with keys to dismantle the multitude of disparities reflected in the low numbers of women in STEM careers is essential. Designing a study that assesses the achievements of schools/clusters participating in the STEM signature program, and measuring the achievement of students between schools/clusters in the other two signature programs, may do this. The prospective multi-tiered, mixed method study could establish a link that helps our nation create a more suitable educational foundation. This base can serve as the springboard from which young female scholars can be encouraged to engage, persist and thrive in STEM curiosities and ultimately, STEM occupations.

Career Paths in Stem for African American Women

By: Yendi Neil

Career paths in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are growing in the modern world, but women’s representation within these jobs is not experiencing the same amount of growth. A literature review was conducted on previous studies ranging from the early 2000s to now about women representation in STEM careers. After screening and content coding, 94 studies were deemed eligible. From these studies, common themes within the variables and methodology were determined. One prominent theme discovered in the methodology was the groups represented in the minority focus.

When looking at the methodology, the existing minority focus was coded, and a description was reported of the minority group(s). Overall, there were 28 studies that contained a minority focus with 16 about the African American community and 12 about the Asian American community. A lack of research on the differences between the minority groups (i.e. African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives) was a common theme within these studies. More in-depth studies (i.e. interviews & case studies) focused more on African Americans while other studies gave a more generalized look by reporting the outliers in data or focusing more on surveys to understand minority groups. For example, a book source, Girls and Women in STEM: A Never Ending Story, contained studies conducting interviews and case studies on African American women, who were undergraduate and up (i.e. graduate students & employee), and the obstacles they face. In contrast, Developing the leadership capacity and leader efficacy of college women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields reported any outliers within the data as a representation of a minority focus of the study. The studies in Girls and Women in STEM: A Never Ending Story focused on the African American community because it is currently one of the largest growing populations in colleges but is still underrepresented. Significantly, there was a lack of attention given to racial subgroups in gender research during the mid-1990s. Researching into the experiences of African American women, researchers wanted to capture a snapshot of the struggles and successes faced and apply this snapshot towards other groups.

Furthermore, only two of the minority focus research papers contained some type of intervention that was tested: ADVANCE program and PTS (Noyce Pathway to Science). One study, African American Women in STEM Education: The Cycle of Microaggressions from P-12 Classrooms to Higher Education and Back, contained an African American minority focus and conducted interviews over the impact of PTS over the cycle of microaggressions from undergraduate to employment. The other study, Perceived Levels of Faculty Value, did not specify any one minority group and conducted a study about the climate/environment. Moreover, the current studies focused mostly on obstacles such as racial bias, cultural influences, workplace/college climate, and self-efficacy.

Heading into the future, studies can potentially place more emphasis on understanding what different obstacles are faced and the type of interventions that work for other minority groups with women in STEM. Each minority group faces different obstacles as racial stereotypes drive perception and affect the treatment of each race. A possibility in which each group reacts differently to certain variables and interventions exists and has not been tested thoroughly. Stereotypes can differ from outside and within many minority groups affecting women representation in STEM careers especially the field of study and career commitment.

In Their Own Voices: Workers with Concealable Disabilities

Work Science Center Network members Deborah Rupp and Lisa Finkelstein noticed a gap in the literature around workers with disabilities. While studies had oft examined outcomes of people with stigmatized identities, including those with disabilities, they did not find much research featuring the voices of workers with disabilities. To remedy this gap, and to dig deeper into the research on stigmatized identities, they conducted semi-structured interviews with twenty-eight workers who have a disability.

In particular, Finkelstein, Rupp, and their team wanted to hear about the experiences of workers with concealable disabilities. When hearing the word “disability,” many visible impairments, such as blindness, congenital disorders and such may spring to mind, but what about HIV? What about chronic back pain? The research team noted that these types of disabilities afford an individual the opportunity, the choice, to conceal them if they so desire. Prior research indicates that if a person can hide a stigmatized identity, it’s likely that they will do so. Ironically, the agency this choice provides does not correlate with higher well-being. The present study wanted to dig into the reasons that affect whether or not a person with a concealable disability would do so, and why. In fact, literature suggests that the deleterious effects on well-being may even intensify with a concealable identity.

In their interviews, they found two core factors that influenced stigmatized identity management and five themes that emerged from the interviews. Participants talked about how salient their concealable disabilities were as a major factor – or rather, how much they thought or were concerned about their disability. The second core factor was the anticipated stigma they would experience if they revealed their disability. Participants talked about worrying those others would view them as less competent, as seeking attention, and so forth. Even though the participants who had shared about their disability hadn’t necessarily experienced more discrimination, they communicated that the anticipated stigma had greater impact on their decisions of whether or not to diclose.

