Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs), also called Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), are employee-led organizations at companies where individuals who share a commonality can meet up, whether that commonality be gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or anything in which they have a shared identity or interest. Their aim is to create a safe space to support people and their career development, as well as, in some cases, provide a unified front where they can lobby for change at their organizations. Women as a group have traditionally faced barriers to career advancement, as this 2015 study from LeanIn and McKinsey points out: “From entry level to the C-suite, women are underrepresented at US corporations, less likely to advance than men, and face more barriers to senior leadership. In fact, at the rate of progress of the past three years, it will take more than 100 years for the upper reaches of US corporations to achieve gender parity.”
In their latest study from 2021, McKinsey and LeanIn find that, unfortunately, things are getting worse for women in the workforce: “ The pandemic continues to take a toll on employees, and especially women. Women are even more burned out now than they were a year ago, and burnout is escalating much faster among women than among men. One in three women say that they have considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce this year, compared with one in four who said this a few months into the pandemic”. It’s more important than ever to have as much support as possible for women in the workplace.
At Taylor & Francis, we’re celebrating the five year anniversary of a colleague resource group set up to do just that – the Women in Publishing group. Women in Publishing (WiP) began in early 2017 when Ewa Klorek (now UK & EMEA Academic Sales Director) had an idea for a lunchtime book club. The book club was going to discuss writing related to women in business, such as Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. One meeting and a couple of conversations later, the group had become “Women in Publishing”, a network dedicated to celebrating the success of women at Taylor & Francis and promoting the professional development of women in the company. The objectives of the group are "to showcase women leaders at all levels of the company at Taylor & Francis and inspire future women leaders, provide online and in-person discussion spaces for issues that affect women in publishing, promote and support the career development and well-being of colleagues at Taylor & Francis, and lastly, to facilitate professional and personal networking at Taylor & Francis".
Worldwide, there are almost 600 Taylor & Francis colleagues following WiP’s activities. The group is open to everyone at Taylor & Francis, and regularly hosts virtual events and workshops on topics ranging from gender bias to career pathways, with both internal and external speakers. The group also pays it forward, volunteering at various organizations, and has been called upon to share insights about the positives of ERGs/CRGs. (Milton Park Committee member Vikki Davies, for example, presented at the UKSG Annual Conference in 2021 to discuss the impact of ERGs in the scholarly communication industry, "Driving Positive Cultural Change: The Power of an Active ERG”.)
Women in Publishing is an employee-led group; the regional WiP committees are comprised of volunteers driven by the desire to make a difference in the lives of their T&F colleagues, who conceive, develop, organize, and run events in their spare time. The committees are non-hierarchical; they meet up to plan out events or articles, agree ideas that they want to take forward individually or as a group, and divide up tasks that need covering in order to make that plan a reality. We sat down with several women who have been a part of WiP, or participated in their activities, to ask them how employees are benefitting from them now, and why they think the group’s existence is important.
"I decided to get involved to... surround myself with positive, strong female leaders and colleagues."
"Opening the door to possible future collaboration"
Erica Barbero, Marketing Manager, Taylor & Francis: "I decided to get involved with Women in Publishing as a way to learn more about the business, expand my network, and of course surround myself with positive, strong female leaders and colleagues. This gave me the opportunity to learn from their professional experience, grow within the business, and, in turn, pass this new found knowledge and confidence to my peers and direct reports."
Barbero is part of the Boca Chapter Committee of WiP. She explains how this has been an enriching experience: "Some of the benefits I’ve experienced from being part of the group are getting to know many different women from across the business, hearing their voice of experience, and building my career network within T&F."
"From a networking standpoint, it’s a great opportunity. Sometimes in our positions, we may feel like we are in silos, always working within the same groups and with the same team members. WiP gives you the opportunity to meet new people within the business, therefore opening the door to possible future collaboration and just learning more about the overall business. I also encourage the younger staff members to join because there is a wealth of knowledge and experience displayed by members who have been in the business for a number of years. It’s a great way to find a possible mentor and just learn from others."
"I have enjoyed meeting colleagues from all over the world and connecting over a shared purpose."
"A great forum to share ideas and develop in your career"
Eleanor Adams, Marketing Manager, Taylor & Francis: "I decided to get involved with the Women in Publishing group at T&F as a way of connecting with colleagues and supporting women in this industry to develop in their careers and feel empowered and supported in what they do."
"There have been many benefits in participating in this group, but primarily I have enjoyed meeting colleagues from all over the world and connecting over a shared purpose. I’ve also gained insights into the issues women face in this industry and discovered what is important to them."
"I would encourage everyone to participate in the Women in Publishing group who wants to connect with colleagues, receive support, and learn about issues for women in the workplace. It’s a great forum to share ideas and develop in your career."
"I’d recommend everyone should come along to these (events)… because we all can improve our understanding and empathy."
