It’s easy to recognize the importance and value of diversity, but seemingly difficult to make diverse an industry or organization that is not. But, why is it so difficult? Why have we recognized the objective and only see slow, and not always steady, progress toward achieving it?
This month we asked the Chefs: How can we increase diversity in scholarly communications?
(Editor’s Note — we also asked a group of researchers from across Africa, Asia and Latin America the same question — their answers here).
Joe Esposito: Diversity is good business. In a fiercely competitive world economy, increasingly anchored in intellectual property, the organization with the smartest people emerges as the winner. Bigots, who fail to see that talent comes in all shapes and sizes, will lose out to organizations acting in their own self-interest that synthesize strategies from the widest pool of capabilities. Gray matter is color-blind.
In discussions of diversity we usually talk about bias, as we should, but in some instances it is more useful to talk about perspective. No one has the same one. And no one can truly be said to encompass all perspectives — there is no “comprehensive” intelligence. Astute managers thus seek out the widest range of perspectives, the better to make key decisions and to implement plans efficiently.
To foster diversity it is essential to insist on outstanding organizational outcomes. Organizations that are not in competitive markets — monopolies and monolithic public service organizations — will not have the same demand for the best talent.
To foster diversity it is essential to insist on outstanding organizational outcomes. Organizations that are not in competitive markets–monopolies and monolithic public service organizations — will not have the same demand for the best talent.
Rick Anderson: I’m not a creative person and I’m not great at coming up with creative ideas. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to respond to this question, and I can’t come up with any answers that aren’t obvious: actively seek out people whose backgrounds and perspectives are different from the prevailing ones in the existing system and reach out to them and invite them in. Once they’re in, make sure they know that their perspectives are needed and valued. Resist the temptation to tell them they’re wrong just because they see things differently than you do. Figure out ways to do this that don’t bespeak tokenism or condescension, and take special care to consider the possibility that things you may say or gestures you may extend might not be understood exactly the way you intend them, because of the different perspectives this person may bring to your interactions.
Others will probably come up with newer and more interesting ideas than these. For me, about all I can think of is to reach out actively to those currently excluded or on the margins, and to do one’s best to be kind and thoughtful and careful and aware.
David Smith: Who better to ask than a white, middle aged, middle class, (relatively*) affluent male; a citizen furthermore, of a nation that once ruled many of the nations of this planet (and whose ancestors did some of the hard yards in that endeavor) thus giving it the international language of business and communication. Honestly? I’ve no idea.
So it’s easy to say we need more women. It’s easy to say we need more non-Caucasian representation, better LGBT representation. But my first questions is; Where are we going to get them from? And my second question is; What are the outcomes we are looking to achieve here? And my third question is; Who do we need to work with to achieve those outcomes? And as I write those questions, I’m thinking about colonialism — who exactly is the ‘we’ in those questions I’ve just sketched out.
Women – Right now my cohort of privileged white affluent males is covering itself in glory, so perhaps we need to start by lifting up the drains on sex discrimination — we know it’s a (male) problem — everywhere, let’s not kid ourselves.
Race – Once upon a time I sat in a room with an editorial board who openly joked about “Our Mediterranean cousins” and their capabilities. The context was improving the standing of the journal.
Gender Identity – I was struck by a conversation with a fellow Chef, who observed that for some employees, the statement “My boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/partner” is a lot more defining than for others.
Like I say, I’ve no idea. So please be brave and meet us in the comments. I want to listen to you, whoever you are, better qualified than I on these matters.
(*Who am I kidding… I looked up the income stats for the UK. Objectively speaking, I should be looking down when considering my lot, not up)
Alice Meadows: I wish there were a simple answer to this but of course there isn’t. Diversity takes many forms, each of which needs to be understood and addressed separately.
In terms of gender diversity, there is no shortage of women in scholarly communications — we comprise around 60% of people working in our industry. However, we are underrepresented in C-suite and board positions. So the challenge here is enabling men and women to compete on a truly level playing field for positions at the top of scholarly communications organizations. Our focus therefore needs to be on promotion and career development opportunities for women.
Ensuring that scholarly communications is more inclusive of people of color, of those with disabilities, of LGBTQ people, and of other currently under-represented groups, on the other hand, will require a different approach to recruitment. We need to find ways to both attract people from these communities into our industry in the first place and then to provide them with the opportunities they need to stay and succeed.
And then there’s the issue of geography. I’m increasingly conscious that scholarly communications as we know it is a very western-dominated construct. But there are many scholarly communications professionals and organizations in other parts of the world that are making sometimes very different — yet equally valuable — contributions. These often go unrecognized, or are even denigrated, because they don’t match “our” expectations of how scholarly communications should work. Instead we expect these other communities to adapt to our norms. But it shouldn’t be a one-way street — there’s so much we can all learn from each other. Being more inclusive of these communities is a much bigger challenge — it will require a significant mindset change, as well as a significant effort to find ways of including these additional voices.