The researchers closed by suggesting numerous workplace and national policies that could help to protect workers who have concealable disabilities. Similarly, they urged further study on other factors that could impact people managing stigmatized identity. They presented intersectionality, or studying how people navigate multiple stigmatized identities simultaneously, of special interest.

Santuzzi, A.M., Keating, R. T., Martinez, J. J., Finkelstein, L. M., Rupp, D. E., & Strah, N. (2019). Identity Management Strategies for Workers with Concealable Disabilities: Antecedents and Consequences. Journal of Social Issues 0 (0), pp. 1-34. doi: 10.1111/josi.12320

Network Research Highlight: Assessment Center Differences – What’s the Cause?

Work Science Center Network member, Deborah Rupp, teamed up with other scientists to probe the causes of group-level differences in the way people were rated during the Assessment Center Method. The Assessment Center has been long viewed as an objective means of measuring performance. It involves standardized evaluation of behavior based on job-related simulations, interviews, and psychological tests. The job simulations measure candidates’ critical competencies for jobs.

In an age where we recognize internalized bias’ pernicious effects, the Assessment Center has long been considered immune. Some research has recently questioned this assertion, noting that demographic differences can impact ratings. Rupp and her team wanted to know why. In the present study, they examined how the assessors’ own demographic characteristics affected the ratings they gave. In particularly, they looked for leniency bias and similar-to-me bias, assuming that assessors would rate people of their same race more favorably, and that men would rate women more favorably overall.

Surprisingly, they found virtually no individual-level effects, and the group-level impact they found was quite small. In sum, based on their sample of professionals from a large metropolitan police department, the Assessment Center method seemed to work. They did not find systematic differences in the way assessors rated candidates based on their own characteristics.

Rupp and the team wondered why. In their considerations for future directions and limitations of their research, they suggest that their study paired assessors and assessees who didn’t know each other. This mutual novelty excluded personal history, knowledge of personality or values, and perhaps enabled greater objectivity. Similarly, in the study setting, the assessors received extensive training and resources to perform the Assessment Center. The researchers verified the process’ integrity from start to finish. Does the same caliber of Assessment Center exist universally? Certainly not! They implore organizations using the Assessment Center Method to safeguard the instrument to preserve its predictive power and overall fairness. But that’s just a hunch. In order to really find out what’s causing group-level discrepancies, scientists need to conduct more studies to examine what’s going on.

Thornton, G.C., Rupp, D.E., Gibbons, A.M., Vanhove, A.J. (2019). Same-gender and same-race bias in assessment center ratings: A rating error approach to understanding subgroup differences. International Journal of Selection and Assessment 27: 54-71. doi: 10.1111/ijsa.12229

How to Use LinkedIn for Hiring

By: Keaton Fletcher

Social Media, specifically LinkedIn, has played an increasingly important role in connecting job seekers with employers and recruiters. In an article recently published in Personnel Psychology, Roulin and Levashina (2019) presented data from two studies exploring how LinkedIn is, and can be, used as a selection tool. As a first step to the studies, the authors surveyed 70 hiring managers in North America. These managers considered LinkedIn as roughly equivalent to résumés with regard to the level of information they provide for assessing personality and predicting performance on the job.

The first study the authors presented included data from 133 senior business students from Canada and the United States. Raters with their MBAs evaluated the LinkedIn profiles of the participants across two years. The raters’ assessment of skills (except conflict management and leadership), personality, cognitive ability, and hiring recommendations were generally consistent with one another. Further, ratings were moderately correlated with one another across the two years, suggesting some level of temporal stability in how LinkedIn profiles display users’ traits. It is also worth noting that across the two-year period, participants tended to increase the length of their profile by nearly 100 words. Raters’ evaluation of participants’ traits only correlated to the participants’ self-reported traits for leadership, planning, communication, extraversion, and cognitive ability. Less visible traits and skills (e.g., problem solving, openness to experience) were not correlated. Of note, there was a positive, albeit weak, correlation between the hiring recommendation made by the raters at Time 1 and whether the participant reported employment in their field, or a promotion at Time 2. When the authors examined ratings for adverse impact, there were no significant differences in the ratings made for men versus women or white versus non-white users.

In the second study, 24 MBA students rated the LinkedIn profiles of the participants from Study 1. The students were asked to use a holistic/global approach for half of the profiles they rated and an itemized approach (similar to the rating system from Study 1) for the other half of the profiles. Using an itemized approach increased the likelihood that different raters made the same recommendation for hiring compared to the global approach. Looking at adverse impact, the authors found no difference in male versus female profiles using the global approach but did find that White profiles were given higher assessments than non-White profiles. Using the itemized approach, however, results showed no difference between White and non-White profiles, and showed higher ratings for women versus men.

