The global inclusivity
report 2020

Introduction & rationale

As part of our ever-evolving understanding of what inequality feels like and how we may start to tackle it, we’ve commissioned a global report on inclusivity.

This is a small step in understanding the challenges people face and that we must face into in order to create a fairer, more inclusive society.

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The UN Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – which includes the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – has underlined social, economic and political inclusion as essential to sustainable global progress.

All 193 UN Member States have committed to the agenda, with governments, businesses and civil societies worldwide working towards a more inclusive, collaborative and fairer planet for all. To reach these ambitious goals, many complex and far-reaching challenges must be overcome, and the greatest minds in research and innovation will be required to pave the way.

At Emerald we have sought to advance the research community’s initial efforts to change attitudes towards inclusivity and help countries around the world meet their SDGs. In support, we have launched various publishing opportunities, including special open access issues and supplements, as well as open research articles that align to six of the SDG themes:

  • Healthy lives
  • Responsible management
  • Sustainable cities
  • Education & learning
  • Digital world
  • Sustainable food systems

We are always looking to do more to champion under-represented groups and this includes publishing content that reflects the full tapestry of our communities, ensuring that our editorial boards, authorship and case studies are as diverse as the populations they are created for. We also strive to ensure all of our business activities have a diverse representation.

True voices

We recognise that we must work even harder to ensure our content, editorial boards and authorship represent all areas of society and all the groups within it. We are doing everything we can to amplify work that embraces difference, while also recognising that real change needs a whole host of perspectives. In addition, we have committed to not supporting, sponsoring or working in partnership with organisations that do not uphold these vitally important values.

As an employer, we are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. In 2016, we launched our workplace gender and diversity initiative – STRIDE – to promote inclusion and gender diversity. Placing it at the heart of our business agenda has led to more females in senior positions; we now have a male–female board ratio of 4:3 and our senior management breakdown has reached a zenith of 50/50.

While we are proud of our gender equality milestones at Emerald, we also acknowledge that, as a company, we still have much to accomplish when it comes to diversity in its broadest sense and also across support sector wide change

In line with this work and our commitment to impact, in early 2020 we commissioned three surveys exploring academic and public views on inclusivity and the extent to which research is important in achieving this goal.

The results of these surveys are presented in this report, along with supporting commentary from academics and the research community. Here, we discuss:

  • the meaning of inclusivity
  • the barriers to it
  • the benefits of an inclusive society; and
  • how it can enhance a workplace.

We also shine a light on the perceived role of academia in overcoming the challenges to inclusivity and possible actions for change.

Why, who, when & what…


As a global publisher, Emerald operates in 130 countries. We’ve been representing researchers from across worldwide communities for five decades.

Now, more than ever, we believe that research is most impactful when a diverse range of voices is included. Regardless of race, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, income or anything else, individuals deserve equal representation and for their voices to be heard.

As part of our ever-evolving understanding of what inequality feels like and how we may start to tackle it, we’ve commissioned this global report. It’s a small step towards understanding the challenges people face and reconciling what we must do to create a fairer, more inclusive society. 

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals’ pledge is to ensure ‘no one is left behind’, so this is an area of significant focus for the research community, in order to be the catalyst for real change and a more inclusive society.

We commissioned this report primarily to crystallise the research community’s perceptions of inclusivity, including what they viewed as the benefits of it, and barriers to it. We also wanted to establish the role of academic research in bringing about a more inclusive society. In addition, these views were compared to the UK/US public surveys.


In total, an electronic questionnaire was sent to 132,241 researchers from a random selection of Emerald’s Literati in 188 countries worldwide. 1,055 people in 202 countries completed the academic survey; meanwhile, the data from the general public came from 1,000 people both in the UK and US.

Where samples are greater than 70, individual country or regional views are displayed.

See a full breakdown of respondents

The academic survey was a truly global project, yielding data, observations, opinions and commentary from all over the world. The public surveys, which included a different set of questions, were conducted solely in the UK and US. Therefore, data was included only where it could be contrasted with the academic survey.


The surveys were completed between 6–26 March 2020.

It is worth noting that the public surveys were conducted prior to the global pandemic and the academic survey took place before the killing of George Floyd. Due to the gravity of these events, it is logical to conclude that they would have had some bearing on the results, had the surveys been launched today.


In this report, we present the main findings of our survey; people’s perceptions of inclusivity; the benefits of and barriers to an inclusive society; the role of academia in furthering inclusivity; and the proposed actions for change.   

At a glance: Emerald survey summarised

Meaning of life

Inclusivity is seen through a variety of prisms, is highly complex and means a host of different things to different people.

92% ALTOGETHER DIFFERENT The biggest benefit academics saw was promoting different ways of thinking (92%), though worryingly 13% saw no benefit at all, with supporting comments suggesting a small minority felt inclusivity could lead to mediocrity.
90% CLEAR MAJORITY 90% of academics agree that being 'inclusive for all’ is important in society and the workplace.
86% PRIORITIES RIGHT? 86% of academics ranked inclusivity as important to them personally, but they didn’t feel it was quite as important to their ‘institution’ (68%) and ‘academia in general’ (64%), while half thought it was important to ‘funders’.
67% LESSONS IN LIFE The need for more knowledge exchange was cited as the single biggest challenge within academia (67%) when looking at helping to build a more inclusive society for all, followed by interdisciplinary collaboration (60%) and a lack of inclusivity within academic culture (55%)
61% BUILDING BLOCKS 61% of academic respondents rated ‘Poor decision making by policy makers’ as a prevention to society becoming more inclusive. This was followed by ‘A lack of willingness of people to change’ (58%) and ‘A lack of people being aware of the issues’ (45%).
61% UK CLASS CEILING Class was rated as the fourth biggest factor globally, but in the UK nearly 61% of academics cited it as a major issue, with Asia being the only other region of the world where class and discrimination was in the top three of issues cited.
60% LEADING TIMES Academics cited ‘biases in recruitment or promotions’ (60%) as the main barrier to a fair and inclusive society, followed by ‘manager or leadership attitudes’ (57%) and ‘too much pressure – career progression’ (46%). ‘Not enough mentoring’ wasn’t far behind with 42%. This indicates systemic flaws in the academic system, which hold back progress rather than refer to the broader societal issues of gender, age and racial discrimination.
60% POOR CHOICE Poverty was cited by 60% of academics as the strongest barrier to inclusivity (although the general public’s view differs, particularly in the UK where it wasn’t seen as a major issue). It was followed by race/ethnic discrimination (58%) and gender discrimination (49%). 
43% IMPACT STATEMENT 43% of academics agreed that real-world impact was of high importance when designing their research and 33% said it was the main goal.

Report infographic

  • Importance placed on inclusivity
  • How we define inclusivity
  • Benefits of inclusivity
  • Top societal issues
  • Top societal issues by region
  • Top workplace issues
  • Role of research in achieving an inclusive society
  • What could academia do differently?
  • More funding aligned to SDG Goals for inclusivity?
  • What role should publishers play?

 Download PDF (234 KB)

What's in the report?

The report contains 9 sections as well as this introduction; use the grid below to navigate, or click to go to the next section.

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