FEATURE13 January 2016

Gender identity

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Data collection needs to reflect people’s views on their own gender identity – which may not correspond with their biological sex, explains Dr Michelle Goddard.

The Market Research Society (MRS) issued its first Code of Conduct for the research industry in 1954. Since then, we have led the way, with high ethical standards that place the wellbeing of research participants and the integrity of their data at the centre of the research process. As MRS celebrates its 70th year, it is timely that our research community maintains its positions at the forefront of societal change by encouraging approaches to recording of demographic information that cover gender identity. 

Traditionally, researchers collected demographic information on biological sex with a standard ‘male’, ‘female’ (and perhaps ‘prefer not to say’) options. This approach must now change. All research participants need to feel equally valued and satisfied that their voice is being heard. Allowing participants to express their views in the way that they prefer is explicitly set out in the MRS Code of Conduct – and this also applies to describing their gender. So researchers should take steps ...