Overall, these studies suggest that LinkedIn may be a viable way to examine job seekers’ skills and abilities, particularly those that are more visible. Further, using an itemized approach to evaluating LinkedIn profiles, rather than a more holistic approach, can help ensure a reduced level of adverse impact, thereby increasing the diversity of candidates that are considered at the next step in the application process.

WSC Network Research Highlight: Measuring Team Processes

By: Keaton Fletcher

Working with other people in a team requires an entirely new set of behaviors than working in isolation. WSC Network Member, Margaret Luciano, along with a team of researchers, led by John Mathieu, recently published a paper in Organizational Research Methods, about these behaviors. Specifically, teams researchers have relied on a framework of team processes (i.e., things that team members do) for the better part of the last two decades, but no one has designed a measurement tool to capture these explicit behaviors. Mathieu, Luciano, and colleagues collected data from 714 teams (3,484 individual people) to create a survey designed to capture perceptions about these team processes.

The original model (Marks, Mathieu, Zaccaro, 2001) upon which this measure was based, suggested that team-oriented behaviors fall into three categories. Action processes, are those team-oriented behaviors that a team uses during periods of task completion. For example, action processes would include correcting a fellow nurse on a mistake you see them making during a surgery. These processes can include monitoring how progress toward the goal is going, monitoring the environment and systems, keeping an eye on teammates and helping when necessary, and coordinating the sequencing and timing of behaviors. Transition processes, on the other hand, are those that occur in between periods of task completion, and focus instead on reflecting on the last action period and preparing for the next. These behaviors can include setting and clarifying goals, mission analysis, and creating a strategy. The other set of team processes proposed in the model is interpersonal processes. These team behaviors focus on the relationships between team members other than task completion. These behaviors can include motivating, building confidence, managing people’s emotions, and managing conflict.

The authors created and tested 50-item, 30-item, and 10-item surveys to capture team members’ perceptions of whether these individual behaviors, and the overall larger groupings of behaviors happened in their teams. Results found that the surveys captured the three distinct dimensions of team processes, and also captured the specific behaviors within each of these categories. Further, the 10-item and 30-item versions of the survey worked well, meaning that researchers and practitioners interested in team processes (or diagnosing teamwork issues) can capture necessary data relatively quickly. Overall this study makes great strides toward bridging the gap between theory and practicality.

Supervisors Helping Veterans Transition to Civilian Jobs

By: Keaton Fletcher

Transitioning from active military duty to civilian jobs can be particularly challenging, but relatively little empirical work has been done to explore this period. A recent paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Hammer, Wan, Brockwood, Bodner & Mohr, 2019) examines how supportive behaviors from a supervisor can help in this transition, particularly with regard to the work-life challenges that arise. Specifically, the authors explored emotional support (i.e., helping the individual manage their emotions), instrumental support (i.e., providing tangible resources to help with issues), role modeling (i.e., demonstrating that the leader values a work-non-work balance in their own life), and various aspects of performance support at work (e.g., feedback, resource provision, health protection). The authors provided online training about veteran-supportive supervision to 928 supervisors across 16 organizations, 65 of whom supervised at least one veteran. The supervisors also had to track their behavior in the workplace to help transfer the training to the job.

Surprisingly, however, the supervisor training did not result in a general improved veteran health and work outcomes. The training did, however, result in better outcomes for veterans whose supervisors were already supportive, suggesting that leaders who were open to veteran-supportive behaviors actually learned from the training and applied the knowledge and skills gained. Further, in environments where coworker support for veterans is low, the training had limited impact, but if coworker support was already high, then the supervisor training helped improve veteran outcomes.

This study tackles a major issue in the modern workforce, transitioning veterans into civilian jobs. By examining a supervisor training, the authors were able to move beyond simply describing this challenge, and test ways of how to improve it. Although the training was not effective across the board, it did show promise in environments that were already open to veteran support. This highlights that for many issues, training, alone, cannot solve the problem. Training should be coupled with policy, practice, and procedural changes along with shifts in culture and climate in order to magnify the training’s effects.

WSC Network Research Highlight: Encouraging Whistleblowing

By: Elizabeth Moraff

Work Science Center Network Member, Darell Burell, and a team of researchers recently published a paper investigating factors impacting whistleblowing in police departments. The research team identified a series of allegations of police misconduct and the nationwide increase in such complaints. The article notes that police face particular stressors in their role, and that indications of misconduct erode public trust, impeding police ability to perform their function. Therefore, researchers postulated that whistleblowing and other behaviors to reinforce ethical climate are tantamount to police effectiveness and safety (Burell, Bhargava, Kemp, & Vermuganti, 2019).

