Transcript: The Business Behind Diversity in Scholarly Research

Diversity to Improve Scholarly Research, STM Conference 2017, Frankfurt, Germany

For podcast release Monday, October 23, 2017

ARMSTRONG: Thank you very much. It’s a real honor to be moderating this panel, and I would like to acknowledge how fantastic it is that STM and the leadership here has recognized the need to diversify the program, and so I think it’s fantastic that we’re seeing a mix of representatives up here today on the dais. So, thank you to STM for choosing to have this discussion.

The title of our session is Diversity to Improve Scholarly Research. And this asserts a principle that I hope we can all get behind that diversity and inclusion will help all of our organizations to be more productive and more effective. We have a chance – we have three panelists here today – I’ll introduce them in a moment – and actually one joining us on Skype due to yet another tropical storm in the gulf of the United States. We can talk about climate change later. So she was unable to make her flight. But when we all spoke in advance, everyone stressed that increasing diversity is a critical objective for each of the organizations represented here – and as I’m sure it is in yours. And I think that’s why we see so many interested people in the room here today.

Diversity and inclusion are worthy pursuits in their own rights, but they are also business imperatives, and I think that is a really important point for us to think about. The commercial aspects of this are extremely important as well, and we’re going to touch on a few of those topics.

Let me begin by introducing our panelists, beginning with Gemma Hersh, who is Vice President of Open Science at Elsevier. In the United Kingdom, she sits as the publisher representative on the university’s U.K. open access monitoring group. And before joining Elsevier, she was Head of Public Affairs for the U.K. Publishers Association. I’m sure you know her well.

Next to Gemma is Mandy Hill, who is the Managing Director of Academic Publishing at Cambridge University Press. And before joining CUP in 2014, Mandy worked for Oxford University Press for over 15 years.

To the left of Mandy is Leon Heward-Mills, who is the Global Publishing Director at Taylor & Francis Group, leading editorial development and strategy across Taylor & Francis journals. Between 2011 and 2015, Leon was Chief Executive of the Society for Endocrinology and Managing Director at Bioscientifica, the society’s commercial subsidiary.

And joining us today on Skype is Sonya Smith, who joined the Howard University faculty in 1995. She is the first tenured female faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She recently became the first woman promoted to the highest academic rank of full professor in this department. Later this month, in Washington, Professor Smith is leading the Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Conference for women professionals, faculty and researchers from the United States and South Africa. Sonya, are you hearing us OK?

SMITH: Yes, I am. Can you hear me?

ARMSTRONG: We can hear you just perfectly. Fantastic. Glad it’s working. Very good. Well, please join me in welcoming our panelists.


So a couple of things – I have lots of things to share with you here. Actually, behind us you will see a few points on a slide that the panelists agreed on. We thought it would be important to frame this for you as a very broad conversation. Diversity is actually a big topic actually here at the Frankfurt Book Fair. This is my second talk today on diversity. And we are not limiting the frame here to gender diversity, for example. We’re talking about the breadth of issues with regard to diversity and inclusion, so hopefully the bullets you see up on the slide will help give you a frame for your questions – and we will be taking questions at the end of the panel.

So let me start off by talking about diversity at the highest level. So it is not a single pursuit, but it’s a series of them – gender, culture, socioeconomic, racial diversity. How do you define diversity, and how do you define success with achieving it? Would you like to start us off, Gemma?

HERSH: Sure. Happy to. Thank you, Tracey. So the dictionary definition of diversity is literally that – lots of different things. And I think we captured some, but I would say not all of the elements of diversity on the list behind us. Many of us could add others to that. We were talking beforehand around things like gender fluidity and sexuality and other areas of diversity that are really important. There are lots of ways of measuring how diverse an organization is, and setting targets and reaching certain targets is one way of doing that.

My personal view is that actually achieving diversity – there’ll never be an endpoint. It is a continuing, evolving spectrum of diversity. Society continues to change over time, and any company that wants to remain competitive and attractive will need to be continuously cognizant of its workforce and its pool of potential applicants and also the customers that it’s serving.

ARMSTRONG: Excellent points.

HILL: Yeah. In terms of the question about what does success look like – and in an ideal world, (a) we shouldn’t need to have a panel like this, because it should be a nonissue. But really to be able to measure it, as an organization our workforce should mirror the potential workforce in the community at all levels. That’s where we want to get to so that, when we look at the people we have in our organization, the makeup of our teams really reflects everybody that we would want to be able to bring in in the wider workforce. That’s what we should be aiming for.

HEWARD-MILLS: Yeah. Thanks, Mandy. And really I think there is always a so-what aspect to all of this. But I think for any company that is operating globally, it is critical for a company that wants to operate in global markets that it has the right sort of mix to ensure that it reflects the customers that we’re working with. I like the fact that we’re talking about diversity but we’re also talking about inclusion. The diversity piece is clear. I think when we talk about inclusion, I think about creating an environment where everybody can contribute. I think that that’s critical because that will lead to business success by definition. And I think that you’ve always got to frame it with that so-what aspect in mind. But on the other hand, I think there’s also a moral imperative as far as fairness is concerned as well.