And then there’s the issue of geography. I’m increasingly conscious that scholarly communications as we know it is a very western-dominated construct. But there are many scholarly communications professionals and organizations in other parts of the world that are making sometimes very different – yet equally valuable – contributions.
Increasing diversity and inclusion in all these ways (and more) will only happen if there’s a genuine commitment from all of us involved in scholarly communications to effect change. This includes, critically, real support — actions, not words — from our industry leaders; those at the top of the most influential (typically the larger) organizations. To be successful we all need to recognize and address our unconscious biases, understand the value of a diverse and inclusive community, and be ready to listen to and learn from groups whose voices are currently less heard — or, in some cases, missing altogether.
Sian Harris: Today there are many inequalities in scholarly communication, particularly in relation to the researchers, as readers, editors and authors. The first step in tackling inequalities is recognizing their complexity and diversity.
One inequality is access and our last Ask the Chef column touched on many aspects of Open Access as a way to address inequality – and to what extent it is successful today.
A second inequality is in the geography of the publishing industry. The sector is dominated by commercial publishers – as well as societies and academic presses – from the Global North. Journals from the Global South struggle to become known and respected internationally and even in their own countries. I wrote about this recently in the context of the new JPPS initiative from African Journals Online and INASP.
A third inequality is in the authors themselves. An academic friend recently told me about the journal he is editor of (large, commercial, Global North publisher). He said that in the two or three years that he has been editor he cannot recall any submissions from the Global South. His observation is backed up by what we hear from researchers, as well as by the stats; for example, that globally only 1.1% of published papers come from Africa.
Beyond the general Global North/Global South disparity, there are inequalities within countries and research systems, for example with gender, ethnicity and where people live and work.
After recognizing the challenges and understanding their context, the approaches to address the issues then depend on context. At INASP, our approach is to work with partners in developing and transitional countries/contexts to understand the challenges and then support them in their solutions. Our Gender Mainstreaming in Higher Education Toolkit is a resource to help individuals and institutions explore gender issues in their context and develop appropriate responses. JPPS is an example of a solution developed in response in partnership with an organization in Africa and in response to a Southern-led need.
So, in summary, increasing diversity requires recognizing and understanding the challenges and then working together to find appropriate solutions.
Angela Cochran: To think about how to diversify scholarly communications, we need to look at where those of us who work in scholcomm typically come from. Historically, this would be either from academia or from liberal arts programs. (I once had an engineer tell me that he couldn’t understand what one could possibly do with an English degree.) I actually have no idea what the ethnic or gender make-up is of the postdoc community. I only know that there are a lot more of them then there are jobs in their field. Welcome to scholarly communications!
I was discussing this issue with a coworker who is passionate about diversity and inclusion and she said, “Well are you reaching out to HBCUs?” That would be Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Well, no, I said. We aren’t actually “reaching out” to anyone in particularly. So perhaps step one would be to look at the first source of new talent, academia, and make a concerted effort to recruit from colleges with more diverse postdoc populations.
The next pool are those graduates with liberal arts degrees. I was an English major, some of my best friends were English majors. I am not against hiring English majors. That said, what we need in scholarly communications are people that can work in databases, design digital products, and produce technical outputs from a variety of sources. We need to start being realistic about the skill set we need. I would rather have someone with a strong background in customer service than a year or two of editorial experience for a junior position. I need managing editors that aren’t afraid of data analytics. We need people who are comfortable talking to vendors about XML and HTTPS and LaTex.
We need to start being realistic about the skill set we need. I would rather have someone with a strong background in customer service than a year or two of editorial experience for a junior position. I need managing editors that aren’t afraid of data analytics.
I believe that if we can start to shift job descriptions to be more accurate about the skills we need and we start recruiting from more diverse pools, the situation will improve. It can’t possibly get worse.
Robert Harington: Diversity is necessary. It is an easy word to throw around. To truly be diverse means that you have to challenge your own assumptions and those of the world around you accordingly. Diversity is about bringing all walks of thought to the table. Diversity is about proactively thinking how your own assumptions govern hiring practices, working with others, and listening to ideas expressed in different forms. In my view I can contribute to this through always being mindful, and communicating a proactive mindset to all those I work with to actively encourage diversity.
Lettie Conrad: As Kent Anderson pointed out a few weeks ago, diversity in scholarly communications can be considered with a variety of intentions and metrics. And I applaud efforts toward extending all sorts of cultural, economic, and functional diversity in our industry. At the heart of it, scholarship and science rely on thorough consideration of data from an exhaustive array of perspectives and inputs. It is consistent that affiliated organizations reflect the breadth and depth of human experiences, in both the production and dissemination of scholarly communications, as well as the contents of those communications themselves.
