Driving change from the inside out: How an internal employee network promotes DEI externally in the community we serve

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Wed Oct 11 2023

Author: Guest contributor

Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a paramount strategic objective for Springer Nature. Our DEI approach encompasses two key dimensions: an inward focus on our internal structures and our people, and an outward perspective on the research, educational, and professional communities we engage with and are part of.

At Springer Nature we aim to integrate DEI into everything we create: content, products, services. This is a holistic approach that emphasizes both the internal and external DEI efforts as a pathway to a more diverse and inclusive business. A striking example of how internal DEI promotion can drive real change for the communities we serve is the unique initiative that culminated in the Nature Masterclasses for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It exemplifies the interconnectedness of the internal and external efforts and shows the importance and impact of representativity and inclusivity.

Starting from an intentional initiative within the Black Employee Network (SN BEN) and developed in partnership with various Springer Nature units, the HBCUs Nature Masterclasses set out to better serve historically underrepresented and underserved communities. This targeted action emerged from the lived experience of members of the Black Employee Network and came full circle in offering the community meaningful engagement and practically promoting equity in research publishing. 

Springer Nature’s approach to DEI

Springer Nature’s internal DEI strategy is focused on our employees and our ways of working, which in turn elevates our business performance and enables us to support the wider research communities that we serve. We believe that working towards a more inclusive workplace creates opportunities and allows our people to perform at their best. Our internal DEI strategy includes such areas as equitable recruitment, improving representation in global leadership, talent development that recognizes structural inequalities, inclusive leadership, and investment in the DEI employee networks. 

Externally, Springer Nature is committed to championing DEI in the research, education, and professional communities we work with. In recent years, Springer Nature has taken steps across its portfolio to improve representation and amplify voices of underrepresented perspectives and to make products and services more accessible. In the Council of Science Editors’ Annual Meeting, a panel discussion titled “Partnering to improve equity in publishing” explored the collaborative efforts between publishers, funders, and societies to develop and implement policies and opportunities for historically excluded researchers to participate equitably in scientific discourse across all areas of research.

Springer Nature’s DEI employee networks and the work of SN BEN, the Black Employee Network

DEI employee networks are at the heart of Springer Nature’s DEI approach connecting and supporting colleagues across the company. These networks currently include SN Pride, SN Women, SN Parents, SN Disability and Neurodiversity, SN Asian and Pacific Islanders Network, SN Black Employee Network, SN Jewish Employee Network, and SN Latin American Network. 

The DEI employee networks unite colleagues who share an identity with others who support them and who want to learn more about their perspectives and experiences. These colleagues build connections, raise awareness of important topics, and advocate for their communities. Springer Nature supports network projects and events with a robust governance structure, sponsorship by senior leaders, and advice and resources from the DEI team. 

One of the prominent employee networks at Springer Nature, the Black Employee Network aims to bring about visibility, opportunity, and parity for its members, globally. Established in 2020, the Network cultivates professional relationships amongst Black employees, implements outreach initiatives to develop a pipeline of Black talent, and works with relevant business areas to increase representation of Black employees at all levels within the company. 

Beyond these internal efforts, the Black Employee Network is strongly and organically rooted in the broader Black community and across the African diaspora. As such, championing equity in the wider scholarly publishing community is likewise a central priority of the Springer Nature Black Employee Network. 

Nature Masterclasses for HBCUs: Creating change from the inside out

The story of how the Nature Masterclasses for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) came to be illustrates the interconnectedness of internal and external DEI initiatives at Springer Nature, and how the DEI strategy as a whole can truly promote and cultivate change and impact. It likewise demonstrates the belongingness of members of the Black Employee Network to the community targeted with this extraordinary venture, which emerged from the personal experiences, histories, and networks of members.

Identifying and recognizing the crucial role of publishing for academics, and the particular challenges facing academics from the African diaspora in this process, led to the development of a unique initiative within the Black Employee Network: The HBCUs Nature Masterclasses. Launched in October 2021, this five-module workshop was specifically tailored for Black academics from HBCUs. 

The unequitable representation of African Diaspora in academia – and specifically in peer review and academic publications – led to the decision to focus on fortifying the editorial pipeline from the African Diaspora. Specifically, the workshop focused on authorship training and publication awareness activities and was facilitated by editors from Nature Cancer and Nature Immunology

The inaugural workshop welcomed participants from seven institutions: Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, North Carolina Central University, Spelman College and Xavier University of Louisiana. In November 2022, a new cohort of participating researchers was welcomed, also from new participating institutions, including Howard University, Cheyney University, Oakwood University and Texas Southern University.

Alongside additional activities targeting under-represented communities, Springer Nature’s Black Employee Network will seek to continue engaging with HBCUs and cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship with the communities it serves. The Nature Masterclasses for HBCUs initiative is an exceptional collaboration between the Black Employee Network and other colleagues in Strategic Partnerships and Nature Masterclasses, with funding from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. At the intersection of our internal DEI efforts to elevate our employees and our external mission to engage the communities we work with emerged a targeted initiative with a powerful agenda that truly promotes inclusivity and diversity and makes a real impact for all involved. 

Find out more about Springer Nature’s commitment to DEI, its strategies, and various actions already underway to achieve them.  

About the Authors:

Mimi Hendricks © Springer Nature 2023

Marilyn Anne McDonald Hendricks, known as "Mimi", is an Executive Licensing Manager at Springer Nature. In the past 17 years at Springer Nature, she has covered institutional sales in the Latin America and Caribbean regions, and now manages a College Market sales team of four covering the western US. She is the sponsor of the Springer Nature Black Employee Network, chartering President of the Springer Nature Toastmasters, chair of the HBCU Working Group, and member of the Steering Committee for Springer Nature’s United Nations Sustainable Development Goals programme.

Bernadette © Springer Nature 2023

Bernadette Bynoe Mack is an Account Manager in Institutional Sales (College Market) and has worked at Springer Nature for the past 13 years. Starting in Advertising /Commercial Operations she moved to the Institutional Sales Division in 2020. Currently Bernadette serves as the Global Co-Chair of the Employee Network, Former Network/Employee Representative on Springer Nature’s Global DEI Council, and Advising Member to the HBCU Working Group.


Author: Guest contributor

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