March 8th marks International Women's Day (#IWD2019), a day to raise awareness of and celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and calls for gender equality. It has been an officially marked day in the United Nations calendar since 1975 and each year there’s a theme. This year it is #BalanceforBetter: a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world.
Targets to drive a better balance
The theme of this year’s IWD couldn’t be more relevant to us. Last month, Springer Nature’s management board announced to our 13,000 colleagues that we will set a target to improve gender representation in our leadership group. Of the most senior leaders at SN today, 39% are female. Our target is for that figure to be at least 45% by 2023.
We have chosen to monitor the top three tiers of leadership, a global group of just over 300 people, that has relatively low turnover compared with the organisation as a whole. A 6% increase in representation of women in five years is ambitious, but achievable. Monitoring ourselves against the target over the next few years will help us to understand whether we are taking the right actions to ensure that our pipeline for internal recruitment is strong and unbiased, and that our recruiting principles are fair and gender neutral. To support our delivery of the target, we have also launched hiring principles and a D&I recruitment checklist for hiring managers. These are just two initiatives amongst many others announced over the past two years since we started to create a more focused strategy for diversity and inclusion at Springer Nature - a process that will continue to develop this year.
Shining a spotlight on inspirational women
As IWD has approached, I’ve been thinking about why days like this are important, as ways of raising awareness, galvanising us around an issue, sparking conversations and inspiring action. It’s clear that for the past 44 years IWD has done exactly that and within Springer Nature each year I’m delighted to hear about how colleagues around the world are celebrating IWD or using it as a way to share challenges and consider where further change might be needed.
This year, as always, we have a number of events and activities to mark the occasion. Inside the company, today we are launching SN Women, our new global Women’s Network intended to provide a forum to promote gender equality and support self-defining women across Springer Nature to achieve their personal and professional ambitions. The network aims to push for balance by empowering and inspiring women, sharing knowledge and insights across the company and building a real community to drive cultural change. The group has plans for events and internal campaigns throughout 2019.
We’re also taking the opportunity to showcase for IWD some of the content that we have published about inspirational women in science:
See our Women in Science page to find out more.
We’ve also just launched the second Nature Research Awards in Innovating and Inspiring Science, in partnership with Estée Lauder. These awards, held for the first time in 2018 recognise excellent early-career female scientists, and individuals or organisations that have led grassroots initiatives to support increased access to STEM for girls and young women around the world. You can read about last year’s inspirational winners here and find out more about this year’s awards here.
We have our own inspirational scientists within Springer Nature and many have a real personal passion for encouraging the next generation of exceptional women in science. Each month around twenty women from our London office visit Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school to provide mentoring support to girls considering whether to pursue further study of a career in science. This project came about through our involvement in Urban Partners - a business and community partnership of which I’m a proud board member.
Celebrating around the world
One of the things I love most about working for Springer Nature is its extensive international reach. Sharing what we have in common - and the different challenges we are faced with - is an important part of IWD.
I have been struck by the different ways that IWD is celebrated in our offices around the world. In India and China there are special celebrations and it’s quite common for female colleagues to receive gifts and for some to take take time out of the office to enjoy this special day. In South Africa, Woman’s Day is celebrated on August 9th and commemorates the 1956 march of women of all races, to challenge the perception that “a woman's place is in the kitchen”. The past year has seen the celebration of 100 years of suffrage for many women in a number of countries including Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia and the UK.
The symbolic marking of these historical events helps us to understand both the challenges that women have faced in the past - and indeed the sacrifices many made to achieve progress - and how far we have come since then.
Each year, international women’s day gives us the opportunity to review, reflect and restate our commitment to creating a #BalanceforBetter