Michiel Kolman (MK): The Workplace Equity (WE) Survey was first launched in 2018: what were the main objectives?

In 2018, like other domains, organizations engaged in scholarly publishing also began to include diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as core values. Yet publicly available data were grossly missing. Without any kind of benchmark, how could we begin to measure progress towards equitable opportunity in scholarly publishing?

Three scholarly publishing industry experts, Dr. Simone Taylor, Susan Spilka, and Jeri Wachter identified this gap and led a grassroots effort to gather data and perspectives on the state of workplace equity from voices outside leadership structures. With support of industry organizations, like the IPA and dozens of community members, they designed and fielded a new survey instrument unique in its comprehensiveness and by capturing data and sentiment anonymously, without employer access to data.

Looking back to 2018, we are fortunate to have captured awareness and perceptions of employers’ goals for an equitable workforce in the scholarly publishing industry, before the onset of the pandemic and widespread global protests about systemic racism.

MK: Five years later the 2023 survey was conducted. Can you tell us something about the respondents (geographic distribution, type of publishers, demographics, etc.)? Could you comment on how representative the sample is?

As in 2018, the 2023 survey was disseminated by social media and communications through industry organizations between May and July. Our findings represent data from a self-selected sample from 1,755 respondents across 6 continents. The results therefore are not generalizable to the industry as we can only make statements based on the data provided by this sample. Of the 1,755 responses, an average of 1,513 self-reported responses to demographic questions. Participation increased more than 40% compared to the 2018 survey and reflected a more global sample than in 2018.

The Diversity Baseline survey conducted by Lee and Low (2023, 2019, and 2015) sampled the book publishing industry more widely with some potential overlap of university presses, SAGE, and Emerald. Representation of race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability were similar in that sample of over 8,000 respondents in 2023. We believe the similarities could inform perspective on the global publishing workforce. We seek to work with scholarly publishing organizations with defined populations, to provide stronger indicators of industry representation.

MK: What were the most significant changes you saw over the last 5 years?

We considered any changes substantial if there was a shift of greater than 5 percentage points. We intend to do significance testing and more multivariate analysis in the coming year. It is encouraging to see that communication of stated values about diversity has improved. In 2023, 89% responded that they were aware of their organisation’s values compared to 60% in 2018, an increase of 29 percentage points.

Unfortunately, not all employees experience inclusive or supportive work environments. About one-third of respondents identifying as disabled and neurodivergent, Black, and non-binary disagreed that their employer is committed to creating an inclusive and equitable workplace – more than twice as likely as respondents identifying with majority populations (15-17%). In comments, respondents from many backgrounds highlighted that they hear about equity in their organization but do not see enough action.  While progress continues, there is more to be done to create a workforce representative of regional and global populations considering the global nature of scholarly communications.

  • The data suggest an overall improved employee satisfaction with increased flex working capacity for over 90% of the respondents since the pandemic.
  • Around 78% of respondents reported a positive work-life balance, though gaps continue to exist for the rest. Folks working at not-for-profit or in consulting roles reported better work-life balance than other professionals in the industry.
  • Around half of the respondents reported having formal or informal mentorship opportunities, with the majority reporting measurable impact on their professional careers.
  • Career breaks continue to have disproportionate impact on professionals.
  • The future of workplace equity continues to rely on organizational and personal accountability

MK: Based on the 2023 survey results what are your recommendations?

With support from C4DISC (Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications), the working group for this survey focused on providing our sector with a refreshed data set to compare to 2018 to look for shifts in the workplace and indicators of more inclusive cultures. We appreciate that organizations have differing priorities to create positive workplace cultures. We encourage organizations to consider the metrics we offer in the context of their organization’s goals.

Based on participation at recent events individuals and organizations are eager to share ideas and resources. We encourage everyone to first understand the diversity tax. A 4-part blog post series in The Scholarly Kitchen by WE 2023 Survey Co-Chair, Chhavi Chauhan with industry colleagues Shaina Lange and Tony Chen that describes the real burden placed on exactly those who need support to drive change and offers recommendations for minoritized individuals, allies, and organizations to overcome it.

Here are just a few recommendations and resources you will find in the Workplace Equity Survey Executive Summary:

Organizations can:

  • (Re-)assess where the organization or team is on its workplace equity journey.
  • Set goals and align workplace equity initiatives to meet those goals
  • Recognize and reward employees for their contributions to advancing equity in the workplace.
  • Communicate actions, including progress updates and course corrections.
  • Provide opportunities for manager training, mentoring, networking, and community support.
  • Identify needs and support colleagues returning from career breaks.

Individuals can:

  • Support peers, especially those early in their careers, as a mentor.
  • Support Employee Resource Groups as a member or ally.
  • Participate in training opportunities, especially as a line manager.
  • Level-up your everyday allyship and anti-racism awareness and actions.
  • Be mindful of your use of inclusive language.

C4DISC also has several toolkits for:

In addition, we are conducting several webinars, presenting at different conferences in our domain, and sharing the findings by poster presentation at various forums to solicit feedback from multiple stakeholders to continue to build upon the resources and recommendations put forth earlier and via this survey. We strongly believe that we can all collectively benefit from the insights as well as lived experiences of individuals with unique vantage point to keep the conversation going, build the resource repository as well as continue gathering more pertinent recommendations for individuals with unique needs.

MK: What are your next steps based on the 2023 survey?

Coming up in July, at ISMTE, working group members Chhavi Chauhan and Erin Landis will present “Driving Positive Change with the Workplace Equity Survey.” We have shared findings of the survey at recent conferences and webinars sponsored by European Association of Science Editors, Council of Science Editors, and Society for Scholarly Publishing. We are planning more outreach through events and webinars. We are also seeking opportunities to share presentations within organizations as part of their initiatives.

Participants have been very engaged in sharing their experiences and small and large efforts their organizations are undertaking. As part of these sessions, we are collecting examples and ideas for taking action to bridge gaps to create a more diverse workforce and inclusive workplace cultures. We hope to build awareness of success stories.

We intend to do more data analysis with further significance testing and multivariate analysis to consider intersectional diversity. We are also eager to work with scholarly communications associations and publishers who wish to use the survey instrument to understand representation among their membership and organizations with the goal of creating more inclusive cultures.

MK: The IPA represent publishing organizations around the world which in their turn represent publishers of all types: trade, STM, educational, etc. Are there any lessons in your survey for non-scholarly publishers, or for the publishing community at large?

Organizations can sponsor a working group or taskforce to do similar work. Create a committed team with diverse backgrounds and professional expertise across domains of research design, data analysis, communications, leadership, and DEIA in the workplace. The WE Survey working group was entirely made up of volunteers within the industry. Recognition and support from the organisation and their employers for what may be a 12-18 month project is important. We have made the survey instruments for 2018 and 2023 and the anonymized data sets available with a creative commons license so that further work can build comparable data sets. We welcome interested organizations to contact C4DISC or members of the working group.