Wednesday 1 September 2021

Careers Come First

What the 2021 Wiley Society Member Survey tells us about careers and DE&I

By Dr Jonathan Roscoe, Partner Engagement, Wiley – Gold sponsor of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021

Career development, especially in academia, is never easy. Combine this with issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and some might say it’s more difficult than ever. We’ve seen over the course of seven Wiley Society Member surveys how important career success is to members, which is why every year the survey looks at how societies are helping their members with career development, and how satisfied members are with their society’s offerings. We’ve identified three main drivers of society membership: content, community, and careers with content usually being the front runner. However, this year we’ve seen careers increase in prominence and become arguably the leading reason for membership

The career support challenge

From a society perspective, members view career support as a top benefit of society membership. 44% of survey respondents across all disciplines told us they were satisfied with the level of support for promoting members’ careers, but this has been falling year on year. Given that, it seems clear that a strong careers support service, especially when combined with publishing ethics and a clear society mission, will not just win new members, but will engage and keep the members you’ve got. There are warning signs, however. 15% of those who left a society in the previous 12 months did so because of a lack of support for career advancement. It was the second most significant reason after ‘lack of professional value’, but even more significantly it resulted in a much lower than average satisfaction rating. Societies who put effort into their career offerings have a motivated, engaged, and loyal group of members. Those who don’t, risk losing members and maybe even their society reputation.

Careers for all

Last year, 62% of members told us that they were satisfied with the representation of members across genders, but this year that has dropped to 56%. There has been a similar fall in satisfaction with the representation of members across racial and ethnic groups too, down to 50% from 57%. The past year or more has seen the pandemic disproportionately impact certain members of the research community. The Brave New World research study supported by Wiley, confirmed similar findings. They found that the pandemic had increased gender disparity and highlighted racial inequalities, saying that 59% of responders had taken on additional household chores, 51% had taken on responsibility for home-schooling, 33% had dependent care, and 46% had other caring responsibilities. 

The study found that professional responsibilities had also increased with 53% spending more time on lecture preparation and planning and 48% spending more time supporting students. When broken down, however, the disparities are once again striking. Although those in the BIPOC community were less likely to report additional home-schooling responsibilities and care of dependents, they were more likely to have increased responsibility for household chores. Research was also impacted with 37% of Black responders saying they had less time to produce and consume research compared to 30% of white responders. Similarly, 45% of women said they spent less time on research compared to 37% of men. Indeed, 50% of women compared to 44% of men said they had increased caring responsibilities and 68% of women faced an increase in household chores compared to 55% of men. 

In the face of these increased and unequal pressures, career progression inevitably goes onto a back burner.

What societies can do

It is to be expected that in time, as the impact of the pandemic recedes, many of these additional responsibilities will reduce or disappear and societies can once again offer the career support their members so badly need. So, what can they do?

  • Create more opportunities for under-represented groups by increasing recruitment for prestige roles or by supporting scholarships and other initiatives 

  • Devise a career support service in tandem with open attitudes to research, strong support for publishing ethics, and a positive society mission that members can relate to

  • Make sure your leadership is representative. Change starts from the top. If members don’t see themselves reflected in the society leadership, then they won’t see the value of joining and career progression will stall

  • Ask what career service members want. According to the Wiley survey over a third of members have participated in a society survey and those that do show the highest membership satisfaction rates

  • Don’t just focus on early career researchers (ECRs). It may not be surprising that career support services are most used and valued by ECRs , but societies should find out why older and more experienced members aren’t participating – and if it even matters. If it does matter, ask questions to boost engagement with career offerings. What type of support are older members seeking?

It’s obvious that not all members will share the same set of values, but all members are looking for equal and fair career opportunities. Done correctly, the career support service societies offer can be the catalyst for positive change. Which is something everyone in academia wants. 

Wiley is a gold sponsor of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021. To find out more and book your place, visit the ALPSP event website.

Wiley is also running a Sponsor Satellite Session - Wiley Presents 2021 Society Member Trends on Thursday 16 September (12:00-12:45, BST). Read more details.

About the author

Dr Jonathan Roscoe, Partner Engagement, Wiley

Jonathan has worked in academic publishing since 1997 and is currently a member of Wiley’s partner engagement team focusing on society and member relationships. He has published extensively on the topic and writes a monthly blog for The Wiley Network. Jonathan also lectures on undergraduate and masters courses at Oxford Brookes University, where he’s also published on matters relating to book history.

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