Success – yes, absolutely – when we don’t need to talk about it anymore. But I agree with the point around the spectrum – things will always change. And we’ll talk about millennials later. We’ll talk about working with younger people as well. And I often use family members to illustrate talks that I make, which is a huge mistake on my part, but my – well, I’ve got my – yeah, I think I’ll come back to that one, but my son, who is a 20-year-old engineering undergrad – the way that he approaches work, the way that he approaches inclusion – it’s entirely different to the way that I was 20 years ago. It’s an entirely different mix. It’s an entirely different approach. So, I think that success is coming up fast, but we can’t be complacent because there are lots of really big issues that we’ve got to address in order to get anywhere near that success that we’re talking about, frankly.

ARMSTRONG: Well, I can relate, Leon. I often use the examples in my family as well, so I think it’s just fine. And speaking of working frequently with millennials and younger people, Sonya, I think you can share some insight from that dimension because you’re doing that every day at Howard University, so we would welcome your thoughts on this.

SMITH: Yes. My thoughts about how I define diversity and inclusion is – also what I would add to what the other speakers have contributed – but also in forms of research. As the people who participate in academic research become more diverse on one axis, new forms of research, new forms of disciplines of study also arise. And so with that, there needs to be some method to include those research disciplines, those research themes, into the broader conversation. For example, intersectionality is a hot topic right now, particularly research about women of color in the academy. In those studies, there needs to be a diversity of outlets for that type of research, and that needs to be valued.

As far as success, I would also agree with the other panelists that it’s a continuum, that we will continue to have these conversations as more and more people and more and more branches of research and scholarship arise. And it’s – I think success would be as we come to a mechanism that includes and values all those things as they arise.

ARMSTRONG: Sonya, do you think that the students – is it your experience that the students have a less cynical view and in their initiation of some of these new areas of academic research and study, are they hitting any barriers and are they surprised by those barriers? In other words, are they living in a situation in their academic world that has a different complexion when it comes to inclusion and diversity – and then, when they cross over into either graduate studies or into the commercial environment, that they are surprised with the barriers that they encounter? What’s your experience there?

SMITH: I think the students, millennials and beyond, are much more comfortable than, I would say myself, us older folks at working in interdisciplinary – working at the edges of different disciplines. So when they move, they have ideas that they want to pursue – and when they move to graduate school and want to pursue those, there may be an issue as to where they fit. And particularly when it’s time to publish the work, it’s like where does this thing that I’m doing that’s great and I’m having great results – and where does this fit into the traditional publishing world and traditional journals? And so I think they’re much more comfortable at the creation and ideation part of that and diversity of thought. But I think we have a ways to catch up with them as to where they can present, publish – and where their scholarship can be included.

ARMSTRONG: Excellent. Thank you for sharing that. One of the things that we talked about in our preparation for this panel was talent, and I think a lot of the millennials that Sonya was just referring to are the future talent that you hope to employ. And I thought we would talk to the panel here about their experience in recruiting. Who are your companies competing with for talent? And what does that patchwork quilt of companies and that ecosystem – how does that influence your need to transform your organization to be more inclusive and more diverse, so that this talent is willing to come and work for you, interesting in coming, compelled to come and join your employee group.

So Leon, could you talk about that, because I think, when we think about this from a business imperative perspective, attracting talent – what’s more important than that?


ARMSTRONG: Retaining it, I guess.

HEWARD-MILLS: Yeah, attracting and retaining. And I think that, again, looking back at how things used to be, there was a really set career path. My career has been established in the U.K. – always worked within a global environment but within a publishing environment. It was very, very traditional. It started, for those who come from the U.K., with a job ad in The Guardian, and it went on from there. That’s how it used to be. And in terms of the questions that I was asked when I first came into publishing, they were very mundane.

But it’s entirely different now. And I think, as you say, thinking about talent but thinking about where we’re going to operate and who we’re competing with, you know, we are becoming technologists now, so we are competing with those who are looking at the large technology firms, looking at the entrepreneurial take-up environment – startup environment – take-up – startup environment – and thinking about what is it like working in that – so I think we have to really rethink our whole strategy as far as talent acquisition is concerned.

As far as we’re concerned, there are a couple of key measures that we use, and we use at T&F to try and ensure that we are encouraging the brightest and the best and that they will stay with us. I think having open, honest discussions – you know, we talked about millennials before. And, I think, in particular, the honesty that the millennial group expect is something that is very different. They’re far more demanding than perhaps we were 20, 30 years ago.