For publishers, diversity is only possible if we operate outside our comfort zones, to include disparate voices of scholars without competitive English proficiency, welcome insights from all ages, races, genders, etc., and ensure accessibility of our resources for those with sensory or learning disabilities. For each of us as individuals, diversity means practicing mindfulness of our own assumptions and biases, being willing to be wrong or uncertain or vulnerable, and bravely adopt a new worldview for a few risky moments everyday.
Karin Wulf: There are a number of really wonderful initiatives underway to address the opportunities of diversity in scholarly communications. I’m especially keen on a project of the AAUP, funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation, to focus on the pipeline. If we can support early career interest, and mentor early career folks, that will make an important difference. Many of these projects have in common an effort to institutionalize reflection and intentionality among individuals and institutions. Why are things the way they are, what do each us on our own and collectively do to reinforce rather than change things?
At the Omohundro Institute we’re looking at ways we can support diverse authors and editors, but also diverse scholarly methods and perspectives. I’ll write more about that effort at another time, but here I’ll note that an inspiration for me is very close to home. My dad has been a loud voice for diversity in engineering, arguing that enhancing diversity is not only the right but the smart thing to do. He spoke and wrote about this a lot, but a 1998 piece is a favorite of mine. Here he made an argument that might look familiar to more recent critics of the ways that a rhetoric of “excellence” can create artificial barriers to fresh thinking: “Every time an engineering problem is approached with a pale, male design team, it may be difficult to find the best solution, understand the design options, or know how to evaluate the constraints.” My dad described engineering as a creative enterprise, and offered an account of his own first rush of “seeing the elegant solution” (in this case to a problem with plastic cards for an automatic phone dialer). “Differences in experience,” he wrote,” are the “gene pool” from which creativity springs.” To make engineering a better, more effective profession it needed to reach out and be more appealing to more people — and then support them.
“Differences in experience,” he wrote,” are the “gene pool” from which creativity springs.”
It’s a different world, twenty years on, but when I am vexed about the challenges of diversity in my own field I often return to these observations. To this basic calculus I’d add that reaching out, including, and then supporting a more diverse profession then has a critical next step which is to make sure that leadership becomes more diverse. Then diversity has a chance to become the reality for organizations and professions rather than an ambition or a project.
Charlie Rapple: Lauren Kane, Liz Ferguson and I led a workshop at this year’s UKSG conference where, building on work by Liz Marchant and Patricia Gabaldon, we explored ideas for increasing diversity from three perspectives: the individual, the organization, and the industry.
For individuals, we talked about how those feeling marginalized can take action for themselves: working on overcoming “imposter syndrome” (I have just signed up for new course on this myself), making more time for networking and career development, perhaps having some coaching to help you recognize and tackle any irrational beliefs that may be preventing you from fulfilling your potential.
In our organizational capacities, all of us need to learn about unconscious bias — both to ensure that we are considering how any such biases may be affecting our own decisions, and to be able to address it if we see it affecting colleagues’ behavior. The ACAS website provides a great introduction to unconscious bias, with helpful examples about both positive and negative prejudices we don’t even realize we have — Do we perceive someone who is dressed conservatively to be more capable? Do we assume someone with a tattoo will be a bit of a rebel? Do we tend to give more credence to people who reflect our own personal “sphere” (experiences / beliefs / cultural attributes etc)? We can also contribute to diversity in our organizations by lobbying for transparent policies (on hiring, promotion and compensation) and for equal parenting (facilitating male employees’ to take a lead on family responsibilities to reduce reliance on women as primary carers). As managers, we can take a proactive approach to supporting team members’ personal development, encouraging volunteering, giving time for study, providing training for the types of work that will enable them to progress upwards (things like business finance and strategic governance).
It is at the industry level where we need to drive the most important change — diversifying the pipeline of our predominantly white industry. Member organizations are beginning to introduce good initiatives here, like the American Association of University Presses’ Diversity Fellowship. Outside our own industry, I think the TFL’s Stuart Ross BAME Internship provides a helpful model — helping students or recent graduates “of African, African-Caribbean, Asian or Chinese origin” learn skills and gain experience in PR — and crucially, providing free travel and a bursary to cover living expenses, to mitigate against economic bias. There’s a LOT more needed here — educational initiatives about scholarly communications career options need to start as early as possible, and we as a community (and particularly the associations that represent us, perhaps) could do much more to support and drive that.
