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Representation matters: Diversity in leadership

Posted on August 9th, 2021 by in Pharma R&D

Kumsal Bayazit, Elsevier CEO (Photo by Alison Bert)

We have known for some time now that having more women in leadership positions benefits companies, including their bottom line. This 2015 McKinsey report found that “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” The same report also found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to see those higher financial returns.

Improving, but still a long way to go

Despite the advantages that come with diversity in leadership, representation has still been lacking overall, with women holding fewer than 8 percent of CEO positions in S&P 500 companies as of early 2021. On the bright side, this is up from just 6 percent in December 2019, and the last year also saw a significant rise in the appointment of women (including women of color) to the boards of public companies. Although there is still a long way to go, hopefully this rate of improvement will continue.

Supporting inclusion from the top at Elsevier

In 2019, Kumsal Bayazit became Elsevier’s first-ever female CEO. Born and raised in Turkey, she is a Harvard Business School alum who was Senior VP of Global Strategy at LexisNexis before serving several years with Elsevier’s parent company, RELX Group.

In a recent podcast discussion on her first two years at Elsevier, Bayazit spoke about the importance of diversity and inclusion at the company, noting that the evidence shows that “diverse teams drive better progress” and crediting Elsevier’s Head of Inclusion and Diversity with educating the company on these important issues.

“Diversity is an output and inclusion is the input. So that’s why you start with inclusion, which leads to diversity,” she said. “We focus on things like unconscious bias training and psychological safety and coaching and mentoring because all of those help build an inclusive mindset. If you can actually achieve that, a lot of the diversity outcomes you want to drive will come more naturally.”

Inspiring women

Business Insider recently reported that Bayazit was among the 25 best CEOs of large (500+ employees) companies—as ranked by female employees. One of the reasons that it is so important to have diversity in the C-suite is to ensure that everyone in the workforce feels well represented by their leadership. This ranking suggests that Bayazit’s leadership speaks to women employees at Elsevier.

As one employee is quoted as saying in the Business Insider article, “Our CEO is an inspirational woman who, since her arrival, has created a strong awareness of the organization’s values and care for our customers.”

Learn more about Elsevier’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, including its efforts to foster a more diverse research community, here.

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