I think we also have to bear in mind that the pool that we’re picking from is global as well, so we need to make sure that we’re not just looking at this from an Anglo-Saxon, Eurocentric point of view. We’ve got massive potential for growth in Asia Pacific, so we’re looking at how we’re engaging with markets, how we’re engaging with people there. So it’s really shaking up the whole approach that we’re taking. But I think simple things hold true – clarity of purpose – flexibility as well – flexibility around work, whether it’s variation within the role or thinking about alternative roles as well.

And again, to give an example from a couple of years ago, I worked in a medical organization, as you’ve already said, Tracey, and I remember going into that environment and thinking about, you know, what could we do to broaden the talent pool? We had a very particular way of operating, but we weren’t as represented in senior level female roles as we ought to have been. So simple things, just like changing the balance around work-life, changing the balance around job flexibility meant that we had some massive immediate wins because we got people working with us who, frankly, we couldn’t have afforded otherwise. So there’s a real benefit, but I think it’s about being open. I think it’s about being clear. And it’s about having a clarity of purpose and actually a strategy for dealing with this as well, so I think that would be my starter.

ARMSTRONG: Yeah, that’s a great starter, I think. So Gemma, at Elsevier, you certainly are attracting a lot of technologists and data scientists and people with whole new sets of skill sets coming out of university – and then needing to retain them. So you must be competing with the top tech companies here for talent. So can you tell us a little bit about that?

HERSH: Sure. Absolutely, as you rightly say – and I recognize much of what Leon has said too – as we really grow to become an information analytics company, we are competing with Google, Facebook, Apple for technologists, engineers – and frankly with, as you describe, the millennials who come to expect something from a company that they want to work in – a company that adheres to certain responsibilities and uses its role in that way. And I think there’s both an internal piece and an external piece to what Elsevier does – and through its parent company, RELX, as well.

So for example, we look, from a publishing perspective, at things like diversity on editorial boards and what we can do in that regard. At a company level as well, we are part of the EDGE Program, which many of you may be familiar with. It’s a global standard for businesses to measure themselves against – in terms of how they’re doing on diversity issues. It’s specifically focused on gender diversity, and you have independent audits of your company on things like flexible working and pay and so on. And we actually have just reached the first level of certification on that, which is really, really good – so lots of internal things doing – there as well.

But I think we also have a lot of in-house expertise that we can contribute to these types of discussions, so many of you may have seen that we put out a report on gender in the global research landscape using our analytics capabilities and a methodology that we developed through Scopus to shine a light on what’s happening in gender in research, so creating a pool of data – not necessarily suggesting any policy recommendations from that but making that data available, doing qualitative and quantitative analysis to help inform discussions around sort of the leaky pipeline that you described earlier, where more women in research but across a whole range of organizations come in at a certain level and you get – say there’s 55% of the workforce at Elsevier is female. But when you go up the chain, it’s about 30% in senior leadership positions. And what can we do about that, and what do we know about that as a first start?

ARMSTRONG: That’s an excellent point, and I think we should get to the complexion of leadership and how the workforce responds to that and the talent attraction, so maybe we’ll get to that in a moment. Mandy, could you elaborate on the talent – at Cambridge, what are you doing to attract talent and retain them?

HILL: Yeah. And I think – I mean obviously, Cambridge is a traditional organization, and we’re in a part of the country where we are not surrounded by other publishers, so we are definitely competing with non-publishers to attract our talent. And that is a challenge for us. And I think particularly, just as was said earlier, the skills we’re trying to attract are not necessarily traditional publishing skills.

So how do we attract people in? We’re obviously, like everybody, looking to publish more and more STM content, so you’re looking to get people from STM backgrounds with new skills. That’s a challenge. How do we do it? I think it’s changing the way we’re advertising. I mean we’re doing some simple things now in terms of training our recruiters, making sure that they’re going through unconditional bias training to make sure people aren’t bringing in unconditional – I’m sorry – unconscious bias into their interviews.

We’re looking even at how many women are in the first interview round compared to number of men to make sure that we’re actually bringing the right quotas – and quotas is the wrong word, because you don’t want it to be a quota system – just looking at the numbers at the interview levels and simple being aware of who we’re trying to attract, how we’re trying to attract them and actually starting to measure it, which is something I don’t think we’ve ever done before.

But in terms of attracting talent, I think it is a challenge for us in terms of how we’re perceived as an organization, but I think broader than that, actually as an industry, the types of people who want to come into publishing historically have been of a certain type. You know, we look around the room, and we’re probably – many of us have similar backgrounds. We’ve gone through university, we’ve come out, thought what shall we do – go into publishing. We don’t necessarily now want to be attracting people who are thinking that way. We want to be attracting people who are coming from a slightly different mindset in the first place, who perhaps haven’t actually even thought about publishing – and those are the very people we want to be attracting to our organization. So how do we do that? That is a challenge for us all, I think.

