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10 years of Elsevier Pride

June 11, 2024

By Michiel Kolman, PhD

Elsevier CEO Kumsal Bayazit (front row right) and LexisNexis Risk Solutions CEO Mark Kelsey (front row left), pose with RELX Pride colleagues before joining them to walk in the London Pride Parade.

Elsevier CEO Kumsal Bayazit (front row right) and LexisNexis Risk Solutions CEO Mark Kelsey (front row left), pose with RELX Pride colleagues before joining them to walk in the London Pride Parade.

We’ve made big strides in workplace inclusion for LGBTIQ+ colleagues — and our journey continues

In the beginning

Ten years after the launch of Elsevier Pride, this is an excellent moment to reflect on a decade of LGBTIQ+ workplace inclusion at Elsevier. Launched simultaneously in Amsterdam and Philadelphia, Elsevier Pride has since expanded to have 15 chapters around the world. Over the past decade, we have seen a flurry of Pride activity and advocacy, with great progress made and major challenges overcome — and still important work to do going forward.

Ten years ago, we might have started talking about inclusion and diversity (I&D) in the workplace, but we were at the start of our journey, and the conversation wasn’t as prominent as it is now. When I asked my LGBTIQ+ colleagues at that time how they experienced working at Elsevier, the answers were positive overall, but we also did not know exactly what a truly LGBTIQ+ inclusive workplace could look like, let alone how we could achieve it.

Starting local, going global

We launched the first Elsevier Pride chapters in Amsterdam and Philadelphia. Over the years, the global network was expanded. Today, there are Pride chapters across Europe, the US, Latin America and Asia. We started our Rio de Janeiro chapter after a colleague was a victim of homophobic violence on the streets of Rio. Our latest addition is the chapter in Beijing, which was launched last year.

As Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), these employee-led Pride chapters aim to create an LGBTIQ+- inclusive workplace, providing a welcoming environment where LGBTIQ+ people can truly be themselves and be valued. Membership is open to all, including allies. All local chapters have their own budget and are encouraged to organize Pride events.

The Pride chapters have been the central engine of Elsevier Pride, tapping into employees’ passion and support for the LGBTIQ+ movement at work and in the communities where Elsevier is based. Activities have ranged from educational events (e.g., on intersectionality, PrEP, and intersex people) and more social events that are also fundraisers. We saw many firsts: for example, the first time we organized Pride Bingo hosted by a drag queen in the Amsterdam canteen, which was soon known as the annual Drag Queen Bingo event, and the first time we hosted the LGBTIQ+ refugees on a harbor cruise in Amsterdam, creating a safe space for the queer refugees from countries with a hostile LGBTIQ+ environment.

A structural long-term approach

A decade ago, we also joined the Amsterdam-based international NGO Workplace Prideopens in new tab/window, which has turned out to be an excellent partnership. We have been participating in the Workplace Pride Global Benchmarkopens in new tab/window for 10 years, and that has helped us tremendously to systematically improve our LGBTIQ+ workplace inclusion. The figure below shows the progress we have made in all eight areas. Meanwhile we have (near) perfect scores in seven of these areas, which has required hard work over many years.

Over the past decade, Elsevier has made progress in all 8 areas of the Workplace Pride Global Benchmark, with most areas at 100%, Support & Benefits at 90% and Workplace Awareness at 98%. These are the scores from 2023.

Over the past decade, Elsevier has made progress in all eight areas of the Workplace Pride Global Benchmark, as shown by the solid blue line. These are the scores from 2023.

Below is the Elsevier score for the Workplace Global Benchmark, which went from average to below average, before rising to surpass 90% in the past four years. Essentially, this trend reflects a structural change in the company culture; research shows that this typically takes about eight to 10 years, so we are only a little bit faster in our progress than the overall standard.

This chart shows that the Workplace Pride Global Benchmark score for Elsevier and parent company RELX went from average to below average before rising to surpass 90% over the past four years.

This chart shows the progress of Elsevier and parent company RELX in the Workplace Pride Global Benchmark (shown by the blue histograms).

Also, our colleagues in the US participate in the HRC Corporate Equality Indexopens in new tab/window with our parent company, RELX, and they now achieved the perfect score: 10 across the board!

Two key areas of Workplace Pride

While there are eight areas in the Workplace Pride Global Benchmark, I’m going to focus on two key areas: Inclusion & Engagement and Societal Impact.

Inclusion & Engagement

Over the last decade, we have seen significant change on I&D at Elsevier. Two aspects really jump out.

First the very committed executive leadership for the I&D agenda, including the Pride dimension. Our CEO, Kumsal Bayazit, has been extremely supportive of I&D — and certainly Pride — from the moment she joined Elsevier in 2019. Last year, we participated in the London Pride Parade, and Kumsal joined the 50 RELX colleagues to walk with us and show our commitment to the LGBTIQ+ community at work and beyond (see the picture at the top of the page). The strong support from the top combined with the passion and activism of the Pride groups are a very powerful way to achieve positive change over time.

The second aspect that stood out for me is the dedicated I&D team and energetic leader who rolled out excellent programs around psychological safety and inclusive leadership. This created an environment in which Pride could thrive. Pride is also featured annually in our townhall aimed at all 8,700 Elsevier employees worldwide and hosted by our CEO.

