NEWS18 November 2020

Discrimination still ‘commonplace’ in market research

News People Trends UK

UK – Discrimination and inappropriate behaviour is still “commonplace” in the market research sector, according to a report on diversity, inclusion and equality from MRS, Kantar and Versiti. 

The report, Diversity, inclusion and equality in the market research sector, was based on a survey of 470 participants carried out between 20th August and 13th September.

A majority of the researchers surveyed said they had experienced or witnessed discriminatory and/or inappropriate behaviour at work in the previous 12 months.

The most common experiences of workplace discrimination personally experienced by researchers surveyed were feeling undervalued compared with colleagues of equal competence ( 36%), colleagues taking sole credit for shared efforts ( 31%), regularly working on tasks below their skills or pay ( 31%) and being unfairly spoken over or not listened to in meetings ( 30%).

Researchers also reported being made to feel uncomfortable in the workplace ( 22%), being passed over for promotion ( 21%), experiencing demeaning language, stereotypes, insults and other hurtful comments ( 16%) and being excluded from events ( 11%).

More than half of respondents believed that people from LGBTQ+ backgrounds, women and members of all faiths were able to progress fairly at work.

However, a minority of participants (fewer than 50%) believed that everyone in the sector has the same opportunities to progress regardless of their social class, caring responsibilities (family status), national origin, ethnicity or race, disability or age.

The report recommended organisations should listen and understand the views of their staff using data and insights, set a vision and track the organisation’s progress in achieving it, review processes and examinine inequities caused by Covid-19.

The research project also focused on ‘intersectionality’, which covers the cumulative impact of different types of discrimination on one individual, such as being female and also a member of a minority ethnic community.

The report compared the experiences and perceptions of three ‘types’ of researcher to explore intersectionality: white, male, straight and able-bodied; white, female, straight and able-bodied; and those who belong to any ‘visible minority’ community (based on ethnicity, faith and/or disability).

Compared with their white British colleagues, researchers from an ethnic minority background are less positive on measures of workplace inclusion – of those surveyed, just over half ( 51%) reported a sense of belonging, compared with 76% of white respondents.

Speaking to Research Live, Marie-Claude Gervais, author of the report and research director at Versiti, said that the findings showed there was a lot of work that still needed to be done in the sector in ensure equality of opportunity for all staff.

“The focus should be firmly on improving ethnic minority representation and career progression, and on addressing the gender and ethnic minority pay gap,” she said.

“It is not acceptable that, given the same number of years of experience, men should earn significantly more than women (£15,500, on average over the year ending April 2020 ) and white British people should earn significantly more than their ethnic minority colleagues (£12,213, on average over the year ending April 2020 ).”

However, Gervais highlighted the progress made by the industry in driving acceptance of people from LGBTQ+ backgrounds.

“While many continue to experience and witness stereotypes and insults about gay people, the majority report feeling welcome, valued by their colleagues and having a sense of belonging at work,” she said.

“They also tend to earn more than their straight colleagues. It is worth exploring how lessons can be learned and replicated to support our ethnic minority colleagues in a similarly positive way.”

MRS appointed a diversity council last month to advise on inclusion policies, and the report recommended using initiatives like awards and staff networks for ethnic minorities to help support diversity in the industry.

Jane Frost, chief executive of MRS, said: “I have always said that the sector that is meant to shed light on society must reflect its make-up. This report confirms that we still have work to do and now is the time to double down on the plans we set in motion following our first piece of research in 2018.

“This year has shown us that people are growing frustrated with slow-moving institutions that fail to evolve – MRS and the research sector will not be one of them.”

Babita Earle, chair of the MRS Diversity and Inclusion Council, said: “This report provides clear evidence that the current state of play is not good enough and the market research sector has a lot of work to do in ensuring equal opportunities for all.

“We need to be a sector that represents the society we serve, which is also crucial in delivering high-quality insights for our customers.”

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