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Why Inclusion and Diversity Matter in Higher Education Publishing

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

There is general acceptance now that inclusion and diversity is crucial to building the most successful teams, improving social listening and increasing the financial performance of companies. Yet many do not understand the reasons behind this.

If we look to Higher Education, we can see how diversity enriches the educational experience in multiple ways by strengthening engagement in the learning community; encouraging self-reflection and challenging assumptions; improving communication and thought-processing skills; and preparing students for the workforce. It is also important for students to see themselves in their leaders, yet there is much more do be done in the UK and beyond to reflect ethnic minorities and gender balance in senior academic and university staff.

So, what role does inclusion and diversity play in Higher Education publishing? At an academic leadership level, it helps people reach tenure in a publish or perish world. The challenge is that publishers are generally looking to sign the biggest names in the field, who tend to be established senior leaders and white men. Studies have shown that women in first or sole-authored positions are cited less than their male counterparts (Larivière et al. 2013) and statistics also indicate that less than 1% of UK professors are black (HESA 2018-19). Authoring bestselling textbooks or highly cited journal articles reinforces seniority and perpetuates white male privilege in academia. Publishers can help Higher Education become more inclusive by supporting early career researchers and encouraging collaboration between those established profiles and rising stars from more marginalised groups. The next generation of renowned authors has to be more diverse.

I am honoured to actively contribute to the partnership McGraw Hill has formed with Middlesex University to help decolonise the curricula and showcase the work of black and ethnic minority academics. Starting first with Royal Society of Chemistry-funded research into black chemists and led by Dr Sandra Appiah, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry and Biochemistry for Middlesex. Dr Appiah’s research explores the experiences of black chemists in academia and their impact as role models for black staff and students.

In addition to an international research conference, McGraw Hill is committed to delivering workshops to help black and ethnic minority authors understand how to get published and ways to improve their chances of their work being accepted for publication. Some of the core intended outcomes of this project will be to provide visible black role models in the academic community, determine how to embed suitable literature in the curriculum, and improve networking across institutions. Our collaboration with diverse groups of academics and students will help us continue to develop inclusive learning resources.

There is a long way to go in the journey to equity, but we are thinking and acting intentionally – from producing inclusive language guidelines for authors, purchasing images that better reflect diversity for our image banks, expanding our author base, and listening and learning from our institutional partners.

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