Sreya Rao is a Women in Publishing Committee Member for Milton Park (UK). She explained how and why she got involved in the group: “I joined Taylor & Francis two years ago from the rail industry where I’d been part of colleague-run networks and cultural change programmes to improve diversity and inclusion, particularly the gender balance. I enjoy spending time on such projects outside my day job as I find it rewarding to contribute to the overall culture of the organization and be part of the change. I also wanted to build my network at T&F and find like-minded individuals with whom I could collaborate.”
"I find it rewarding to contribute to the overall culture of the organization and be part of the change."
“I’ve learned a lot and had some great discussions around gender, equality, and other crucial issues. Moreover, I’ve met some fantastic people and have a group of colleagues around me who are all very supportive and encouraging. In the meantime, I’ve also joined other networks such as the T&F DEI group for Socioeconomic Diversity and AllIinforma Nations and it’s been brilliant to see so much growth in this area and the commitment for change.”
“I’d encourage people to come to WiP events because it’s amazing what you can learn! I particularly recommend our series called Breaking the Taboo where we candidly discuss topics which affect a huge number of people but where there is still some social stigma. There are still so many myths and misconceptions and I’d recommend everyone should come along to these, whether you identify as a woman or not, because we all can improve our understanding and empathy.”
"I will never forget the amazing energy we had at the first WiP event! It was an unforgettable experience."
Ewa Klorek founded the group in 2017. She had this to say about her experience: “I got very inspired by my T&F colleagues, their stories, experiences, and ideas, which I thought could be shared in a wide forum. A forum to exchange these ideas, mentor & support each other as well as an opportunity to network and celebrate successes. I benefited from getting to know colleagues across T&F, learning different points of view, and expanding my network.”
“I will never forget the amazing energy we had at the first WiP event! It was an unforgettable experience. The opportunity to network with colleagues in the leadership position inspired me to enter the journey myself, challenge myself to think outside of the box, and embrace my vulnerabilities. There is no better place to meet passionate and inspirational individuals than at WiP events! The current committee has taken the group to a new, global level! Watch the space for some amazing events in 2022.”
"As an attendee... learning more about the group, what it stood for, and its objectives inspired me"
Renata Schiavinato: "When I first got involved with Women in Publishing, it was as an attendee in one of the events hosted by the Milton Park committee (Schiavinato is now a Boca Committee member). Learning more about the group, what it stood for, and its objectives inspired me. I thought it was an interesting and fun way of how, by sharing ideas, experiences, and concerns, we could support and encourage each other."
"I personally think there are many benefits for being part of this group. I really enjoy being able to ‘network’ with colleagues that I would normally not engage with either because of their physical location or simply because our work is not at all related. These are colleagues I wouldn’t know anything about but being in a group together gave me the opportunity to hear stories and learn about career paths that are fascinating and have inspired me. I have had the chance to participate in discussions on issues that affect us, and it made me feel good to know that I am not alone out there with the same insecurities, fears, or questions."
"it made me feel good to know that I am not alone out there with the same insecurities, fears, or questions"
"Although the name of the group is Women in Publishing, this is not just for women. All colleagues are encouraged to join. For me, it is very gratifying to be able to collaborate and support others. It’s a fabulous opportunity to meet new colleagues, share passions, discuss common concerns, inspire, and be inspired. It is, in my opinion, a means to establish shared identity with colleagues, thus being able to recognize, respect, and value different views."
"I like to be part of a community".
"Each generation owes it to the next to keep moving important issues forward"
Gillian Howcroft, Regional Sales Manager (US Western Region), Taylor & Francis, explains that she got involved with Women in Publishing for multiple reasons. Howcroft says: "As an early entrant into remote working on the West Coast when I moved to California in 2014, I felt the need to stay connected to colleagues; and getting involved in any community helps foster that feeling of belonging. I like to be part of a community and WiP was an ideal match with my interests."
"Secondly," Howcroft continues, "I feel each generation owes it to the next to keep moving important issues forward. Equality for women has rounded out into a wider question of equality for all, along with diversity and inclusivity. Those issues are all important to me. Years ago, I was leading the Borders Women’s Book Group in Oxford, UK and one of the older ladies in a conversation suggested that my generation was not doing much to further equality and build on the work they had done. I was slightly shocked at the time, and then when reflecting, realized that perhaps she had a point. We had a much easier time of going to university, college, and into the workplace, in part because of some of the work they had done. As a mother to a daughter, I’m trying to ensure she has an even easier time and pays it forward when it is her turn."
"Being part of the WiP committee has given me the opportunity to work with similar groups at Wiley and Elsevier."
Vikki Davies, Production Team Leader, and Learning And Development Specialist at Taylor & Francis Group, is one of five members of the Milton Park committee (UK). Being a committee member has given her both some new leadership skills, and a unique opportunity to work with similar groups at other publishers. Davies explains: "Women in Publishing offered a fantastic opportunity to get involved in a group aimed at addressing issues very close to my heart. I joined the Milton Park committee in 2017, having recently returned from maternity leave. I was looking for an opportunity to expand my network within the company and the wider industry, whilst also contributing to diversity and inclusion efforts. I was keen to get involved in new projects, and planning events was not something which I had previously been involved in."
