Promoting Advancement In and Out of the Classroom

by Laura Powers

Promoting Advancement In and Out of the Classroom

George Mason University psychology professor Eden King believes that one of the biggest drivers of social inequality is access to quality employment and career advancement opportunities. While many organizations are dedicated to a positive and opportunity- driven environment for all people irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, intolerance has not disappeared completely. King’s research is focused on identifying what discrimination looks like in today’s work-place, how to dissolve it, what effect discrimination has on employees, and, ultimately, its effect on the success of an organization.

“I’ve always been interested in social equality,” King says, “and I realized that people spend most of their lives at work. I felt it was a particularly meaningful place to study inequality.”

For the past year, King and her students conducted research, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, looking at diversity in a team atmosphere. Observing people’s interpersonal dynamics using some of the latest technology, King evaluated more than 80 teams by using wearable sensors to record their conversation and movement patterns. While her research on this subject is not yet complete, she hopes the results will help identify intervention strategies to help overcome the challenges that can occur in a diverse work environment. This type of research, King says, has and will continue to help demonstrate how even small, subtle intolerance affects a person more greatly than an overt discriminatory action.

King’s research and teaching ideology are both rooted in a similar goal—advancing the careers of others. Having experienced the positive effect of a strong mentor herself, King says she always teaches with the intention to provide the best mentoring she can in order to elevate her students’ research and ideas.
This spring, three of the PhD candidates King oversees will graduate pending the presentation of their dissertations on a variety of topics that all have issues of diversity at their core. All three students have obtained jobs in higher education that they will begin after graduation, and they credit King’s support for much of their success, noting her continual guidance, selflessness, and dedication to her students.

King joined Mason’s Department of Psychology in 2006 after earning her PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Rice University. Her dedication to social justice and the advancement of her students has earned her several awards including the Louise Kidder Early Career Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (2010), the Rising Star Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (2011), the Society for IO Psychology’s LGBT Research Award (2013), and the OSCAR Mentor Award from Mason (2013). 

In 2011, she published her first book titled How Women Can Make it Work: The Science of Success, and is she is now co-editing the Oxford Handbook in Discrimination at Work. She recently received a grant from the Society for Human Resource Management, for which, in January, she began research on how age diversity impacts mentoring relation- ships. She was be inducted as a fellow in the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology in April.

This article originally appeared in the 2016 edition of Cornerstone.