How Gender Summits have shaped Elsevier’s role in the research community

Elsevier CEO Ron Mobed talks about the importance of gender diversity in science

Ron Mobed at Gender Summit
Elsevier CEO Ron Mobed speaks at the 2018 Gender Summit – Europe in London. (Photos courtesy of Portia Ltd)

Diversity in research leads to better science. Better science leads to a society that is more informed and better equipped to make good decisions. That is the enormous value of science and the enormous value of diversity.

While diversity has many facets – from scientific discipline, gender, ethnicity and nationality, to name a few examples – I want to focus here on gender.

On Tuesday, I had the honour of speaking at the 2018 Gender Summit in London. Our involvement in these summits – this was the 15th – has helped shaped Elsevier as a company, serving as a catalyst for our progress as an information analytics business, a foundation, and a partner to the research community. Spurred by conversations at Gender Summits, we’ve pursued initiatives such as reviewing our editorial policies to embed sex and gender in research, improving our editorial board diversity, and creating analytical reports such as Gender in the Global Research Landscape.

Information analytics and gender

Ron Mobed talks with Dr. Elizabeth Pollizer, Director of Portia Ltd and 'architect' and organizer of the Gender Summits.

As an information analytics business, we have a role to play in providing evidence-based insight and guidance for intervention and policy development relating to gender equality. As such, we’ve been able to share these discoveries and insights with the Gender Summit network. Last year our Gender in the Global Research Landscape report delivered surprising insights about the role of women in scientific and medical research. We’re now part of a consortium to deliver the 2018 SHE Figures, along with Portia Ltd, QUANTOS and ICON.

The SHE Figures investigate the level of progress made towards gender equality in research and innovation (R&I) in Europe. This is the main source of pan European comparable statistics on the representation of women and men among PhD graduates, researchers and academic decision makers. We will be a bibliometrics partner, developing new indicators and providing data. We’re looking forward to sharing these assets for the report, which will likely be available in May 2019.

We also act on those insights. As part of the research ecosystem, we have a responsibility not only to educate but to make meaningful change. For example:

  • We formed a trans-business Gender Working Group to examine key processes, principles and systems from a gender perspective. From there, we’ve recommended actions to ensure that Elsevier supports robust research in the most inclusive way.
  • We’ve established targets to increase the number of female editors in their journal portfolios annually, and to have increased gender diversity among speakers and panellists at Elsevier conferences and award selection committees.
  • We’ve set enhanced editorial policies and guidance to authors on reporting about sex and gender in research articles and encouraged the adoption of new guidelines developed by Prof. Londa Schiebinger of Stanford University. Currently around half of our journals subscribe to these, and we have other initiatives regarding unconscious bias in peer review.

All these actions stem from the kinds of conversations we have at the Gender Summits.

Elsevier as a Foundation

Through the Elsevier Foundation, we’ve been active in advancing women in science for a long time, and the Foundation has been involved with these Gender Summits from the very beginning. From 2006 to 2015, we rewarded 50 New Scholars grants totalling about $2.5 million for family friendly policies, career skills, dual career issues, recognition awards, benchmarking studies and initiatives to boost professional visibility through childcare. These efforts laid the groundwork for successes upon which Elsevier has built broader gender initiatives.

The Foundation also builds on our information analytics work. The Gender Summit/Portia and the Elsevier Foundation have developed a 3-year strategic partnership to promote the understanding and adoption of gender-sensitive approaches and advance sex-gender sensitive research, innovation and development, including supporting the expansion of the Gender Summits into developing and emerging countries. Additionally, for the past 6 years, the OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World have recognized the achievements of researchers who have made significant contributions to the advancement of science.

Looking within …

These summits, have also increased debate internally, as have insights generated by initiatives such as the UK gender pay gap report and our collaboration with EDGE, the leading global assessment methodology and business certification standard for gender equality. These have highlighted the need for us to ensure we apply the same rigour and commitment to diversity in our own our organization, and we are acting on those insights to make Elsevier an ever more diverse and inclusive place.

… and beyond

Working with the Gender Summit has been a rich and important collaboration for us. They have put us in contact with a network of diversity experts around the world, given us opportunities to share the insights our reports have generated, and provided us with lessons and best practices to bring back to the company. They’ve better equipped us to drive increased diversity in science, and as such to drive for better science and a better informed society.

Engineering the Gender Summits

Gender Summits are held around the world, and the one that concluded yesterday focused on Europe. Gender Summit 15 – Europe (GS15) was the 15th for this action-oriented platform and the first for London. Like previous events, it was led by influential science institutions, with the Science and Engineering South Consortium (SES) of leading universities as the principal UK partner.

The theme of GS15 was "United in Science and through Science." It built on past recommendations, tackling fresh gender issues in the context of new concerns:

  • Brexit, the impact of climate change, and addressing societal challenges.
  • Opportunities and consequences of digital transformation and the 4th Industrial Revolution. Strengthening societal responsibility and relevance of research and innovation.
  • Ensuring the success of the UN Sustainable Development agenda.
  • Managing the interactions between scientific, political and policy agendas in a rapidly changing world.

Dr. Elizabeth Pollitzer, Director of Portia Ltd, often dubbed the “architect of the Gender Summits,” remarked:

My goal from the onset has been to create an evidence driven dialogue to advance women in science and embed analysis of sex and gender in research and innovation as variables of quality of outcomes. The Summits are designed to bring together the many critical scientific stakeholders who shape our scientific ecosystem. This includes funders, research institutions, scientists, publishers, industry leaders, policymakers, and non-profits.


Written by

Ron Mobed

Written by

Ron Mobed

Ron Mobed was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Elsevier in 2012. He previously headed Elsevier’s science and technology businesses. Joining Elsevier in 2011, Ron has had broad range of global experience in electronic information businesses across a number of sectors and regions. He was previously President of Cengage Learning's Academic & Professional Group. Earlier, Ron held a series of leadership positions with information services company IHS, including as Co-President & Co-Chief Operating Officer; and with Schlumberger.

Ron is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors and of the Energy Institute. He holds a bachelor's degree in engineering from Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and a master's degree in petroleum engineering from Imperial College, University of London.


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