Inclusivity and representation is, quite rightly, a hot topic across the Market Research industry. We see this reflected in the growing demand for research into previously overlooked, and sometimes niche, audiences. But the conversation feels different when we talk about how “we” need to change, encompassing hiring practices, our ways of working and the benefits offered.
Whilst companies are making changes in the industry, we aren’t necessarily as diverse, multicultural or as inclusive as we’d like to be. It’s a real challenge to provide insight that is accurate and representative when we have fewer people with lived in experience of the groups we are talking to and about. As an example, I recently attended a talk discussing the class system in the UK where the key finding was that the class system isn’t as relevant and there has been a convergence towards the middle (termed the “messy middle”). Whilst they raised some interesting points, as someone who grew up with a working-class background, I felt like my experience was less valid.
Research, as an industry in the UK, can feel quite male-dominated and led by people from certain, more privileged backgrounds. I couldn’t help but feel some of these findings were symptomatic of research created, run, and analysed from a class-aligned point of view rather than including other vantage points. If I felt like this…
how do minorities feel when they see research about themselves?
I’ve seen a lot of hiring practices across all job levels that make me wince. Such practices mean that the ‘door’ is closed to a lot of people who could bring fantastic insight and new ideas to the industry. When I first joined the industry, there was a lot of formality and ways of working felt really strict – no flexi time, in the office every day, suited and booted etc. and in spite of our efforts to change this, the perception still exists and it can be off-putting.
A job advertisement is your first introduction to a company or a role and it’s really difficult to balance key skills, nice to haves and the personality of the company. Whilst we’re better at debunking that Market Research is stuffy and formal, I think we have some ways to go in moving away from applications being a checklist followed by a cover-letter and CV, then a few rounds of formal interviewing. Why not open up more channels of applying, like video submissions, flexibility in requirements and telling people that we appreciate and value unique skills and perspectives?
We’ve had a lot of changes to the way we work in the industry, especially following the Black Lives Matter movement and post COVID. Calls for change usually take place in what we do best, Research into these topics, or workplace initiatives. And these are appreciated, but as someone who would consider themself as having some “quirks”, I’m also acutely aware that
there’s sometimes a rigidity in the industry that perhaps needs a shake-up
We have a lot of processes in the way we work with clients and people management that often sits separately from wellbeing initiatives.
There’s a lot of talk about differences being okay but less discussion on how to be adaptive to how we work as unique individuals. It is quite isolating and anxiety-inducing to advocate for how you need businesses to adapt to get the best out of you, especially if you’re not presented with choices in how adaptations can take place. For instance, some people may find long meetings uncomfortable – the solution could be more breaks or fidget toys. Or you could find formal meetings like appraisals or goal-setting difficult, could they take place during a walk outside your typical office environment? These things are important not only to retain talent, but also for longevity in a person’s career and overall happiness. It feels quite simplistic to say, but a lot of this starts with cultivating an ability to have choices, freedom and open conversation.
Representation and inclusivity matters; not just from a business perspective to customers but also to the people who work in our industry and to the people we speak to when we conduct our research. Differences can be uncomfortable, especially when it challenges your own way of working and thinking, but they are also a wonderful thing to have. As individuals we all have our differences, and they should be celebrated in an industry where our opinions and insight are driven by our experiences in life just as much as the data we collect.