Photo of Vicky Williams, CEO of Emerald Publishing

Vicky Williams

Vicky Williams became the first-ever female CEO of Emerald Publishing at the beginning of 2018. Emerald Publishing is an independent, family-owned academic publisher, proudly based in Yorkshire but with offices around the world.

Vicky has been nominated by her Marketing Director, Harriet Bell, who says “Vicky has made such an impact. Her goal is to build a diverse workforce that leads to better decisions, and empowers real change.

Academic publishing has long been characterized by a majority female workforce, male-dominated leadership, and a striking lack of diversity. Men are twice as likely as women to be in senior executive roles, and there is virtually no representation at senior levels from anyone identifying as black or from another other ethnic minority.”

Who has she helped?

“Vicky’s ethos is one of collaboration and partnership.  In 2018, Emerald partnered with an industry-wide Work Equity Project to publish a pioneering survey ‘Global Voices for Workplace Equity’ highlighting imbalances in global academic publishing.

A ‘hackathon’ with the ‘Women in Academia Support Group’, launched a website within 24 hours, providing a safer space for all women in academia to support each other, to build networks and to share knowledge.

Vicky set up an internal group ‘STRIDE’ in 2016 to empower colleagues to create a culture of diversity and inclusion.  Within two years, the group has grown to over 124 members (nearly half of our workforce), organised over 25 talks, and established an active online community, posting 150 times a week. It has a visible buzz in the business, with initiatives such as ‘women in tech day’ challenging gender-related perceptions of job roles.

Under Vicky’s leadership, Emerald ran its first global volunteering day on 20th September 2018 with staff across the world helping out in schools, charities, shelters, building fences and plastering walls. Staff at Emerald are also able to attend mental health awareness training and every year the company runs a Well Being week.”

What’s worked?

“Lots. We have 50/50 gender split at a senior level, men and women are paid the same for the same role (88% of men and 88% of women received a bonus last year), and we are an industry voice.

Anthea Stratigos, CEO and Co-Founder of Outsell said of a speech Vicky gave in New York in June ‘The work you are doing at Emerald is tangible and far ahead than any other company I have seen.  I applaud the work you are doing and the journey you are on – challenging us all to follow’.”

What have you learned? Any challenges?

“The power of sharing and co-creation leads to better solutions. It’s important to recognise the journey and that small steps, rather grand gestures, will make a bigger difference in the long run. Also remember the importance of authenticity and not being a slave to the metrics.  Finally, embrace inclusiveness in its broadest sense – don’t make it an issue just for the feminists.”

What’s next?

“Embedding key practices such as shared parental leave and flexible working, but it’s also enabling the next generation of business leaders and scholars to continue making a social impact. We are passionate about opening up communication to encourage learning, and knowledge.

In the last four years, over 3,000 articles Emerald published related to gender issues – but our goal is to go further, commissioning more ‘thought provoking’ research. Last year, two of our published books sparked debates in the House of Lords regarding gender and equality.”

What advice, contacts or resources would help?

“As Vicky puts it: “Emerald is on a journey here, but a positive one. We are committed to sparking debate and creating real change, but it doesn’t happen overnight or by acting alone.  It needs to be real, authentic and backed up by actions. There’s a lot more we can do, but we’re in good shape.”

Collaboration, knowledge sharing and support between mission-driven businesses and initiatives seeking to have positive social impact is so important.”

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