Coming onto the point, though, that Gemma was making about senior leaders and women, I think one of the issues is women going on maternity leave, taking a career break. And then because the industry’s changing so fast, they’re finding it hard to come back into the industry again. They’re feeling that their skills are no longer relevant. So how can we make it easier for women to come back into an organization after they’ve had a few years as a career break?

And I think looking at how we offer flexible working but also training to enable people to come back in effectively, because I think there’s a nervousness sometimes – women seeing how much the organization and the industry has changed and feel that they might not be equipped – or they might feel they’re going to have to go back in at a lower level and they’re not feeling comfortable with that. So how can we make sure they don’t feel like they’re disadvantaged in coming back – they can actually come back in strongly in a way that’s going to work for them? So I think that’s incredibly important as we do try to ensure that the numbers of women at higher levels reflects the overall workforce.

ARMSTRONG: Actually, studies show – and a very recent study just conducted this year by an executive firm – the executive search firm found that it was around age 32 that the career break typically occurs, and that’s when the pay gap actually comes into play because of the delayed reentry and often extended delayed reentry due to the factors you just described. And it’s a very – I think a tactic that we might think about as an industry, especially for companies large enough to afford it, are reentry programs – explicit reentry programs for both men and women who are taking – women and men – I should say it that way because more women are probably taking that break now – but why is it just women, right? Let us remember to include paternity leave, occasionally anyway.

Sonya, I think you could really help inform us as somebody who’s working with the talent of the future that we are trying to attract. And so we heard you make some comments about the new forms of research and the value that you hope will be placed on this research as we go forward. How can we best prepare ourselves as an industry to attract the type of talent that you’re exposed to every day in your community?

SMITH: Well thanks. I think it will take engagement, because if you’re trying to attract data scientists, engineers, computer scientists, etc., the people in my world, to academic publishing, they have to first think that that’s a thing that they can do – that that’s an option for them. And quite often they’re not thinking about that. So I think it will take engagement at recruitment fairs and continued engagement with academic institutions and organizations – professional organizations – to sort of sensitize the talent, to say yes, this is an option for you and here’s why and these are the benefits. Quite often that’s not the case. The students don’t think of publishing as a career for them coming out of engineering school or a graduate program in engineering or computer science or data science.

A few years back, I was producing more – I was producing engineers, computational scientists, and they were being snapped up by Wall Street as fast as we could make them. And that was due to a concerted effort by the banks to court that talent, and I think something very similar will be needed in academic publishing in order to make sure that that’s a first consideration for some of these students.

ARMSTRONG: So a partnership, for example – a public-private partnership, where we’re partnering with universities and developing these skills and programs together with universities to help these students understand – expose them to the possibilities in terms of the future ahead? Sorry. I thought it was a question, but I don’t think I phrased it enough like a question.

HERSH: But I think, Tracey, as well, there’s a point on the recruitment aspect as well and what companies do there. But on the retention point, there’s a big thing about the culture of an organization. One thing that struck me when I first joined Elsevier – I had come from jobs where I’d spent about two years, two and a half years and then moved to different roles. And when I joined Elsevier and I asked practically everybody that worked there, how long have you worked there for – years – a long, long time.

And I do think that much of that is to do with the culture of an organization – and particularly what we were talking about earlier with flexible working and women, even at the senior leadership levels there is – I certainly have a sense of complete buy-in around diversity and inclusion. On a Wednesday afternoon, if you want to schedule a call with somebody in Amsterdam that is female – or even male – you know there’s an expectation that Wednesday afternoon is a day, I think, in the Netherlands where kids are off school early or off nursery or whatever. A lot of people take that day off. It’s just no question that that is – that’s par for the course. And it’s about the culture of an organization as well, where things like that are very much accepted.

SMITH: Sorry. My connection was lost. I’m back. This is Sonya.

ARMSTRONG: Oh, very good. OK. I’m sorry we lost you, but I’m relieved that it was – I thought I was talking to myself for a minute.

HEWARD-MILLS: It was a great question.

ARMSTRONG: Yeah. Go ahead, Mandy – and Leon, if you want to weigh in.

HILL: I think – talking about retention, I think it’s also about how we develop people. And one aspect of people development is around having mentors for staff that you’re hoping to see progress with the organization. And I think having people that more junior people can relate to and feel are relevant role models is a challenge sometimes in an organization.

I’ve had this in our New York office, where talking to some of the junior team – and they were saying, looking at the senior leadership, you don’t look like us, you don’t feel like us. You might not be the mentors we’re looking for – and for us, an organization of our size, to think about how do we provide mentors who feel right to our teams, who are going to make them feel that academic publishing and Cambridge University Press is something they want to stay in? I think that’s a challenge for us to make sure that what the senior leadership team looks like doesn’t stop people feeling that this is an organization and an institution they can grow up in.

HEWARD-MILLS: So yeah, I just wanted to make a couple of points. Firstly, just not to underestimate, I guess, the difficulty of this. I know no one is underestimating the difficulty of this, because I think that we are seeing longitudinal – or we’re seeing changes occurring across the industry and across all industries as far as diversity is concerned, but also in terms of the expectation of the work force. I think that the key to this – because also, you know, if we talk about retention and talk about what we’re looking to do from an employer point of view.