Ann Michael: Looking at the Chefs’ responses, I see not only concerns with unconscious bias, but also a very real focus on outcomes. The fact is that diversity makes organizations and industries more healthy. Can we quantify that? Is quantifying that enough? No one seems to dispute the value, yet our progress is slow at best. I also see a theme about appealing to students and early careers and actively recruiting for diversity. Recruiting by attempting to create interest in diverse groups. Of course, recruiting isn’t enough. Recruits need to find environments that are open to the different perspectives they offer.Too often, value and quality are defined in a manner that reinforces the current norms and attitudes. As Alice pointed out:
… there are many scholarly communications professionals and organizations in other parts of the world that are making sometimes very different — yet equally valuable – contributions. These often go unrecognized, or are even denigrated, because they don’t match “our” expectations of how scholarly communications should work.
Anyway you cut this, this is a complex issue. Increasing diversity has different meaning and outcomes for different groups.
So I echo David’s request, please be brave and meet us in the comments. We need everyone’s ideas!
34 Thoughts on "Ask The Chefs: How Can We Increase Diversity In Scholarly Communications?"
How about augmenting interest in LGBT scholarly publishing inclusivity might be through Open Access
funding pipelines? There are several significant LGBT foundations which might be approached.
This approach, if successful might be utilized for other diversity segments.
My formative years as a young man was in the military. I vividly recall my DI yelling as we got off the bus: PEOPLE! In that moment I/we had lost our identity.
When I recruited sales reps I recruited those who I thought were most qualified. As a result, I hired one of the first women reps and soon had a region mostly staffed with women. Why? They were the most qualified.
In short, I tried to hire the most qualified people.
A lot of thoughtful comments from my fellow chefs, and I started to outline them because they’re also useful both philosophically and practically. I was especially struck by Angela’s comment about recruitment and the necessary skills sets. It’s in recruitment where we often see replication of the current staffing, and thinking more about how core job requirements can be a reflection of implicit bias is really helpful.
There’s a real irony (David Smith touches briefly on this) that the question of diversity is asked of what seems to be an all-white panel. Look at the chef’s pics–all of you seem white to me. I’m not saying that that means that your views are therefore invalid; it’s just that this is a funny object lesson in circular logic: let’s only ask white people how to be less white.
Maybe the first step could be to ask the question about how to foster diversity in scholarly communications to an actually diverse group. You all seem to basically agree that diversity is a good thing, but it rings a little hollow when you don’t actually pull opinions from a diverse group (at least racially). It’s little wonder that several chef’s responses include some sort of generic expression along the basic lines of “I don’t know, I have no good ideas,” and others end up with unhelpful sentiments like “increasing diversity requires recognizing and understanding the challenges and then working together to find appropriate solutions.” Really?
In my opinion, you’re asking a worthy question, but you’re asking the wrong people.
I really appreciate your comment and those below that echo your points.
We all recognize that we are not a very diverse group. However, we need to start somewhere. It would be great if those from other groups would comment and offer suggestions – one reason why we introduced this question in this forum. The resources that have been offered in the comments below, for example, is one great outcome of this post.
Additionally, since (as we all agree, and the data support) scholarly communications (especially scholarly publishing) is not very diverse, organizational and industry efforts to increase diversity will most likely start with people already in the industry (not likely from a diverse group) – even if that effort is to get the opinions and understand the views and concerns of diverse groups.
I’d also like to mention that, from the Kitchen’s perspectives, there are efforts underway to get the views and opinions of a broader, and more diverse, group than just the chefs! More on that early next year.
I echo John’s sentiments on asking a diverse panel to get a better pulse.
Countless men and women dedicate their life to this work, including organizations whose express mission it is to equip underrepresented groups with the tools needed to thrive in a global research environment. Will add some links here for reference, but this by no means exhaustive:
National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE): http://www.nsbe.org/home.aspx
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE): http://www.shpe.org/
Latinos in Science and Engineering: http://mymaes.org/
Many of these organizations have been around since the 70s, birthed out of affirmative action movements. They serve as a training ground for minority researchers at the high school and undergraduate levels. Some are embedded within the research institution itself:
MITES @ MIT: https://oeop.mit.edu/programs/mites/impact-students
Stanford Summer Engineering Academy (SSEA): https://engineering.stanford.edu/students-academics/engineering-diversity-programs/stanford-summer-engineering-academy-ssea
I’ll admit that it is a little disheartening to see so many responses that say “don’t know” when there is such a large literature to draw on in both practice-oriented and scholarly publications. So, as a start, I definitely encourage a deep dive into the scholarship that is available – HBR has some great things. I recommend the work of April Hathcock, Jennifer Vinopal, and Chris Bourg as well, librarians in the scholarly communications community who blog/write on these topics.
Here’s a few thoughts that summarize what I know. Diversity isn’t enough. You have to insist on inclusion and equity. Which means that you have to aggressively root out racism and sexism – those attitudes won’t leave an organization or industry easily, especially as they are likely encoded into practices and procedures that systematically oppress. If you are white and/or male, step back so there is space for others to step in. Make diversity, inclusion, and equity a metric upon which managers and administers are judged. In general, what gets evaluated gets done. I can sum this up: do the work and don’t push it off on those who are not in the dominant group(s).