She continues: "Being part of the Women in Publishing committee has greatly broadened my network within the company and has also given me the opportunity to work with similar groups at Wiley and Elsevier. (You can read The Scholarly Kitchen article that Davies co-authored with ERG members from Wiley and Elsevier here.) It has helped my career development, as well as my personal development, as my understanding of diversity and inclusion issues has been greatly enhanced. Through organising events, my confidence to present in front of an audience and to take the lead in projects has grown enormously."
"Women in Publishing aim to offer a wide range of events to colleagues throughout the business. Our events are open to all colleagues in the hope that they will aid personal development, discovery, and networking opportunities, and broaden the scope of diversity and inclusion within our community. We always welcome feedback from our attendees, and are always asking, if they feel there is something that Women in Publishing could offer, to please let us know."
"I've had the opportunity to create connections with colleagues across the world"
Emily Newsome is also a committee member for Milton Park (UK). She had this to say about her experiences as a committee member: “I first got involved with WiP because I am passionate about what WiP represents and wanted to be an active part of it in any way I could. I really enjoyed attending their first ever event in the Milton Park office and wanted to join the committee to help make those sorts of events happen. Plus, I was interested in meeting more people across the business, making friends, and talking about things that we all had a shared passion for.“
Newsome continues: “I have experienced so many personal and professional benefits as being part of the WiP committee. From representing the committee at the Informa awards in London in 2019 to hosting an in-person/virtual event, which helped me build my public speaking skills, I have met some wonderful people and had the opportunity to create connections with colleagues across the world. I would encourage people to join WiP (via the Yammer group) to meet others across the business, to hear about events that they may be interested in, to celebrate the success of women in and outside the company, and promote the professional development of women at Taylor & Francis."
"The ‘Breaking the Taboo’ series of talks where difficult topics like menopause and miscarriage have been discussed have been an eye-opener. I would highly recommend these, especially for managers to support staff through these life events."
Siobhán Greaney was invited to join the Milton Park (UK) committee after coming up with some innovative ideas around using existing online resources in the group. Greaney explains: “I was interested in hearing from the speakers for the first WiP event back in 2017 so I went along. They were really great talks, so I attended the next couple of events, and when Informa were trying to promote an online resource to help with gender balance in the workplace I approached the WiP team about ways I thought this resource could be used in T&F and found myself (after a couple of catch ups over a cup of tea about the ideas) invited to join the local committee.”
Greaney continues: “I’ve learned a lot from the events hosted, there have been great sessions about Imposter Syndrome and Communicating Effectively that I’ve taken tips away from that help me in my day to day work. The chance to meet people from other areas of the business and learn what they do has been great. The Yammer community is welcoming for all sorts of discussions and people sharing interesting research or news or just chatting. And the ‘Breaking the Taboo’ series of talks where difficult topics like menopause and miscarriage have been discussed have been an eye-opener, would highly recommend these, especially for managers to support staff through these life events.”
“Anyone in the company is welcome to attend a WiP session or join the internal Yammer group so it’s not so much encouraging people to join as it is encouraging people to participate. I tell people to come along to a future event or look up the previously recorded ones online because you’ll learn something new. And if you do join the Yammer group, there’s a community of people there to share with. Being a part of WiP has helped me network, build connections, and expand my skills.”
"To be able to contribute to even one woman accomplishing her goals is good for all humanity."
Cynthia Klivecka, Production Editorial Manager, Taylor & Francis, is a member of the US Boca Chapter Committee. She explains how the US group was inspired by the UK group's momentum: "I have long been interested in contributing to women’s issues of all kinds, especially when it comes to being supportive of other women. When the UK WiP main chapter posted an article about starting US chapters, I responded fast, as did Renata Schiavinato, at the same time! We were excited to be starting the group at the Boca Raton office. We sent out a 'Would you be interested' questionnaire to women and men in the office and the responses were overwhelming; we knew then that the Boca chapter was ready, willing, and able to begin sharing and supporting Women in Publishing."
"Compassion and caring is absolutely fulfilling"
"Our first meeting was opened by Annie Callanan (Taylor & Francis CEO) and Emmett Dages (Taylor & Francis COO), and getting their support was crucial. Annie spoke and inspired us, I believe, to be strong for one another, and that feeling continues. Hearing of other women’s struggles inspired me to be more than a listener, but to be available no matter what the struggle may be. I am much more in tune to all people now, not gender-related or orientation or skin color. Once your mind is open, it is wide open! Compassion and caring is absolutely fulfilling. Indeed, one good turn becomes 100 if you are willing. Women in Publishing is a stepping stone to helping more and more women attain their objectives in life, to understanding struggle of any kind, and to be able to contribute to even one woman accomplishing her goals is good for all humanity!"
Dianna Chane provides some great insight in her Forbes' article, "The Power of Female Mentors: Why We Need More Women Leading Today's Workforce": "Workplace gender discrepancies are a problem women did not create, but I believe we can actively contribute to finding solutions." Supporting employees' efforts to fight barriers that keep them from progressing in their careers, with tools such as employee-led initiatives, is a step in the right direction.