International Women’s Day 2021: celebrating women in publishing at F1000

By f1000 March 8, 2021

To commemorate International Women’s Day 2021, we have taken the opportunity to reflect on the current landscape for women in publishing, as we invited four women from across F1000 to share their thoughts.

For this special feature, Rebecca Lawrence, Molly Cranston, Anna Curson and Hannah Murphy each discuss their own routes into publishing, highlighting challenges they have overcome, personal career highlights and what the future may hold for women in publishing.

To find out more about how the team at F1000 are continuing to celebrate and support International Women’s Day this year, check out our infographic as we #ChooseToChallenge gender bias and inequity >>

Rebecca Lawrence (RL), Managing Director

My role is as Managing Director of F1000 so it means I am responsible for the strategy for the organisation and making sure we fulfil our vision and mission, and then ensuring we deliver on the plan. My background right at the beginning was actually in music as a pianist! I then moved into science, first practicing as a qualified pharmacist before moving into research in cardiovascular pharmacology.

Molly Cranston (MC), Editorial Lead (Life Sciences)

I am the Editorial Lead (Life Sciences) for F1000. Along with my co-lead, Jess Torr (Editorial Lead (HSS)), I lead the prepublications team, one part of the editorial team. The prepublications team is responsible for processing articles submitted to F1000Research and our other white label platforms prior to publication. Most of the time I’m involved in co-ordinating the team and creating new policy/guidelines for the publishing platforms alongside other members of the editorial team; although I do like to keep my hand in with being on the front line and editing occasionally! My background is in Biomedical Science, and I have an MSc in Medical Parasitology; my dissertation for this concerned soil transmitted helminths. I started out as an Assistant Editor at F1000 and have worked my way up to Editorial Lead over the last 3–4 years.

Anna Curson (AC), Strategic Partnership Manager

I recently joined F1000 as a Strategic Partnership Manager with a focus on corporate clients and funders. My role involves looking at and building new partnerships for platforms and gateways on F1000Research, as well as looking at ways that we can enhance and develop the product or offerings to existing customers in a strategic way.

Hannah Murphy (HM), Head of Marketing

Hi, I’m Hannah. I am the Head of Marketing for F1000, responsible for making sure that the research community know who we are and what we do. I have worked in publishing for about 10 years, the last 2.5 for F1000.

How did you get started in publishing?

RL: I actually fell into publishing by accident! I was looking for a research job in the pharmaceutical industry and then saw a job advert for a Copyeditor for a review journal focussing on drug discovery. English was never one of my strong subjects at school so I really had little expectation that I would pass the copyediting test, never mind get the job! But when I met the team and also realised that the job would enable me to read the latest thinking in drug discovery from the leading experts in the industry rather than be focussed on research in one very narrow area, I realised this was a really exciting position to be in.

A little while later, I had two options for the next stage of my career: take a job that would be a stable position doing something I was already very familiar with but was a next step up, or jump into the complete unknown working with Vitek Tracz (Founder of F1000 and known throughout the industry as a pioneer in scholarly publishing) on a project which at the time, was completely undefined. It was also at a time when I was looking to start a family and so my head was telling me to take the safe option, but my heart (and thankfully my husband was incredibly supportive!) told me that I’d likely never get another opportunity like this and to take a leap – you only live once and if nothing else, it should be fun and I’d learn a lot. And I certainly have – it was an amazing experience working with Vitek.

MC: Like most individuals in publishing, I didn’t want to stay in academia and pursue a PhD after my Master’s, but I wanted to use my science background in my career. Editing/publishing seemed the perfect choice. I started with a job at a traditional publisher for a year, but realised it wasn’t for me. I then took a break to travel with my mum and when I returned, I started looking for other editing roles. F1000 stood out as being different to traditional publishers – in all honesty, I didn’t know much about open publishing, so I was thrown in the deep end with F1000!

AC: I originally did sciences at university and then went on to do a Master’s in science and technology policy. I then worked for a couple of years at an engineering firm before moving to the Wellcome Trust on one of their largest funding partnerships – building a particle accelerator with the UK Government. I joined them to work on the development and management of the project, including setting up the organisation to run it. I worked at Wellcome for 20 years before making the move to F1000.

I think what excited me about F1000 was the possibility to build on the work I did at Wellcome, to expand beyond the research funding to actually getting that research out there. It excited me that I could be involved with making knowledge and research accessible, embedding that knowledge within the research ecosystem so that everyone can have access to it and use it, and therefore ensure that we can get the most out of that research.

HM: I did an English degree so publishing was always an industry that I considered as a career, although I probably pictured Harry Potter more than Open Access initially! My first job in a publishing company was as a Conference Producer, and from there I moved through a number of different roles before finding my niche in marketing.

What challenges have you had to overcome?

RL: Balancing having kids and launching a new business certainly has been a huge challenge at times, and I’ve been incredibly lucky to have such an understanding and supportive husband who really believes in a balanced relationship, without whom I would never have been able to do this job or get to this position. There are though some family dates and events that I think have to remain sacrosanct to ensure you don’t miss the key events of family life and of the kids growing up.

MC: F1000 has been extremely supportive of my career and enabled me to take on a lot of responsibility in relatively short time, career-wise. Personally, I have difficulties with saying ‘no’ and taking on too much – burnout is very real, and I think that we need to be careful to not glorify overworking, particularly as women, when trying to prove ourselves in the workplace. So, I’m working on this, amongst other things!