Finally, if it is useful, when I was a candidate for President of the American Library Association, I wrote about this with a lens on diversity, equity, and inclusion in libraries and ALA (https://lisahinchliffe.com/2016/03/16/prioritizing-diversity-and-inclusion/). I extended these thoughts in a talk that I gave at the Beta Phi Mu induction at the iSchool at Illinois using the ethos of hospitality theme (https://lisahinchliffe.com/2016/11/13/what-we-can-be/).
Lisa, John and all – thanks for your comments and for the resources you list. Several of the chefs list some of the projects they’re involved in so this isn’t at all a homogenous throw up our hands post. And with respect, you might not be aware of diversity among this group by looking at pictures. That said, there is no doubt that diversity and inclusive practice is essential – we all agree. And that includes all aspects of schol comm including the Scholarly Kitchen. From our different vantages we might see different potential. If this post is about where these writers in different positions w in schol comm see the best opportunities, it isn’t meant to be a best practices document. I know best, for example, efforts in HSS higher education, and in my own discipline (History) so could reference more about what is happening there. I know philosophically and practically the approaches of Mellon, for example. I very much hope that one of you or better yet someone who is reading but hasn’t commented would offer one or more guest posts!
I hope it is clear that I didn’t say that everyone said “don’t know.” I was only observing that a remarkable number did.
I have a number of other thoughts but let me focus on just one that I think might be most useful immediately. If I might … I’d suggest that SK not wait for people to “offer up” guest posts. That’s the pushing the work off on others I was warning against. SK needs to be the proactive party if it wants a diversity of authors. And, if I might add, SK would do well to avoid the all-too-often pitfall of only asking people of color to write about diversity. Ask them to write about the scholarly communications topics that they are experts in.
It is totally possible to succeed at this. At the risk of seeming to pat myself on the back, I will share that I posted about this on my blog yesterday, reflecting on being the editor of the E-Content column in EDUCAUSE Review for 2017 (https://lisahinchliffe.com/2017/11/16/raising-critical-issues-in-a-technology-space-2017/).
A lot of our guest posts are recruited, rather than offered to us, so we are beating the bushes. Often we’ll end up doing an interview with someone to bring in their viewpoint when we can’t talk them into writing a post themselves.
And though we may be the more visible end of things, our efforts are part of a larger initiative by the SSP to address questions of inequity and diversity in the scholarly communications ecosystem. As is clear from many of the participants above, for a lot of us this is not an area of expertise — we could use help and guidance. If you can help, please do get in touch, whether here on the blog or directly within the SSP itself.
Lisa, I count exactly one respondent whose response can fairly be summarized as “I don’t know.” Everyone else offered what seem to me like constructive suggestions of various kinds (some more specific and concrete than others, granted). Since you see a “remarkable number” of the responses as amounting to “I don’t know,” I’m curious: which of them do you read that way?
It seems my use of “don’t know” in quotes — meant to reference the posts that lacked specific responses to the “how” question that was posed (and especially the lack of specific responses grounded in the scholarship that is available on this topic) — wasn’t as clear as I intended. I’m sorry it led you to spending time to looking for literal statements. I apologize and appreciate the opportunity to clarify.
No need to apologize, Lisa, but thanks for the clarification. Just to clarify on my own part: it wasn’t that your comment made me invest time in seeking out literal statements; it was just that it led me to double-check my impression that virtually all of us really had offered thoughts and suggestions on how we can increase diversity in scholarly communications.
Bravo–my thoughts exactly, John. I find it very interest that throughout this diversity discussion in scholarly publishing that an all-white majority is driving the conversation. If the chefs want to properly explore diversity, please interview people of color in the scholarly publishing industry and get their viewpoint. Or, if there are not people of color to interview, I guess the next step would be to look inward at the industry culture or perhaps even your own HR Departments to get an idea of how hiring practices can be more inclusive. This is a deeper discussion than its being made out to be. Racial discrimination does exist in this industry even if we want to sugarcoat it with light fluffy language and discussions that imply that we are doing something about it. How about the Chefs look to diversify their makeup before they look to discuss diversity? I’d start there.
Thanks all — we regularly do these “Ask The Chefs” columns, but have in the past reached out to other groups as well, and the suggestions here are appreciated for future columns.
