VILLANOVA, Pa. – At a time when gender issues in the workplace are in the forefront of the mainstream news media, Katina Sawyer, PhD, assistant professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is studying how a key aspect of workplace diversity could transform human resource strategy.
Men have a critical role to play as agents of change in women’s leadership. Many organizations have “male champions” for talented women—that is, men who are known informally through the organization for advancing women leaders and valuing diversity in the leadership pipeline. Dr. Sawyer has received a two-year grant from the National Science Foundation to support her research on diversity in the workplace.
The purpose of her project, “Male Champions for Gender Inclusive Organizations,” will explore the effective behaviors of male champions in the workplace. In addition to her NSF grant, Dr. Sawyer has also received a grant from the Society for Human Resource Management to support the research.
Dr. Sawyer is an expert in industrial-organizational psychology, which centers on applying psychological theory to workplace issues. She specifically examines gender, race, sexuality and class-based diversity issues within the workplace.
Recent research by Dr. Sawyer and her research partner, executive coach and psychologist Anna Marie Valerio, PhD, published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that not only do male sponsors help level the playing field for their female proteges, they tend to do so by involving both men and women to help with that advancement.
Dr. Sawyer teaches undergraduate courses and graduate courses in Villanova’s Human Resources Development programs. She studies the impact of negative workplace behaviors such as harassment, abusive supervision or counterproductive work behaviors on employees and organizations, as well as the possibility for positive psychological mechanisms—such as mindfulness, hope and optimism—to buffer those effects.
In addition to the Harvard Business Review, her work has been published in major academic research journals such as the Journal of Business and Psychology and the Journal of Applied Psychology. She and her work have been featured in Fast Company and Forbes.