Diversity, Inclusion, and J&J – An Interview with Brit Stamey

Diversity and inclusion are top of mind everywhere. National news stories have brought issues of race, gender, and other social categorizations to light and have forced institutions to reckon with the various ways they discriminate against people. Increasingly diverse workforces coupled with evolving cultural attitudes provide an open door for initiatives that seek to correct structural disadvantages. Despite working in an industry populated by kind and forward-looking people, we in scholarly publishing can see the need for action to make sure our reality represents our ideals.

At J&J, we have work to do to recognize and correct our shortcomings in these areas. Fortunately, many of our staff members are passionate about equity in our society, and no one represents this more than Brit Stamey, our Copyediting Services Coordinator.

When Brit isn’t managing J&J’s Copyediting division, working with the Council of Science Editors (CSE) as a member of the Professional Development and Programming committees, or chairing the CSE’s Short Courses on the Road subcommittee, she is acting as a force for social change in our industry. Brit is an active member of C4DISC, the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications, where she is currently serving on the Steering Committee as Treasurer. She is also a member of CSE’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and is a member of the ACES Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Brit has also brought these values home to J&J, where she has been instrumental in launching J&J’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council. The council’s rationale is as follows, as stated in its founding documents:

Purpose, Necessity, and Charge:

  • Promote inclusivity and belonging among all staff at J&J
  • Empower staff at every level and from every background to be involved in company culture and feel safe and supported to speak up and participate in company events and culture across all divisions
  • Act in an advisory role to all divisions and committees throughout the company
  • Attract and retain diverse candidates and look for culture adds

As the council approaches its very first meeting, I caught up with Brit to find out more about the council’s goals and process for making change happen.

Brit Stamey, Chair of J&J’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council

Hi Brit! I know you’re finalizing the roster for the inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council membership—can you tell us a bit about the process for selecting members?

We sent out an application that included some basic demographic information and, more importantly, space to explain why D&I (Diversity and Inclusion ) is important to them and how it impacts J&J. Anyone who has been at J&J at least 6 months is eligible to apply, and anyone not selected will be eligible again the next time we have a spot open. It was a very difficult selection process because the applications we got were all so phenomenal. I worked with our Client Managers and Executive Leadership Team to first evaluate all the application responses. We then choose a group of 7 applicants from the top contenders, ensuring they represent a variety of divisions, tenure at J&J, and roles at the company. We have such passionate and thoughtful employees, and I am honored to get to work with them on the first D&I Advisory Council!

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) seem very important to you. What drives you to take action in this space?

Something I think about a lot is a line from the Jewish text the Pirkei Avot: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either” (Rabbi Tarfon). I think we all have a responsibility to leave the world a better place than we found it. That could take the form of many different things, big or small, and DEI work is just one of the ways I try to fulfill that responsibility to leave my corner of the world in a better place. We also have a responsibility to realize that even if we can’t finish something, we aren’t excused from working on it.

What role do you see J&J’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council playing at J&J and perhaps in our industry or society at large?

Short term, I would like to see the council contribute to its own initiatives to make J&J more diverse and inclusive but also act as a resource to our current committees and management to make sure our policies, communications, and events are as inclusive as possible. There are a lot of projects the council will be narrowing down to focus on as we get started, including evaluating our involvement with C4DISC, creating or adopting a diversity and inclusion statement for the company, and evaluating what job boards and fairs we participate in.

Long term, I would like for the council to continue to be integrated into those aspects of the company internally and also feed into our society involvement and the best practices we already offer to our clients. Externally, our work already aims to help make the world a better place through science and the peer review process, but we know that there are serious shortcomings in diversity among author and reviewer pools as well as in patient populations. Clients already look to us for best practices for all aspects of scholarly publishing, but when it comes to things like inclusive language and reporting on demographics, I think we are poised to become leaders for our clients there too.

What advice would you give to other organizations who are thinking about taking action on diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Research (but not for too long), get started, and be ready to change course/correct yourself. It isn’t easy work and it can be discouraging, especially if you are just getting started. It can also feel like you are going to do something wrong—and you probably will. However, that worry can keep organizations from doing anything. How you deal with correcting mistakes is much more important than whether or not you make them, and doing something will be better than doing nothing as long as you are ready to change course if needed (and, again, as long as you have done some amount of research into what your organization needs).

I would also say not to just assume you have an inclusive workplace—ask your staff and be ready to act if they have concerns. Unfortunately, we all live in a society that is very flawed and biased, and all of our organizations exist as part of that. It doesn’t mean you are doing something malicious, but it does mean we need to be mindful and honest about the struggles we all face and that those struggles are very different depending on each person. Diversity can sometimes feel easier to quantify, but even if you have a diverse workforce, if you don’t have an inclusive culture, you won’t be able to keep great and diverse talent once you get them in the door.

Can you recommend some resources for those who would like to learn more about diversity and inclusion?

I have lots—probably too many! This is by no means exhaustive or even the tip of the iceberg, but these would be some good places to start and include a mix of work-related and more general topics. Some good programs to watch in case, like me, you don’t always want to read more after reading all day are The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (from PBS), Disclosure (on Netflix), and Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (on Shudder and Amazon).

If you would like to reach out to Brit to connect about diversity, equity, and inclusion, you can reach her at [email protected].

To ensure a diverse set of voices can be heard, we plan to interview other members of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council at J&J in future posts.

Article contribution by J&J’s Director of Business Development, Michael Casp.