As for adding diversity to our group, we are continuously hunting for new voices, but this is easier said than done. We require our authors to write regularly for us, which means both extra unpaid work, and a willingness to publicly voice what can often be controversial opinions. The latter may be particularly difficult for those must subject to bias and most vulnerable within our industry. Plus, a lot of people just don’t like blogging. For those with something to say but unwilling to make the commitment, we do regularly feature guest posts, so please do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
The last (and possibly only?) demographic survey of scholarly PUBLISHING, had over 6,000 respondents with 91% identifying as white (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/leap.1017/abstract). Given those stats, it does not seem wildly inappropriate to Ask the Chefs what can be done to improve those numbers–even if we fall within that demographic completely. But the question is not just about the publishing industry, it’s was asked about Scholarly Communication, a far larger ecosystem. I don’t know if there are stats about the diversity of this group, partly because it’s not a well defined group at all. The Ithaka study of the library community found that it self-reports as 71% white, 90% white in leadership positions (http://www.sr.ithaka.org/publications/inclusion-diversity-and-equity-arl/). Put the publishing folks together with the library folks and we have an even bigger issue.
What I do know is that organizations that serve these communities seem to be taking the issue seriously by forming committees to change policies to ensure inclusion and by starting these discussions publicly (it’s the very least that can be done but it is a start). I feel like the library community is ahead of the game with powerful voices like Chris Bourg and April Hathcock, among others, that are going beyond the discussion and into action. This is only one group within the scholarly communication ecosystem but certainly one I watch and follow and try to amplify within my own networks.
I also try very hard to expand my list of “go to” people when I am asked to develop a panel or fill a committee or suggest a speaker. I think all of us in the Kitchen have the luxury of turning down opportunities to speak or present and instead suggest other voices that should be included. This comes from a position of privilege (we get asked to do this a lot).
I honestly think the “I don’t know” responses comes from a place of understanding the enormity of the issue and feeling a little overwhelmed. Recruiting for new positions has been more passive than the actual word “recruiting” implies. Companies and societies in our space are starting to change intern programs in recognition that most have become the “friends and family of current employees” programs. Others are discussing more active recruiting tactics. These are steps in the right direction.
I used to work for a scholarly publication in which, for most of its long history, the only images of people of colour were associated with news stories of medical evacuations during natural disasters, famine or war.
So, for those of you (chefs and commentators alike) who work as editors or publishers and have some control over the content of your publication, I ask the following question: how is diversity portrayed within its pages (paper or digital), if at all? If you are not representing the demographics you are trying to attract to increase diversity, or representing them mainly in stereotypes, why would they help you? Why would they feel welcome at your table?
As a (white, male) publisher at several differential research societies, my role has been not to decide what content goes in, but to advise and counsel the researcher editor who is–or whose team is–making the decisions. And we society staff typically advise editors-in-chief to build editorial teams and reviewer pools who are diverse intellectually, geographically, and demographically because we know what Joe Esposito said above: that gray matter is color-blind (gender-blind, etc). We encourage diversification of our editorial teams to signal to prospective authors that we are interested in all of them, no matter where they live and what they look like. Editors don’t always take our advice thoroughly, and so we try to educate/encourage/cajole them further as a process, enlisting help from our society leaders and employing data. One final note: A number of disciplines (eg, psychology, a discipline that frequently uses college students as subjects) are aware of the WEIRD problem (limiting research subjects to Western, educated persons from industrialized, rich, and democratic countries, and at least some researchers are now trying to ensure their subject pools are diverse. Of course, that, too, benefits from encouragement by publication editors, who are in a position to signal to prospective authors to develop diverse subject pools. So we publishers are often aware of the need to push diversification, but it’s an ongoing process as each new publication editor comes on board.
Sarah, I overlooked your comment before but would like to add my support for your suggestion. We are all saying that one way or another we’d like to make our community more diverse and inclusive and this is one simple way we can all start to help effect that change. So thank you!
The comments about the lack of diversity among the current chefs are absolutely legitimate, however, I do want to point out that we have made great strides in the past few years in terms of adding more women to our number, and in terms of writing about diversity – both of which are at least steps in the right direction. I think when I first started writing for the Kitchen I was one of only two or maybe three women – and the topic of diversity was almost never even mentioned in posts.
I do appreciate and agree that our lack of diversity in other respects is an issue – as David, Ann, and others note this is something we are actively looking to improve, so all your suggestions are very welcome. I also completely agree that as Lisa mentions, we must avoid any form of tokenism such as only asking people of color to write about issues of diversity. That’s just one of the many important topics in scholarly communications. I’m equally – if not more – interested in what people with different perspectives think about some of the other the big issues in our community.
But, as several others have said, we really do need everyone’s help to make this a reality! Many of us are trying hard to make the Kitchen more diverse and inclusive – in terms of authors, commenters, and readers – but sadly, because our community is not diverse at the moment, the pool of potential contributors is small and most of us are not as well-connected as we’d like to be. So please do recommend people or organizations we should be working with in order to do a better job of reflecting the views of the community we want to have in future, as well as the one we’ve got now. Thank you!