During the last decade, we not only saw LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the workplace but we also took an inclusive approach to our products and services. We supported inclusive research through our annual Pride Hub: a collection of articles around LGBTIQ+ researchopens in new tab/window, which we share during Pride Month in June. We also support inclusive health: For example, our product Shadow Healthopens in new tab/window features specific interactions with transgender and non-binary patients.

Did everything run smoothly during the last 10 years of Pride? Not exactly. When I suggested to introduce all-gender (or gender-neutral) bathrooms in Elsevier’s global headquarters in Amsterdam five years ago, the organization was not ready, and only one bathroom became all-gender.

But when I revived the discussion when we re-opened the building after the pandemic, everyone thought it was an excellent idea, and we switched half the bathrooms to all gender while the other half remained gendered.

Societal Impact

Dr Michiel Kolman (center) poses with colleagues in Bengaluru after Elsevier co-hosted a Workplace Pride conference on “Demystifying LGBTIQ+ Workplace Inclusion in India” earlier this year.

Dr Michiel Kolman (center) poses with colleagues in Bengaluru after Elsevier co-hosted a Workplace Pride conference on “Demystifying LGBTIQ+ Workplace Inclusion in India” earlier this year.

We have become members of various LGBTIQ+ related organizations such as Open for Business,opens in new tab/window HRC, and more recently myGworkopens in new tab/window. Meanwhile, the membership of Workplace Pride has been particularly rewarding. I personally have been privileged to serve on the Workplace Pride board and more recently as its co-chair. Workplace Pride has been an exceptional partner for our societal impact agenda.

Two things stand out.

First, we support research on the LGBTIQ+ workplace through Prof Jojanneke van der Toornopens in new tab/window, who holds the Workplace Pride chair at Leiden University which Elsevier finances. This chair is unique in the world, and the outcome of Prof Van der Toorn’s researchopens in new tab/window gives a solid scientific foundation on ways to achieve LGBTIQ+ workplace inclusion. Jojanneke and I also brought some of the scientific outcomes to a broader audiences through op-eds in the Dutch mediaopens in new tab/window.

Second, Workplace Pride allowed us to contribute to societal impact through dedicated conferences we organized together, including events in Singapore and Taiwan. But our joint activities in India are especially noteworthy. In 2017, we organized an LGBTIQ+ workplace conference together in Chennai, India, where at that time, homosexuality was still criminalized. This conference was a great success and made all the headlines in the Indian press.

After the Chennai conference, my Indian colleagues launched our Pride chapter in Chennai, which became one of the most active and engaged Elsevier Pride chapters around the world. And the very supportive Managing Director of the Chennai Elsevier office, Anita Chandraprakesh, is now an Elsevier Leadership Team member and a very committed and supportive executive sponsor for Elsevier Pride.

This year Workplace Pride and Elsevier plus several other international and Indian organizations hosted a follow-up conferenceopens in new tab/window in Bengaluru (picture above), which was also well attended and resulted in us signing the Declaration of Indiaopens in new tab/window — a strong re-affirmation of LGBTIQ+ workplace inclusion in India. This year, we have begun focusing on recruitment from the LGBTIQ+ community in India through our work with myGwork.

Another example of societal impact is through our Elsevier Foundation: We work with the Aidsfondsopens in new tab/window and support their Tanya Marloopens in new tab/window program in Indonesia, which delivers non-judgemental and sex-positive HIV and sexual and reproductive health resources, including links with more youth-and LGBTQI+-friendly health facilities.

What’s next?

Our LGBTIQ+ workplace inclusion journey is far from finished. A challenging chapter around Self-ID has just started and is currently in the early pilot phase. Based on self-identification, we aim to achieve much better insight into the current work experience of my LGBTIQ+ colleagues across the global company: How do they experience working in their office and business unit. How is their career progression? Is there an LGBTIQ+ pay gap? And once we have all this crucial data, how will we reinforce what goes well and address where we fall short. In short, still lots to do!

At the same time, a decade is an interesting period also in the outside world. Ten years ago, if you would ask the LGBTIQ+ community, you would hear a message of hope and progress: Countries decriminalizing homosexuality, more countries embracing marriage equality, better workplace protection for LGBTIQ+ employees and overall increasing acceptance in society of people who love someone of the same gender. But 10 years later, sadly the situation for the LGBTIQ+ community in society is far from optimistic. Acceptance rates are lower, policies targeting the LGBTIQ+ community are being introduced across the globe, and the level of violence against LGBTIQ+ community members has increased dramatically.

But there are still signs of hope: The support for LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the workplace is going from strength to strength. The membership of Workplace Pride has gone up and up over the last couple of years, for instance. And companies like Elsevier that committed to I&D in general and Pride in particular are staying the course and maintain their dedicated support for Pride.

And so they should: There is a clear business case for I&D, and there is also the moral imperative to make sure all employees are accepted and supported and can bring their authentic selves to the workplace. This is accurately expressed in a recent Harvard Business School articleopens in new tab/window and an important reason that Elsevier Pride’s mission is far from complete. On to the next decade!


Michiel Kolman, PhD


Michiel Kolman, PhD

Senior VP, Research Networks, and Academic Ambassador


Read more about Michiel Kolman, PhD