The researchers highlight promotion of an ethical climate (i.e., workers all feel as though employees and the employer value ethical behavior) as a crucial factor that encourages whistleblowing. On an individual level, they identified emotional acumen (i.e., the ability to navigate complex emotional situatuations) as playing a major role. Results from a series of focus groups consisting of a combination of current and former African-American police officers focused on ethical experiences on the force and provide nine main propositions for encouraging ethical climates in police departments. The suggestions included organization-level changes as well as leadership interventions. For instance, focus groups stressed the need for each department to have a clear, defined, and communicated set of ethical expectations. They noted that such expectations should include what would be considered proper and improper behavior, and that ethical behavior should be required for raises and promotions. Qualitative data revealed a desire for leaders to publicly acknowledge ethical behavior and to weave conversations about ethics into everyday operations, as well as leading by example.

Some of the suggested interventions (e.g., a biannual polygraph test for all employees of the police department), however, could raise their own ethical issues. As public visibility of organizational behavior increases, it is becoming more important for all organizations, not just police departments, to create ethical climates. This study provides a potential starting point for the conversation of how best to go about shifting organizational culture to promote ethical behavior, and creating an environment in which whistle blowing or reporting of unethical behavior is acceptable and encouraged.

Fighting for Your Team

By: Yendi Neil

Teams in organizations often provide more advantages than individuals working independently when overcoming a new challenge, but their success relies on the coordination and interpersonal relations of the team. A universal negative influence on teamwork is relationship conflict (i.e., interpersonal tensions based not on disagreements about the task, but personal animosity). Thiel and colleagues (2017) conducted two to examine how the timing of relationship conflict in teams affects team dynamics. In study 1, entrepreneurial student teams ran a business during the semester. There were 35 undergraduate student project teams at two large U.S. universities. In study 2, 128 students at a western U.S. university were placed in 36 teams to work on a computerized decision-making simulation in a laboratory setting. For relationship conflict manipulation, researchers allowed participants to provide feedback about their team members but in return were given scripted, fake feedback to make it seem as if their team was high in relationship conflict or not.

Overall, Thiel and colleagues (2017) determined that teams with high levels of initial relationship conflict have worse interpersonal processes and team coordination. This can be overcome, however, through cognitive reappraisal (i.e., thinking about conflict differently). Thiel and colleagues (2017) suggested that through a temporal lens, teams can overcome relationship conflict via cognitive reappraisal and have the potential to surpass teams that do not initially have relationship conflict. Likewise, the studies suggest that adversity and challenges early in the teamwork process can be beneficial long-term as these teams address problems and practice the use of reappraisal techniques. With relationship conflict, the why is important to identify because it allows teams to overcome perceptions of threat and reengage in critical team processes. Overcoming relationship conflicts and threats within a team is a long-term process as it falls on the individuals’ efforts to understand others’ perspectives.

Race Matters in Pay Negotiations

By: Keaton Fletcher

Within the United States, there exists a racial pay gap, such that a college-educated Black man can expect to earn about 80% of what a college-educated White man will earn, on average (Pew Research Center, 2016). A recent paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Hernandez, Avery, Volpone, & Kaiser, 2019) explored potential psychological explanations for why this might be the case. In the first of three studies, the authors presented participants with one of two identical resumes, along with an image of the supposed applicant (either a Black or White man). Participants were somewhat less likely to expect the Black man to negotiate for a higher salary if they reported higher levels of bias against Black individuals. In a second experiment, the authors had participants role play as job seekers or recruiters, negotiating the salary, vacation time, job location, and other aspects of the job. Black participants we seen as negotiating slightly more than White participants if their partner reported high levels of racial bias. Black, but not White, participants who were seen as negotiating more were penalized and received lower salaries. In their final study, participants engaged in an online negotiation with a computer that was represented by either a Black or White male avatar. In general, if a participant felt like their partner negotiated more, they were less likely to acquiesce to the request and provided lower salaries to the computer. This was not the case if the computer was represented by a White avatar, but was if the avatar was Black. More research is definitely needed on the nature of this phenomenon (i.e., is it more prevalent in certain fields) and ways to combat it (i.e., certain tactics Black individuals can use to negotiate without being penalized, steps companies can take to ensure fair and non-biased negotiation practices). Regardless, this is certainly an issue worth further discussing.