I’d like to echo something Angela said about thinking about the skill set needed when hiring rather than prior industry experience in order to broaden your pool of job applicants, because I think that’s relevant here, too. I don’t think an “Ask the Chefs” post was the best approach to take here because, as Alice says, the SK Chefs reflect the overwhelming whiteness of the profession. Based on the comments here and responses to the post that I’ve seen on Twitter, I think the takeaway is that the optics are not great on having a group of white folks talking about diversity. Respectfully, it doesn’t matter how much of an ally you think you are, when you speak from a position of privilege it is difficult to separate yourself from that. (As a white, able-bodied, cisgendered US citizen working in a professional position I include myself in that assessment.)
And I don’t think there’s necessarily a problem of tokenism in actively soliciting a contribution from a non-white person (or a disabled person, or a person from the global South, or a transgender person – we are very focused on race here but there are many aspects to diversity) who is not currently already writing for SK and may not even be professionally involved in scholarly communication at all. It isn’t such a rarefied and specialized atmosphere that people from other professional backgrounds couldn’t make relevant observations and commentary on increasing diversity. (And as has been mentioned above, scholarly communication ≠ publishing, so that broadens the pool of people who ARE already connected in one way or another. Every researcher in the world who is actively publishing is a professional member of the scholarly communication community.)
My suggestion to the SK would be to actively solicit contributions or suggestions of people who could contribute to a conversation like this at the point at which it’s being conceived, not suggest after the post has been written that those people participate in the comments. Twitter is a great place to signal boost outside of established industry-related communication networks. Thanks!
Agreed. It is great to ask people who are specialists in diversity to write about diversity. What isn’t ok is to only invite people of color, etc. to author on the topic of diversity rather than on a full range of topics.
That was exactly what I was trying to say – sorry if I wasn’t clear!
Rick Anderson wrote that “all I can think of is to reach out actively to those currently excluded or on the margins, and to do one’s best to be kind and thoughtful and careful and aware.” These are surely good attributes in anyone and especially among scholars, but speaking as someone who lives on the academic margins, I’d prefer respect to kindness.
Good thoughts, Margaret, thanks. I’ll just add that I don’t see “kindness” and “respect” as mutually exclusive in any way — and that in my mind, respect is baked into the concepts of being “thoughtful and careful and aware.”
Thank you for all the comments and useful observations. As my fellow chefs have mentioned, this post came about not from us thinking we had all the answers but from asking ourselves this same question and wanting to open up a wider conversation (so thank you for participating). Diversity is a wide and complex issue – and one that I think was a challenge to fit into the approximately 300 words that we were each aiming for (I know that the first draft of my response was around 1000 words!). It is inevitable that we all bring our own biases and experiences to any responses. I think part of the importance of this kind of discussion is to be able to see our own biases through other people’s eyes.
I find it interesting that much of the (justifiable) criticism of our responses has been the lack of racial diversity and a bit about gender but that there has been less about geographical diversity. This issue was highlighted to me recently when someone shared on social media a list of “The 50 Most Influential Scientists in the World Today” (https://thebestschools.org/features/50-influential-scientists-world-today/). The person who shared this article had done a quick count and identified just five women in the list. I, in turn, observed that gender was not the only inequality. Any list of global leading scientists that has nearly 80% from one country (the US) – and many of those people of other nationalities are also currently based in the US – is deeply worrying. I looked at it primarily with the hat of somebody who works to support research and knowledge systems in the Global South but it doesn’t fill me with confidence about addressing inequality globally if a US list so underrepresents even the other G8 countries – including long-time high-tech leaders like Japan and Germany – and completely misses out China, with its huge output of patents and scientific papers.
One of my goals as a chef is to introduce a wider range of voices to the kitchen and I’m starting to have discussions with some of INASP’s partners across the Global South so hopefully we can bring some more perspectives soon, not just on diversity but on scholarly communication more generally.
A valuable post and comments, thank you. I thought it could be helpful to comment from the UK publishing sector specifically as there has been some work ongoing this year across a range of publishers, and the Publisher’s Association has set out a ten point plan for its members to sign up to (you can find it here https://www.publishers.org.uk/media-centre/news-releases/2017/pa-launches-10-point-inclusivity-action-plan/). The PA did a survey this year and found that 13% of the UK publishing workforce are BAME (Black Asian and minority ethnic). The respondents wouldn’t all be in the scholarly communications space, but many are. I agree with those above mentioning the value of inclusivity alongside diversity. For me the key issues that will enable change within organizations such as publishing houses include senior leadership taking the issue seriously, fair and equal pay commitments (including paid internships), two-way mentorship, and responsibly tracking the organization’s change in the form of metrics. I think the work of Iris Bohnet is interesting to look at, thinking about behavioural design, and also her caution that training is not enough – structural change in terms of recruitment and promotion policies, for e.g., need to be looked at carefully.