We want to ensure that we retain the best people. We also want to ensure that we’re not creating division as well. And I think that collaboration and actually seeing how you can use diversity as a way – initiatives in diversity as a way of demonstrating business growth, as we’ve got on the screen behind us, is really important. But it’s really important too to bring as many people with you as possible.

And I think just thinking about – so I was writing down some of the initiatives that we do within T&F and Informa. I think that sometimes initiatives are doomed to failure if we are repeating what we have done over the last 10, 20 and 30 years and we’re approaching it with a top-down approach. And I think a lot of the examples we’ve heard aren’t looking to do that. I think there’s a real risk if we impose and say this is what you have to do. Then those who aren’t in the minority are going to turn off to it. I think that that’s one of the biggest risks about this whole conversation and why sometimes we don’t do much about it and why we sometimes feel a little bit awkward about it as well because, you know, certainly we don’t – I think in the U.K., we don’t like to address it head on, and it does need addressing head on, so I’d make that point first of all.

I think secondly, to add to the difficulty – and it leads to the point around retention as well, but it’s also what we expect from the academic sector that we’re working with, and it’s really encouraging hearing what Sonya is saying around initiatives that are coming out of the States. In the U.K., initiatives like the Athena SWAN initiative looking to ensure we have something like equity as far as gender is concerned – and I’m focusing what I’m saying now around gender – is really strong and really important.

But again, thinking about case studies and thinking about examples I know from researcher friends, researcher colleagues who’ve talked to me about the – in recent times about the extraordinary challenges that there are on the researcher who’s taking that career gap, who’s looking at what their level of contribution is to a particular researcher team and how that is not recognized if they’ve taken two or three years out – you know, just focusing on this I think is really difficult, because that is the prism through which we look at all of this at the moment whilst we’re working so closely with academia, so I think that that’s a key point as well.

But then the final point I wanted to make was around the mentor piece but also around examples. And we run a program called All Informa, which does exactly that – looks at how we can recognize women in leadership and the initiatives that we’ve picked up on in ’16 and ’17 have led with gender diversity initially. And it does come up with some excellent examples of women in leadership, but we’re now moving towards getting examples and getting interviews with millennials as well.

So it’s not so much a mentorship-type approach. It’s actually a case study approach, so just – these are people who you can engage with, you can work with. Here are some good examples. And as far as our intranet is concerned, these are the intranet pages that have the highest level of engagement across the organization, so something right is happening there. But I just – you know, I think just throwing in that warning around not quite initiative fatigue but the doing stuff rather than just coming up with the plan, which we’re all guilty of, I think, is really key.

ARMSTRONG: Right, so a lot of studies, but action is – we really need action.


ARMSTRONG: Go ahead, Gemma.

HERSH: And I guess that’s an opportune time to talk about the work that the Publishers Association is doing at the moment, which I think is really excellent – their inclusivity agenda, where they have a 10-point plan around inclusion – having a system where we can do that collectively as an industry. Think about, admittedly from a U.K. perspective, how the publishing workforce reflects the U.K. population. So frankly, it’s not acceptable that 13% of the U.K. publishing workforce is from BAME background – the acronym that’s used black and minority ethnic. 13% is not ethnically diverse.

Having good statistics in that way through the PA, which will be an annual process of looking at that – a 10-point plan that all members, including ourselves, can sign up to and have signed up to that looks at things like audits around your processes what you’re doing by way of diversity and inclusion plans to address that I think takes you a good step towards actual concrete action.

ARMSTRONG: Yeah, and 13% is all that is diverse is –

SMITH: May I follow up on the mentor piece, just for a second?

ARMSTRONG: Yes. Please, Sonya.

SMITH: Sure. I think it’s important that we also understand that we have an obligation to educate the mentees as well, because a good mentor is a good mentor, and that good mentor or successful mentor doesn’t necessarily have to come from your demographic. Some of the best mentors that I’ve had have not been from my demographic or gender. And some of the most challenging mentor situations I’ve been in have been in same gender and same demographic, so I think it’s important that we identify good mentors, period, and educate both mentors and mentees to accept that.

The other thing I wanted to say is, as far as retention, it’s very important that you not only have mentorship but you also have a sponsor, and that person is not the person that’s going to meet with you every week, but that’s a person that can help you move through the organization and get the opportunities that you need for visibility. So I think it’s both mentorship and sponsorship that we have to promote for new hires in order to retain them in any industry.