AC: I had been at Wellcome for 20 years so moving to F1000, for me, has been a big change. It’s a new language to me and on top of that, joining somewhere virtually has been a challenge. So the combination of not knowing very much and having to work it out from a distance where you can’t just ask someone sat next to you, it’s all a little bit more formal, especially when you don’t know what you don’t know. I’m learning to get used to the unknown and unfamiliar and it helps that everyone is really friendly and welcoming!

What have been your proudest moments of your career so far?

RL: When Vitek first entrusted me with the project of developing and launching F1000Research, and then eventually becoming MD of all the F1000 companies.

Also, when we won the Open Research Europe tender bid as the whole team had worked so hard on the bid (twice!) and it really is game changing in terms of driving a shift towards open research publishing and the mission behind F1000.

AC: I think the things that I feel are real successes and that make me proud sit in two bundles. One is when people either directly in my team or who I have been mentoring or supporting in some way have gone on to get the next thing, particularly where they may not have thought it achievable for them, where they have really pushed themselves out of their comfort zone to take the next step and where I have played a small part in helping or encouraging them to do so.

The other thing I find really satisfying is when you have been working on something for a very long time and when it all finally comes together, like working on a partnership when everything is done and you finally sign on the dotted line. This may not be a specific moment, but it does bring satisfaction and pride!

HM: I think the moments in my career that I look back on with the most satisfaction are the ones where I took a risk: moving departments, moving countries, taking the lead on projects I didn’t feel 100% confident with. Things which felt scary and almost impossible at the time, but which taught me the most about myself and what I am capable of. I am particularly proud of the brilliant group of women (and men!) who I have worked with over the last year to build the F1000 marketing team as part of Taylor & Francis. In an extraordinary time, they have achieved incredible things.

What contributions or commitments do you feel that you’re able to make now to help women in publishing, or women who are considering publishing careers?

MC: Since I’ve had such a brilliant support system within F1000 who have trusted me and lifted me up (and still do), I hope that I’ll be able to do the same with women at F1000 (particularly in my direct team), and instil the values of helping others to forge careers that they are capable of.

AC: I would like to think of myself as a ‘Kingmaker’ rather than a ‘King’, so providing support and working things through with people so we can achieve success together.

HM: Publishing offers interesting, varied and challenging careers, and it attracts some incredible women. The people that I get to work with on a daily basis are one of the best things about my job. I do everything in my power to support the women around me to grow and succeed, and have been fortunate to experience the same support from others in return.

How do you think F1000 empowers women?

RL: Our senior management team is actually more women than men (6:2) and I think the fact that the essence of F1000 is about encouraging diversity of thought and equitability (in all regards) in research means that naturally, as a group of people very committed to the mission of F1000, we are inherently very inclusive. In addition, both within F1000, but also now as part of Taylor & Francis, there has always been a strong culture of flexibility and understanding of individual personal circumstances that enables and supports full diversity in all regards, and I think this is crucially important to maintain to support and empower everyone, whoever they are.

MC: The majority of the prepublications team (and editorial team) are women! It’s a great community to be a part of and we are all extremely supportive of each other. I think, for myself personally, seeing other women who are more senior than me allows me to aspire to those positions and think “yeah, I could do that one day!”.

HM: I would say that F1000 is a very supportive culture for women. We make up the majority of the senior team, and I have never seen my sex as a barrier to success in the organisation. The women I work with are confident, competent and respected as professionals, and I hope this comes across to the research community when they come in to contact with our team members.

What do you think is next for women in publishing? Where should we be steering the conversation from 2021 onwards?

MC: I hope women take on more senior roles within the publishing sphere, and also that more women pursue more senior roles in academia. Personally, academia wasn’t for me, and I didn’t leave it because I didn’t feel supported, but I know that there are women who do leave academia because of the environment. The aim should be to support women, especially in STEM, through all stages of academia. It would be great to have a higher percentage of articles, particularly in STEM, authored by women and with women occupying more senior authorship positions.

AC: COVID-19 has really changed things across all sectors, and I think we need to monitor the impacts this has in the future. We already know that the current climate is making things difficult for people coming out of university to secure jobs, so we need to be keeping an eye on whether there is a return to patterns of the past, for example men traditionally would have been more likely to put themselves forward for roles than their female counterparts, and with increased competition this could really affect who gets what in the next generation.

Similarly, there is already evidence of that women have been more vulnerable during the pandemic in terms of job security and earnings, as well as in terms of carrying the burden of home life and caring responsibilities. We need to keep talking about these things and think about what this might mean both now and for future generations.

I am not 100% convinced that increased flexibility always leads to greater equality and particularly equality of opportunity. I would like to be proven otherwise, but I worry that the longer-term impacts of COVID-19 and the adoption of more flexible working practices could actually make things harder for women and other marginalised groups. We need to monitor the impact – what type of working practices do individuals or groups adopt, and are some working practices rewarded more than others?

We need to think about what flexibility really looks like and how people may also be using their ‘free’ time to see whether we really are opening up more opportunities or not. It would be great if we could start to talk openly about these issues and track how things change as society reopens so that we can make sure we continue to make progress and don’t slip backwards.

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