Katie McQuater - ResearchLive Editor
UK – The research industry must get ‘uncomfortable’ and better at promoting itself to truly become inclusive, according to a panel discussion.
Conversations about diversity in the industry tend to focus on getting a ‘seat at the table’, but Momo Amjad, strategic researcher at The Future Laboratory, said a different approach is needed.
Speaking at the virtual event organised by Colour of Research (CORe) earlier this week ( 28th October), Amjad said:
“I think we should smash up the table – it dictates who gets to sit there and it will continue to do that.
“A lot of privileged people act like they have to ‘fix’ the problem of diversity and inclusion. It’s not a problem that has an end. Inclusion should be an investment. Businesses should not just be making their workplaces inclusive – they should be making workplaces accessible and look at what they are doing to prioritise marginalised voices in the team.”
This year, the Black Lives Matter movement has prompted more companies across industries to make commitments on diversity and inclusion.
However, businesses should ask themselves whether they are addressing the problem of white supremacy or hiding away from it because it is “too complex or uncomfortable”, added Amjad. “We need to be aware of our privilege so we can manipulate it to the benefit of others.”
When asked what diversity ‘looks like’ for businesses, Alison Camps, partner and deputy chair at Quadrangle, said: “Diversity means not seeing ‘mini-mes’ all around you. That can express itself in a number of ways – gender, race, sexual orientation, social status, education, ability.”
Camps also discussed privilege, saying that diversity means understanding your privilege as a leader and “not exploiting it”.
The process of trying to improve diversity within an organisation is supposed to create discomfort for those in charge, argued Camps. “If it doesn’t feel uncomfortable you’re probably not doing it right. It means you’re not being challenged. You’re not thinking about things differently or seeing things differently. You need to be in that place of discomfort.”
The research industry has historically predominantly recruited candidates with a degree, but recruiter Katariina Hannelius said that a range of different backgrounds is now needed.
“Traditionally in market research, many companies have been really stuck – whether project manager or research exec, you need a university degree. They want certain degrees – a 2:1 or above. We need to look at the companies as a whole – the message needs to come from the top and be layered down to hiring managers. You can’t keep moving the same talent pool around – you need new talent.”
Agencies also need to be clearer about the benefits of a career in research and be better at promoting themselves, Hannelius said.
“As an industry, market research is really not clear for outsiders. This is where I would start from, because we need to get the interest of new talent.”
To do this, Hannelius advocated that companies work with colleges, secondary schools and youth centres to promote research as a career and reach new prospective hires, as well as taking steps such as making their company values clear and well-represented.
Louise Maycock, head of talent at Ipsos Mori, said companies need to consider their “brand” as an employer.
“How are you showing up as an employer? Do people want to work for you? Do people see who looks like them and are they going to feel included?”
She agreed that the industry should change its approach of only employing graduates and “level the playing field” for recruitment. “Yes, keep those doors open – but open them for others, too.”
Ipsos Mori removed the requirement for new candidates to have a 2:1 degree last year. “We asked the board 'why do we need a 2:1? Why does that make someone a better researcher?’ We do cognitive testing now to show people’s potential.”
Maycock added that actions such as the establishment of an industry apprenticeship are key to bringing people with a diverse range of backgrounds into market research.
Recruiting ‘diverse talent’ shouldn’t be a tickbox exercise. Shannie Mears, head of talent at The Elephant Room, said: “There are people who are just incredible at what they do and they don’t want to be classed as ‘diverse’ talent.”
Mears also said organisations should immerse themselves in a wider range of platforms to engage with prospective new hires. “You can’t expect talent to just find you, you need to infiltrate those communities and promote the role. We’re not all starting from the same place – a lot of talent will go on to company websites and if they see that the team is not diverse, they will self-select out.”
In response to an audience question on blind CVs, Amjad said agencies must first ask themselves why they are taking that approach. “A lot of agencies do blind CVs and think they’re done. What you’re asking people to do is erase their heritage and identity from CVs – that creates a culture of assimilation, it does not diversify your culture.”
Companies could instead think about how diverse their shortlist is prior to interview stage and invest in making the interview process itself more accessible, for example for neurodiverse candidates, she said.