Barbara Meyers Ford: The Qualities of Inspirational Women in Publishing #WiSTEMspotlight
As part of Digital Science’s celebrations for Ada Lovelace Day, for the month of October we are running a series of blog posts where inspiring women and men in STEM are sharing their personal stories. Anyone can get involved and we encourage you to read and share your thoughts using the hashtag #WiSTEMspotlight.
Not too long ago, our Vice President of Publisher Business Development, Adrian Stanley, interviewed (Part one & Part two) publishing veteran, Barbara Meyers Ford, about her career, changes in the industry, and the future of scholarly publishing.
To celebrate and support Ada Lovelace Day, Barbara has written a post inspired by a question posed to her by a Linkedin connection.
What qualities do you think are integral to become an inspiring woman in publishing, and do you have any tips you might advise to get there? Francesca Lake, Managing Editor (Open Access), Future Science Group and member of the STM Association’s Early Career Committee.
Thank you, Francesca, for a most appropriate question for me to answer on Ada Lovelace Day. First, I’d like to view this topic in light of a dictionary definition such as this one from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary:
Inspirational – making you feel hopeful or
Second, as our colleagues in London are doing, I also want to recognize Ada Lovelace and the women who proclaimed a day in her honor. Ada Lovelace, according to various published sources, was the first computer programmer (male or female), and thus, an appropriate inspiration to support the less-than-ubiquitous acknowledgment of women’s contributions to all the STEM fields – that lack of acknowledgment is just one of the many challenges which have overshadowed women’s contributions. In the 1970s, this was summed up as being the need for a woman to be four times better than a man to be considered half as good – the residual of that attitude is still with us. The fact that we need to construct a day to highlight achievements by women in STEM or they risk (nay, possibly would) going unnoticed, says much about how far (or how little) we have progressed.
But that’s what makes women like Ada Lovelace, and those who have followed similar paths in life, so very inspirational. If you research the personality traits associated with being inspirational, you will find a plethora of articles defining those characteristics. Collectively, they highlight these aspects:
- An unerring positive attitude
- A commitment to a cause/communal good along with a vision of the future
- An inner compass which is not swayed by public opinion
- Sound communication skills encompassing listening as a key component
- Readiness to embrace change as well as being creative and innovative
- A resilient and persistent attitude
- Making others look outside themselves in order to become part of a larger whole
As I read the various authors’ discussions of inspirational personalities, I began to think of ways that I, and other women close to me, have displayed several of these characteristics with Francesca’s emphasis on our publishing industry. All of us have maintained a positive energy that I believe has been the basis of consistent encouragement to others.
Another commonality is our commitment to the concept of life-long learning. Continual curiosity is infectious and also magnetic in the types of people with whom we have a mutual intellectual respect. As for me, the basis for much of my professional life is innovation. My involvement with the Innovation Guide project and the early adaptors (versus adopters) of scholarly communications, from the single print format to the multimedia of today, set me on a path based on continual change. Many of the innovations which we now take for granted can be attributed to the inspirational leadership of women publishing professionals. One cannot stay static in our field as it has been morphed by the application of technology to every process. Colleagues (male and female) can attest to our persistence and the fact that once committed to a goal, none of us gives up easily.
But in my mind, it is the ability to view our industry in the context of its history (past, current, and potential future) with all the ups-and-downs across the years that would make a woman truly inspirational. The women I know in publishing and in all fields connected by scholarly communications who would be considered thought leaders, do exactly that. And that type of attitude embraces all of the other traits I’ve cited here.
Now, if one takes the concept of being inspirational and considers it as being commonly displayed through the act of mentoring, I think I can offer some additional worthwhile comments. At this point in time, mentoring has become a major focus for the Society of Scholarly Publishing (SSP), as for all of the membership organizations serving the field of publishing. There are 5 types of mentoring models in the business arena as outlined in “Business Mentoring Matters”:
- One-On-One Mentoring
- Resource-Based Mentoring
- Group Mentoring
- Training-Based Mentoring
- Executive Mentoring
As a community, we need to explore the potential of each type of mentoring in order to make an impact on an industry-wide basis. In light of Francesca’s question, however, my focus is one-on-one mentoring. To be someone’s mentor requires a generosity of spirit; coupled with that trait, one must cultivate a genuine desire to leave a legacy through the advancement of others. Motivation by demonstration (aka setting an example) has come to be recognized as one of the most powerful of all mentoring approaches. There are many more characteristics of a good mentor -the FLICC (Federal Library & Information Center Committee) Human Resource Working Group lists 27.
Another tip is to find someone whom you can emulate – especially in learning how to develop your professional network. When I entered scholarly publishing four decades ago, networks were built through corridor conversations at professional meetings, followed by reinforcing those initial connections with new meetings and working together on boards and committees. The latter still an excellent way to cultivate a thriving network. The ability to maintain communications received a tremendous boost from the advent of email, which has continued to be enhanced with each new innovation and has become ubiquitous through social media. To that end, I invite early career professionals (women and men) to send me a LinkedIn invitation and share what aspects of a mentor they have found to be most inspirational.
Finally, I haven’t seen the concept of reciprocity expressed outright in all of my readings on the subject. My major life inspiration is this: if you take from the land, you must give back to the land. Each of us needs to find a way to give back and make it a part of our lives.
Thanks for reading!