I’d like to draw attention to a common thread in the chefs’ responses that I’ve seen marginalized groups push back against: the emphasis on recruitment.
Recruitment is not the only place we fail. Systemic bias in the workplace creates a huge retainment problem. It’s nice to say that we promote diversity, but if our institutions’ policies and practices – many inherited from prior decades and never re-examined – reinforce bias, if we allow privileged populations to drop microaggressions like confetti, we’ll hemorrhage all that talent we recruited… *and* they’ll tell all their friends not to believe us on that we-promote-diversity line.
Nobody wants to stay in a place where they’re constantly struggling to make the people around them even *understand* that there’s a problem.
We have diverse voices in the library community, sure. But are the rest of us actually listening to them when they speak? Are we acting on it?
(I’m white and ignorant, so don’t give me credit for anything good here. I’m trying to amplify what people like @librarieswehere and @AprilHathcock have been saying forever. But you can give me blame if I added my own microaggressions/misinterpretations.)
That is a very important point. As we are successful (I hope), we need to remember it’s very hard to be the first (or first wave) of any demographic to be in a workplace. The workplace has to be one that has a culture of seeking and valuing diverse perspectives (regardless of from where they originate) and it needs to be mentally flexible (again, a requirement for an organization regardless).
While I agree with this in theory, I’d argue that “first” is an incredibly inaccurate descriptor of the current environment.
Here, I’m going to draw on my experience as a female in an undergraduate STM degree. Women have been in science since their only path into the field was by working with their husbands, who got all the credit. And since the beginning of time. And yet I can count on one hand the number of females in my graduating class for physics/astronomy. I can count on two hands the number of females in my *freshman* class. One hand for female professors who taught my classes… across two different institutions.
My class wasn’t the first generation of women in science. Our professors weren’t the first. Their professors/mentors weren’t the first. We all only *looked* like the first because we were so few. We were – *are* – so few because the environment is so unsupportive.
And because the cultural narrative tells us that women just don’t do science. And it tells us that Blacks are X, and Asians are Y, and on and on. Anyone walking into a new-to-them environment – whether that environment has its own History or not – is going to carry that knowledge and that experience in on their shoulders, with shields up to defend themselves.
I highly recommend Kameron Hurley’s essay, “We Have Always Fought”, on this topic: http://aidanmoher.com/blog/featured-article/2013/05/we-have-always-fought-challenging-the-women-cattle-and-slaves-narrative-by-kameron-hurley/ . She’s writing from the perspective of a historian and a spec fic writer, addressing the power of the stories we tell ourselves, even trumping the reality we experience.
Again, this is a symptom of the rest of us not listening, not seeing. We have our assumptions and we don’t examine them.
I completely agree.
I can also tell you how difficult it is to choose words because, no matter what is chosen, there is often some unintended interpretation (which is potentially an unintentional bias on any side of the interaction!). This is part of us all “growing up” – identifying the potential interpretations and being mindful without being overly restrictive in how/when we share our perspectives.
It’s also a limitation of this medium – like email, or anything that doesn’t allow you to truly converse with back-and-forth clarifying questions and conversations in real time.
If we all maintain an open mind about where our own biases are and give folks the benefit of the doubt while we try to clarify our language, then hopefully we’ll make progress.
So again – I’m agreeing with you. Some of this is attributable to ignorance, some to assumptions that we don’t examine, some is attributable to difficulty in choosing words that accurately reflect our assumptions, and some is a limitation of our communication channels.
Any way you cut it we all have a lot to work on!
We had a company meeting yesterday and we discussed this post and the topic. One idea a team member had was that, even at our size, we could potentially aim to increase our diversity through taking part in local internship programs. I’m not sure how that will play out – but it is something we’re going to investigate for 2018. It also has the secondary advantage of providing a training ground for someone getting ready to start a career.
In order to really attain diversity, you need to first lay out the rules as fair and equal. Lately, every company in publishing has been using diversity as a new buzzword bingo card, without actually meaning any of it. Lip service doesn’t count. The more White, privileged, straight, male people talk about “enabling” diversity, the more paradoxical it becomes. Diversity has become a patronizing word for such groups. Stop it. Just stop talking about it and start showing it in action.
We could promote diversity in scholarly communication by improving skills and confidence in different groups/researchers and by providing platforms to share information. The availability of resources to share information is increasing rapidly locally as well as internationally due to rapid advances in technology. It is also important to let go of the negative attitudes and avoid compartmentalizing one self or a group, since science, theories, data and ground breaking discoveries can not be covered or suppressed by the geographical or morphological differences. The most important aspect is the depth and the importance of the discovery or idea that is to be communicated, which would need to come from a creative and innovative mind of a human being who is dedicated to contribute to the advancement of existing knowledge.