ARMSTRONG: Excellent comments. I just wanted to build on Leon’s comment that this problem feels very difficult and we are respecting that it is and embracing it. And I had recently read that the Global Gender Gap Report, focusing on gender for a moment, in 2016, published by the World Economic Forum, cited that, given the widening economic gender gap, parity between the sexes will, quote, not be closed for another 170 years. So I think we have a lot more STM programs (inaudible) that we need to be working on. And this is despite the fact that, in 95 countries, women attend universities in equal or higher number than men. So I think that’s a pretty startling finding.

I do think that the engagement programs that we talked about here – getting active, having the mentors is very important. One point – just building on the comment that you made, Gemma, about the diversity and the BAME acronym actually that you educated me on – I had never heard the acronym before. And in preparing for the panel, as we wanted to discuss a broad range of diversity and inclusion topics, we actually asked ourselves, how should we talk about these – some of these topics?

I mean we can easily say gender diversity. But when it comes to, for example, racial diversity, we don’t want to offend anybody. We want to use the right and appropriate language. And that actually varies in different parts of the world. And I think that that’s – we actually were thinking that it might be hard for you to ask a question on this, because you might feel, oh my gosh, what should I say? I would typically say a person of color, but that wouldn’t be what you would say. And so we were educating each other about how we would each reference these topics. And I think that’s – someone said the fact that we’re having this panel – I think Mandy said – is sort of a big deal – and that the panel – in order to have a panel, we actually had to prepare and make sure that we were on the same page about language.

And so that’s – I think that’s really illustrating how deep seated these issues are, so I would welcome any thoughts. Maybe we start with Sonya and then we go to Gemma and Mandy. Sonya, do you have any thoughts on that? Do we have Sonya?

SMITH: Yes, I’m here. We’re reconnecting again. Now, I do think that the pre-discussion that we had on coming to common language and what the issues are was – this is a very difficult problem and it’s something that the industry and our various organizations, countries, etc. will have to make a conscious effort to work on to achieve what is going to be an answer that we can live with. Will we achieve perfect parity?

ARMSTRONG: I think we lost the connection. So Mandy, would you like to make a comment?

HILL: Yeah, I think it is a challenge for us all, but one that we have to face up to. I think the worst thing we can do now is, just because a conversation might be challenging, is to not have that conversation. If we’re not sure how to go about having a conversation and what terminology to use, we should ask. And we should – maybe some junior managers will want training on the conversations – or I don’t know – but I think the worst thing that we as an industry can do is not talk about these things, because we have to engage with the issue, really think about how we can ensure that, by having conversations, by talking to people about what – you know, how do we attract the talent? Well, we need to be able to talk to the talent. (laughter) That’s part of the challenge. We can’t just avoid it. So I think it is about being really honest about it and having honest and open conversations.

ARMSTRONG: Yes. I live in a country where we talk about which bathroom to use. And gender fluidity is a topic that we raised here earlier in the discussion and with our millennial – and our colleagues in the room. We are just – just let’s find common ground, common language, respectful language and inclusive language and inclusive behaviors and move forward. But I am now turning into a panelist. Oh, my gosh, I’m breaking all the rules. Gemma?

HERSH: Really I was just going to echo what’s been said. Actually, in many parts of the world, I understand from colleagues, it’s illegal to ask somebody what their ethnic background is, which makes it extremely difficult to be able to benchmark and capture where you are and where you need to go to. However, that should not be an excuse for us not having the conversation. We all have eyes and can look around the room and see for ourselves what diversity looks like.

The other point I’d also make is it’s sometimes interesting to see – there’s an economic imperative argument, which we’ve discussed, but sometimes a political imperative, so a lot of focus in the U.K. around the fact that companies now have to report the gender pay gap, and I’m sure that focuses all of our companies’ minds around what that looks like when those figures are made public and so on. And I understand that there’s a report today – or there will be a report launched today in the U.K. – around ethnic diversity and opportunities for people from ethnic backgrounds, so it will be interesting to see how the narrative shifts to focus on diversity in a different way to perhaps we’ve discussed it for the majority of the time today.

ARMSTRONG: Yes, excellent. Well, could you share some examples –

SMITH: This is Sonya. The point – oh, I’m sorry.

ARMSTRONG: – of how – oh, Sonya – I’m sorry. Were you trying to say something, Sonya?

SMITH: Yeah. Sorry, I got disconnected again. However, the point that I was making when I was cut off is that I think it’s important that we continue to have a conversation because all of the issues around diversity are not immediately identifiable. So for example, differently abled people – a lot of times, in order to capture their demographics, they have to self-identify. Some are not necessarily willing to do that because they don’t feel like there’s a safe space in the organization for them to identify that, so we have to not only have these conversations, they have to be ongoing, as some of the other panelists have mentioned, but also making sure that we understand that the language and the identifiers are fluid.

ARMSTRONG: I think, Gemma, you made a point – I think at the very beginning, I made a note – there’s never an endpoint, and society is continuing to change. I think that’s – we really need to keep that in mind, and I think Sonya is reminding us of that in her comments. Leon?

