Jan Gooding, global inclusion director at Aviva, has been named as the new President of MRS at Impact 2017. Jan's new role will come into effect in April 2017.  This is her opening speech for the conference.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to say a few words. I am absolutely delighted to be joining as your new President. And particularly proud to be following in the footsteps of Dame Dianne Thompson, who has been such an inspiration to all women who have aspired to have senior positions at work.


I have to say that throughout my career getting my hands on trustworthy data and insight has been crucial. It helps to explain where you are. How you may have got there. And what viable options there may be to move forward.

I have just started a new role at Aviva as Global Inclusion Director. The first request from the Chief People Officer was to commission a piece of qualitative research to find out what colleagues at Aviva would describe as the ‘Stones in their Shoes’ when it came to our HR processes and interactions with the people function. Whilst I have always resisted the idea of an internal customer to describe the relationship between departments I was impressed that before reviewing her global organisation she was making sure she had a different and independent perspective to help shift thinking and possible options.

We all know as practitioners that you can’t change attitudes and behaviour without getting under the skin of what people do, and the mindset that prompts it.

When I joined the board of Stonewall as a trustee I quickly learned that a key success factor to the impact they have had over the last 28 years - was their evidence based campaigning. They can tell you that 25% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are not ‘out’ to their work colleagues. They know that 86% of secondary school and 45 per cent of primary school teachers still say that pupils in their school, regardless of sexual orientation, experience homophobic bullying. It helps to tell a story that may challenge what any of us can experience first hand and believed to be the case.

On the subject of inclusion, I am delighted that my arrival coincides with your own review of the diversity of the research industry which I understand will be followed up with a relevant campaign. I remember reading about Jessica Mitford’s brief time working in the market research industry in 1930’s -describing it as ‘considered to be slightly above selling or office work. Attracting co-workers who were all women between the ages of 25 and 45, ex chorus girls, the wives of businessmen, friends of copywriters and aspiring newspaper reporters.’

Clearly a lot has changed with regard to the diversity of people engaged in the industry. But we all know that no-one is able to say that their sector or company is completely inclusive. You are no exception - and its important that you put some energy into addressing the issues that have been uncovered, working from your strengths, so you never doubt your ability be insightful about the people you profess to understand.

Certainly at Aviva we find it difficult to be amongst the 50% FTSE 100 companies with no black or minority ethnic board members. There is more and more transparency and reporting on the make-up of people working in both the public and private sectors. It seems that once again equality is back on the agenda. Not from the perspective of ethics but because working with people who are different to us, on any dimension, makes us better at what we do, and the cost of trying to fit in and be someone you are not is too high. It’s about good old fashioned productivity improvements, as well as improving the collective intelligence and problem-solving capability in our companies.

McKinsey’s, The Wall Street Journal, The FT and The Economist have published endless evidence making the case for the positive business impact of diverse and inclusive workplaces. I am delighted that you are all taking stock of where you are, and more importantly what you intend to do to make change.

At a time when the President of the most powerful economy in the world questions what we would generally regard as truth, and calls it false – the whole idea of what counts as ‘reliable evidence’ is called into question.

The standards that you set and follow as an industry, the education and training provided, the constant challenge and debate conducted through the MRS Conferences like today, and the generous sharing of best practice case studies really matters. When I was a graduate I was taught to put my ‘sources’ on any presentation I did. It is something that I can see coming very much back in fashion.

I really mind about it. That is why I became Chair of PAMCo and am overseeing the complete reform of the joint industry currency for publishers – to provide transparent, objective and accountable data so advertisers know the value of what they have paid for.

If actions speak louder than words then I hope the fact that I am standing here wanting to be part in MRS tells you that I am here because I believe this organisation, very ably led by Jane Frost, and all its work is very important.

I hope you continue to enjoy the day...

Read the announcement: Jan Gooding will be new MRS President

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