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How publishing can help address diversity in STEM

Posted on March 30th, 2022 by in Pharma R&D

The issue of diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is not a new topic, but it is one that needs to be continually addressed as these sectors endeavor to be more inclusive. And it is possible that publishing, an area that itself has work to do in diversity, could provide some metrics to help confront the diversity deficit.

Despite challenges, there have been some significant strides over the years. Women made up just 8% of the STEM workforce in 1970, rising to 27% in 2019. In 2019, we at Elsevier were proud to welcome our first female CEO, Kumsal Bayazit, in the company’s 140-year history. And, over the years, universities and colleges have also seen more women and underrepresented minority groups enrolling in STEM programs.

Struggling to make progress

However, more recently it has felt like progress has stalled or in some cases even rolled back. Last year, The Hechinger Report stated that “The proportion of bachelor’s degrees in science awarded to Black graduates remained flat at about 9 percent from 2001 to 2016, according to the most recent available figures from the National Science Foundation; in engineering, it declined from 5 percent to 4 percent; and in math, it dropped from 7 percent to 4 percent.”

A 2021 Pew Research Center report, which found “uneven progress” in racial, ethnic and gender diversity in STEM, noted that:

  • Black workers comprise 11% of employed adults, compared with 9% of those in STEM occupations (and Black representation is only 5% in engineering and architecture jobs)
  • Black and Hispanic adults are underrepresented among STEM college graduates compared with their share in the population
  • Women make up 25% or less of workers in computing and engineering, but are overrepresented in health-related jobs
  • The typical Hispanic worker in STEM earns about $65,000, or 83% of the typical White worker in STEM (and this gap has widened since 2016, when it was 85%)

These are just a few of the many findings that demonstrate there is a lot of work to be done to make STEM more inclusive.

Publishers promoting diversity in science

Michiel Kolman, Senior VP of Information Industry Relations and Academic Ambassador at Elsevier, is the executive sponsor of Elsevier Pride and has twice made FT’s Top 100 ranking of most influential LGBT senior executives. In an interview with Publishing Perspectives, Kolman acknowledged that there is a need for improvement in diversity in academia and publishing as well. But he also suggests that a publisher like Elsevier can provide relevant data, studies, reports and other information that might be able to help STEM in particular to assess and address the need for greater diversity. For example, these reports on gender in research dig into the data and present a number of interesting findings.

Elsevier is also trying different approaches to promoting diversity through journals. “One specific thing we’ve been doing at Elsevier, is that at our journals, we ask for a ‘diversity inclusion statement’ and their authors can identify themselves. ‘I belong to, say, the LGBTIQ+ community’ or ‘I’m a Black scientist,’” Kolman explained in the Publishing Perspectives interview. “The definitions depend a bit, of course, on the society you’re in … but this is how they identify as authors, and that’s very interesting because we don’t have much data in that area.”

STEM for everyone

The Pistoia Alliance, an organization of over 100 companies (including Elsevier) that are committed to advancing R&D in the life sciences, has just launched a Women in STEM leadership pilot program that will involve several major players in pharma like Bayer, GSK, Merck, Roche, Pfizer and more. The program will include networking opportunities and weekly training sessions for majority-female groups of participants, and the sessions will tackle topics like how to develop an inclusive workplace culture with more support for women in science and technology roles.

It is going to take many intentional efforts like this one, from every part of the scientific and technical community, to overcome hundreds of years of inequities in STEM fields. At Elsevier we believe that information and data can play an important role in providing insight and transparency in the quest to create a more diverse STEM community, and we are committed to continuing to find ways to help.

Learn more about our approach to inclusion and diversity here.

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