HEWARD-MILLS: So yeah, just a quick point – and going back to what I was trying to say at the beginning, which is the – you know, it is difficult – of course of it is – but I guess we always have to frame it in the, so, well, why are we looking to do this? What is the purpose of having these conversations? So on the one hand, it is about inherent fairness and making sure that we are being fair as organizations and so forth and we have a moral duty to do this, I believe.

On the other hand – and I’m sure well come on to it – there’s the commercial imperative as well. And I think that it’s always going to be a difficult conversation to have. It’s always going to be a difficult discussion to have. I think if we try and frame it in terms of what the benefits are for us, as organizations, in terms of our reach, in terms of our global operations and so forth, I think that will make it easier to have these conversations and these discussions.

ARMSTRONG: And I was just going to ask a question about the experience in your own companies and also on the context of STM. Here we are today at the STM conference. Do we think STM publishers are doing enough when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and what else could they be doing? And why is it a business imperative to continually change our organizations and our approach to inclusion and diversity. Would you like to start us off with some thoughts on what your organization is doing and what other organizations could be thinking about and why it is a commercial imperative?

HEWARD-MILLS: Certainly. I think to your question are we doing enough, I think no. I think we’re not doing enough because I think we’re not clear about what the endpoint is, and obviously this is going to be fluid and it’s going to continue. I also think we’re not doing enough because there is plenty else going on as well at the moment, so we’re operating with many other drivers coming in, many other reasons why we’re focusing our attentions elsewhere.

But in a way, that is why it is a critical time to grasp this one and really do something about it, because if you think about how the industry is going, how we’re going to really be reinventing ourselves, if you like, at the center of the researcher ecosystem, having conversations are to the one rather than to the many and trying to focus on this, then how we engage with those markets, how we engage with them internationally is going to become increasingly important. So to your point, I don’t think the industry as a whole is doing enough about this. I think, as has been said, kudos to STM for doing this after last year’s meeting. I think it’s a really important and valuable thing to do just to raise the awareness and ensure that we are having the conversations.

I think from an individual organization’s point of view, though, I could certainly list a range of T&F and Informa initiatives. I won’t because it’ll be quite tedious to do that. But as a clear example, I think one of the things I would say is that we’re moving away from this idea of bringing in interns and we’re moving towards working with apprentices.

So what do I mean by that, for those who don’t use the same terminology? So rather than perpetuating the demographic that we have by ensuring that we’re getting low-paid people in to work and get experience of work who can afford to do so because they come from a particular socioeconomic background or because they happen to know somebody who works for the organization, we’re looking at actually making sure that we pay reasonably. And this is something that we have to do now, but it is something that makes absolute sense, because we’re talking about the talent pool, we’re talking about where we’re going to fish, where we’re going to make sure that we get the best talent. And if we’re restricting that to a group that had all the opportunities, that were able to go to the best universities and so forth – certainly in the U.K. –

ARMSTRONG: Sort of the friends and family network?

HEWARD-MILLS: It’s the friends and fam – we’ve all used it and – but I think it is something that doesn’t take us forward. And when we think about – just the final point – when we think about the global organizations that we’re working with – and certainly the global reach that we’re trying to perpetuate as far as research is concerned, that just doesn’t cut it anymore, so we’ve got to think much more smartly about how we reach the folks who are going to be engaging with our content, either as the public, either as patient group – and as researchers as well. And I think that that takes a different approach.

ARMSTRONG: And can I just ask a quick follow-up on the apprentice program that you have? I think Sonya was talking about the need for sponsors in addition to mentors. And is there some sort of a buddy system with the apprentice that there is a – because it would seem to me that your existing staff could learn as much from the apprentice as the apprentice is learning from your team.

HEWARD-MILLS: Absolutely. And to be fair, when we’ve brought in early career researchers or others to work with us, that’s been the approach that we’ve always taken – that it is – it has to be – a two-way thing. And with a mentor-mentee relationship, as has been said, the mentor and the mentee should get as much out of that relationship. We’ve not done that, but that is something that I think is absolutely imperative. Yeah.

ARMSTRONG: And that’s a way to build on that. Thanks for sharing that very much. Mandy, what’s happening at Cambridge?

HILL: I think in terms of the question you asked a moment ago – are we doing enough – I think historically this has not been on the agenda for most publishers. But I do think, for most of us now, over the past 18 months, two years, it’s become a much bigger topic of conversation. And that’s fantastic. But it’s really only in that timeframe we’ve started to think about what should we be doing? I think what’s really important for me, though, is that, as Leon said, there’s so much that we’re all grappling with here.

This is an incredibly important topic for us. But what we mustn’t do is think, OK, well let’s have a few activities so that we can tick this off our list and then move on and get on to other things. We’ve got to embed this into our very being. How do we work on an ongoing basis? And so this isn’t going to be something that we can just do and get done. It’s got to be sort of seen as a long-term program and something that really changes our very ways of working.

