NEWS11 March 2020

Towards inclusive market research

Impact 2020 News Trends UK

UK – Our industry is too white, middle-aged and straight, said Ali Camps, deputy chairman of Quadrangle, as she opened the panel discussion on inclusion at the MRS Impact 2020 conference yesterday.

“We have a majority of women working in data and insight but the balance tips the other way in senior leadership. Pledges are being sighted but there’s a long way to go,” said Camps.

Her initial challenge to the panel was: is this focus on inclusion just a fad?

Dr Marie-Claude Gervais, co-founder and research director, Versiti said: “In terms of gender diversity – more people are self-identifying as LGBTQ+ etc so it’s an empirical fact that we’re more diverse. Identity and politics – it’s changing and it’s hard to know where it will go. I hope we don’t need to fight politically but don’t see that anytime soon.”

Melissa Gonsalves, director of strategic insight, Differentology said: “The biggest impact is technology and the ability to have a voice. Every single one of us can speak up – we can’t be silenced anymore, good or bad. So it’s not a fad.”

But there has not been enough serious action to instigate change, argued Kenny Imafidon, managing director and co-founder, ClearView Research. “Look up – look at the boards and investors. Until they take it seriously, it won’t change. It’s seen as strategy rather than crucial to the business. If you look up it’s male, pale and stale.”

Ella Fryer-Smith, freelance research consultant, is particularly concerned with the lack of social inclusion. “Social inclusion is the last taboo subject; we talk proactively about things but not class and intersectionality of income. Background is key barrier to progress. It’s uncomfortable; not many people in the industry are from lower classes.”

Camps questioned if we need to think about the difference between inclusion and representation. Are we at risk of misrepresenting diverse voices because we’re mostly white and educated?”

Gonsalves said: “Representation is paramount, no matter what the industry. Unless they can see, they won’t aspire. Representation is important for aspiration but has to start at the ground level.”

Imafidon added: “Authenticity sells but there are so many voices that are not heard we need to see data as human beings. Black African and Black Caribbean are very different. Things are based on assumptions they have no clue about.”

Fryer-Smith: “Everything is impacted by research so there’s no excuse. Make radical choices – there are diverse people in the industry, they need to be out and proud so people coming in can learn from them.”

And so Camps posed the questions of whether positive discrimination was necessary.

Gervais said: “Most empowered women often push back from quotas. We need quotas but education around it so it doesn’t backfire or there’s a backlash. And it’s positive action not positive discrimination.”

For Imafidon, how those within the industry can help others is crucial. He said having good mentors has given him the confidence to do the job and grow his team. “If your ultimate focus is excellence and best – we have an image of what good looks like but it’s a very narrow image of what good looks like. Go and spend time with people who are not like you.”

Gervais added “I’m dismayed that there’s still Coke ads and Peleton ads that are so off when it comes to inclusion. There’s a buzz but not enough insights. We need genuine expertise – not just why people think like that but where they are culturally and intellectually coming from.

“The more diverse a team, the better the quality of decision making. Teams that are diverse think they make worse decisions because the process of getting to the decision is harder.

The panel discussion closed with each member giving their top tips:

  • Imafidon: Find someone you don’t know or understand and spend time with them and ask questions.
  • Gervais: It’s reframing from diversity and toward inclusion. It’s not about ‘them’ but ‘us’. Don’t assume one size fits all.
  • Fryer-Smith: Encourage diversity, be proactive about it. If you’re from a diverse background be brave and be a role model.
  • Gonsalves: Recognise your privilege and make room for other that don’t have that.

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