This post was co-authored with Lauren Kane, Chief Strategy and Operation Officer, BioOne
It probably won’t come as news to anyone that there is a gender pay gap in scholarly publishing. Even before the UK government’s enlightened decision to require organizations with more than 250 employees to report on their gender pay gap, US nonprofit form 990s and other publicly available salary data revealed that a gap existed. Despite their industry majority, there is an underrepresentation of women in the industry’s most senior (and thus highest-paid) positions, contributing to this imbalance.
Newly released data for UK-based corporations corroborates this concern. Cambridge University Press (CUP), Elsevier, Emerald Publishing, Informa/Taylor & Francis, IOP Publishing, Oxford University Press (OUP), Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), SAGE, Springer Nature, Wiley, and Wolters Kluwer are among over 10,000 organizations (commercial, governmental, and not-for-profit) that reported on their gender pay gap ahead of the government deadline of March 30 (for government organizations) / April 4 (everyone else). Organizations with more than 250 UK-based employees were required to report on the proportion of men and women in each pay quartile, as well as on the mean and median pay and bonus pay for men and women.
(Note, the above-mentioned organizations were selected based on their affiliation with SSP and/or ALPSP and their submission of their gender pay gap data in response to the new UK legislation. We do not wish to single out these companies specifically and apologize if we have missed any other responders from scholarly publishers. A simple search tool is available to individuals wishing to search the results directly. It is also notable that all universities in the UK were required to report, and show similar results.)
First the breakdown of men and women by pay quartile; and there are no surprises here. With the exception of Wolters Kluwer, there are far more women than men in the bottom quartile of the scholarly publishers surveyed above, and far more men than women in the top quartile. In case you’re wondering what’s different about Wolters Kluwer, it’s unique in this group of organizations in that men in the company outnumber women overall. Every other organization reports a gender split of around 55-65% women to men — in line with estimates of scholarly publishing overall. Yet even at best (RSC – 47.8%, OUP – 47%, SAGE – 47%), less than half of the top quartile of staff are women. At worst, that number drops to around a quarter (Elsevier – 25.6%).
One would hope and expect that the proportion of women to men would be roughly the same at every level of an organization. If it’s not, then presumably either the organization is doing a very bad job of recruitment (lots of women at entry level, but few are talented enough to be promoted to senior positions); or else the organization is, consciously or unconsciously, favoring and promoting men over women.
Now for the pay gap itself; again no surprises. For the purpose of this post, we are focusing on the median (middle value between the lowest and highest amounts), as a more meaningful statistic than the mean (average amount when you take all employees into account). As in every sector, some companies performed better than others, and the most equitable of those analyzed have a median pay gap of less than the national average of 18.4%. However, even the best of the group — Oxford University Press — still has a gender pay gap of 12.6%, while Elsevier shows a whopping 40.4% gender pay gap. When it comes to bonuses, the differences are even starker, from an 11% gap at Emerald Publishing to 67.6% at Wolters Kluwer.
Unsurprisingly, as in other sectors, most organizations that we analyzed have put a somewhat positive spin on their respective situations. In a word, they are “confident” that men and women are paid equally for doing the same jobs (obviously, because otherwise they’d be in breach of equal pay legislation). It’s just that, to quote the RSC: “Women are overrepresented in the lower quartiles of pay. This is mainly due to women filling a higher proportion of our administrative and early career publishing roles.” Or this, from Wiley: “Our mean and median bonus gaps are driven by our highest earners, who are predominantly male.” And, from Elsevier: “The bonus pay gap statistics reflect the fact that opportunities to receive performance-related pay…increase with seniority and the more senior the population, the higher the proportion of men to women.” Little consolation to the women working at these and other scholarly publishing organizations…
On a more positive note, many of the organizations include information about what they are doing (or plan to do) to address their gender pay gap. Examples include:
- Signing up for initiatives like the Publishers Association 10-Point Inclusivity Action Plan (CUP, SAGE, Springer Nature)
- Working toward EDGE accreditation (Elsevier, SAGE)
- Changes to recruitment strategy (CUP, Informa/Taylor & Francis, OUP, SAGE
- Flexible working practices (CUP, OUP, RSC, Springer Nature)
- Unconscious bias training (CUP, RSC, SAGE)
While it is easy to be somewhat cynical about these plans, the fact that organizations are required to report on their gender pay gap annually gives us real hope that we will actually see some signs of progress before next year’s survey. The public availability of data, at least for organizations in the UK, makes it impossible to ignore the situation or pretend it doesn’t exist. And more data is being collected (via individuals and/or their organizations), for example, through the Workplace Equity Project survey, the PA’s annual survey as part of their 10-point action plan, and the cross-industry proposal for examining diversity and inclusion.
But we don’t have to wait for more data before making changes! We challenge all organizations in the scholarly publishing industry — whether or not legally required to do so — to proactively examine their salary data and take steps to address inequities based on gender, race, or other forms of discrimination.