Assessing the Impact of 2020 on DEI in Scholarly Publishing

Results of our Vital Signs survey

The Workplace Equity Project’s 2018 survey (WE Survey) was conducted at a watershed moment for the scholarly publishing community – drawing the issues of diversity, equality, and inclusion into sharp focus and highlighting the experiences and perceptions of colleagues through the industry.

In the wake of 2020’s momentous events, TBI launched a Vital Signs study to take the industry’s pulse on DEI and understand what changes have taken place – and where there’s still ground to be made up. The study was adapted from the WE Survey against which we benchmarked for change. We also conducted poll of three questions among attendees of the Accelerating DEI: Have the Data? Use the Data! session at the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s Annual Meeting on May 23, 2021, moderated by Susan Spilka, to gauge progress through the perceptions of colleagues who are likely to be more engaged in industry efforts.

Similar Demographics

The Vital Signs survey ran through May 2021 and gathered 160 responses in total. Nearly half of the respondents (47%) were in the 36-50 age group (around 30% were between 20 and 35 years old), More than seven out of ten respondents (71%) identified as female and 82% as white, with the rest of the population identifying in roughly equal numbers as Black, LatinX, Asian, South/SE Asian, and multiple ethnicities. Geographically, more than 90% of respondents were based in North America, Western Europe, or the UK. The respondent profile is consistent with the WE Survey, although Vital Signs had fewer respondents from Asia (likely due to narrower marketing outreach).

Picking Up on Progress

Since the WE Survey, organizations appear to be making progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts – over 83% of both the Vital Signs and the SSP session respondents stated that their employer had stated its values relating to diversity and inclusion (up from 60% in the WE Survey). However, the percentage of respondents who perceived their workplaces to be aligned with those values hadn’t changed since 2018. In both 2018 and 2021, about six in ten respondents (63%) reported strong or moderate alignment of the stated values and workplace experience. The SSP Annual Meeting poll results showed a higher percentage selected strong alignment (46% versus 26%) compared to the Vital Signs respondents. These finding suggest that the results of the work some organizations who recently jumped on the DEI bandwagon, may not be as widely evident to colleagues beyond the more engaged group that attended the SSP session.

Over three quarters (77%) of Vital Signs respondents – especially women and those in the UK or Western Europe – and 90% of the SSP session segment reported that their employers have implemented positive changes over the past year, perhaps a vote of confidence in new DEI committees and affinity groups that sprung up across the industry. These findings suggest some optimism, even though there is work to be done, especially regarding equal promotion opportunities based on ethnicity: The higher percentage of those polled at the SSP session may reflect the high level of engagement of that group in company efforts.

More than half of WE Survey respondents telecommuted and/or worked a flexible schedule. The pandemic’s pivot to remote work environments whet the appetite for wider adoption of such arrangements. Over 86% of Vital Signs respondents said they want their employer to continue to offer flexible options, on average 3-4 days per week. There was also a correlation on this issue between age and gender, with younger male respondents preferring to spend more time working from home than female respondents, whereas older male respondents would like to spend more time in the office than older female respondents. In the current climate, companies may be compelled to offer hybrid working to attract and retain talent. It also suggests there is an opportunity to widen recruitment to candidates who are based outside of expensive publishing centers, The gender variance may also be an indication of the uneven burden on women for family care and the need for more support from companies.

Transforming workplace and research cultures will require a long term commitment for publishers and their employees alike. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss our findings further, or if you’re interested in exploring your employee’s views on how your organization is addressing these issues.