I mentioned the mentorship training that we’ve got, so the mentorship scheme we’ve got. The unconscious bias training – I think that’s really key, because most of us like to believe that we don’t have bias in the way we think, but probably most of us – in fact all of us – do. And so how do we make sure we strip that out in our conversations, in our recruitment, in our development, in our selections? That’s really key. I think in terms of – many companies in the U.K. are doing the apprenticeship scheme, so that’s something – and I agree with Leon – in terms of bringing in people from different pools is really important. So there’s – we’ve got network lunches, which is again really helpful in terms of just encouraging people to think differently about the opportunities within the organization.

So there’s a combination of formal and informal work that’s being done to really try and both bring in new people but also ensure the development of the talent, and I think that, for me, particularly on the gender quality, thinking about how we develop and retain people is incredibly important, because we are able to recruit women – to the point you made earlier – we’re able to recruit women well. It’s retaining them and seeing them move up the ranks that’s the challenge.

ARMSTRONG: Yes. and the reentry piece we talked about before.

HILL: Yeah, absolutely.

ARMSTRONG: Yes. Great points. Gemma?

HERSH: So really a very similar picture. I mentioned EDGE Assess and that benchmarking program that has particularly focused Elsevier minds around what we’re doing and what targets we want to set around things like flexible working and gender and diversity and gender pay and so on.

And then sort of at a broader parent company level, at the RELX level, we’re working on a diversity and inclusion strategy now that will incorporate a lot of what’s been mentioned around identifying female candidates that have potential when they first enter the organization and could reach senior leadership positions and thinking about what mentoring and additional support they can be given to progress within the organization.

And our sister company actually, RBI, has signed up to a tech charter that does things that make sure that, when you have shortlists for particular positions, there is always a female candidate on that shortlist. Now, that doesn’t mean that the female candidate should get the job. It’s based on merit. But again it’s to try and do things to address things like unconscious bias training that’s been mentioned already.

And also, as a culture within the organization, certainly within the time that I’ve been at Elsevier there’s been an increase in the amount of sort of spotlights and focuses and podcasts from senior leadership talking about diversity issues, which is really helpful for people at different levels within the organization to see examples of people that have reached a certain position and are open about their sexuality or how they’ve dealt with things around their gender and a whole range of other issues, which is really helpful, I think. And it’s that culture that engenders a lot of change as well.

ARMSTRONG: Fantastic. Yes, Mandy?
HILL: One thing I was going to say – because I think most of us would not like to think, though, that the only reason that we got a job is because we’re a woman or we’re from a particular group. And I think the idea that women are made to feel that – and I think you made the point earlier, Leon, that that feeling that there could be some positive discrimination in place, that other people might feel negative about any programs because they think women are getting special treatment or whatever – that can have an incredibly negative impact for everybody, and I think it’s really important, with all of these programs – to the point you made earlier – that there are programs for everybody.

It’s very clear that, if you are having a program where you insist on a woman being on the shortlist, it’s very clear that the best candidate’s going to win. It’s not going to be that you have to have an equal number of women getting posts – or you’re not setting a quota that – from my point of view – a quota on the number of women on a board that’s going to force the wrong decisions to be made about the best candidate. I think that’s again – in terms of difficult conversations to have – it’s important that that’s actually aired and we talk about that, because otherwise there can be a hidden feeling of, oh, she only got the job because they needed to have a woman for their quotas. That’s very unhealthy for everybody.

ARMSTRONG: Well, in different parts of the world, that’s certainly been handled – approached very differently in different countries, with mixed results. And I think it is a very hot topic, so great for you to bring it up and call it to our attention. I’m going to ask Sonya for her thoughts. But as I do, I want to invite the audience to think about any questions, because I’ll be coming out to you in just a moment, so if we can have the microphones ready for the folks who might to ask a question for this fantastic panel.

As the audience is thinking about their questions, Sonya, do you have any thoughts on what we as an industry could be doing better, what we’re doing that’s working? We’re learning from you, and we would appreciate your thoughts on this.

SMITH: Thank you. I think all of the approaches that have been articulated so far are fantastic, and particularly the unconscious bias training. That’s something that we do here. In academia in the U.S., we have an ADVANCE program sponsored by the National Science Foundation to increase the number of women in STEM, particularly on the faculty, and unconscious bias training and awareness training, as I like to say, is a key part of that. But one of the things that we find is that it can’t be a one-off type of training. It needs to be coupled with something else, so you have the unconscious bias awareness training but some approaches also have diversity advocates to work with search committees, hiring committees just to make sure that there is a balance check on the processes that are going on.

So I think that everything that has been articulated is great, but I think it just needs to be more of it and ongoing.

ARMSTRONG: So I want to thank the panel. And I’d like to thank STM for having this discussion today, hosting this. I think that discussions like this are essential. Action is needed, but we’ve got to get to some common ground, and so I really want to thank STM for this. And please join me in thanking the panel.


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