This article was written by Judith Staig on behalf of the MRS DI&E Council, founder of ContentWrite. It is sponsored by:



So. Farewell then, 2021. It’s that time again: the end of the calendar year offers us an annual opportunity to look back and reflect, to celebrate what we have achieved and to plan for the next twelve months.

The MRS DI&E Council, chaired by Babita Earle, met at the end of November to do just that. It’s been a year since the publication of the 2020 survey, which included some sobering findings on the state of diversity and inclusion in the sector, not least the “important and consistent disparities in the perceptions and experiences of older, white, straight and able-bodied men compared with those of women and researchers with protected characteristics.”

This finding informed the four goals, below, that the Council set for 2021, the primary one of which was to drive accountability from the top of the industry by setting out to get more companies to sign the Inclusion Pledge.  The Council has worked towards these goals in partnership with many other organisations and individuals, including the members and leaders of industry groups and networks MRSpride, WIRe and CORe, as well as the newly formed MRS Unlimited.

How did we do against 2021 goals?

Get 100 sign-ups to the CEO pledge. This time last year only 25 companies had signed up but now we have 60, which is a fantastic achievement, but still falls short. Even getting to 60 signatories took a lot of hard work from the team and others in raising awareness of the Pledge and developing a CEO Toolkit and Buddy Scheme to help bring more companies on board. The Pledge will remain a key focus for 2022 as accountability from the top is a necessary foundational step to instigate permanent change throughout our industry.  The CEO panel discussion between signatories that took place early in 2021 was key in helping others to understand the value of the Pledge; a similar event is planned for 2022.

Improve the proportion of people who feel included in the industry. One of the most worrying statistics in the 2020 survey was that only 9% of ethnic minority researchers believe that they are treated fairly and have the same opportunities as other colleagues. The next diversity and inclusion survey is planned for early 2022 and, until we have results, we can’t comment on whether we’ve been able to shift this metric. But there has been a lot of work done this year and we can only hope that these efforts will have started to have a positive effect on the daily lives of people working in the industry. For example, we were proud to call Impact 2021 the most diverse conference ever and we have produced a range of events such as the MRS Unlimited festival and the MRSpride trans insight summit. A new group has been formed to focus on social inclusion, and there will be more activity around this next year.  And in addition, the DI&E Council pages of the MRS website have become a great source of resources and practical help for all challenges and questions around diversity and inclusion.

Improve the proportion of diverse talent in industry. This is obviously an ongoing process but we can report on the efforts that have been made to drive this forward. The MRS has partnered with the 10,000 Black Interns programme and 25 companies in the sector have signed up, taking on 100 interns. We’ve also set up an apprenticeship programme, which will be further developed over the coming year and will offer a new route for young people from diverse backgrounds to join the sector. In addition, MRS &more, the young researchers’ network, is working with the Council to look at how we communicate with universities and attract a wider range of graduates to the industry.

Improve how we measure progress and celebrate our achievements. One of the main initiatives that we have launched this year is around measurement: the Representation in Research steering group aims to ensure that minority groups are appropriately represented in research samples for both quantitative and qualitative research in line with the national landscape in the UK. The group is working on a combination of qualitative and quantitative research projects that will be used to inform a series of MRS reports on this topic.  We’ve also done a lot to celebrate our achievements, such as producing great content for the website, and ensuring realistic representation of people from diverse backgrounds in the Impact conference, the Research Heroes and the MRS Awards.

Our proudest moments

At the meeting, members of the Council shared the achievements that they have been most proud of in 2021 and their hopes for 2022, which included the following:

“I am most proud of how we have come together as a team and put down some great foundations. I’d also like to recognise the work that Babita Earle has put in to bring structure and focus to the team. My hope for next year is that we don’t try to do too much but that we focus on the areas where we can have the greatest effect, to make 2022 a year of action that builds on those strong foundations.” Caroline Frankum, Global CEO of Kantar Profiles

“We have much to be proud of. When we started the Council, lots of businesses weren’t even thinking about diversity and inclusion. I think the whole industry is aware now and many firms are addressing the issue from the top down as well as the bottom up, which is a huge achievement. For next year, given that many businesses now have their own DI&E strategies, I’d like to focus on what we can do that is over and above what they can do themselves.” Vanella Jackson, Chair of Hall & Partners

“I think that we should all be extremely proud of how, as an industry, we have been leading on diversity and inclusion, ahead even of the advertising industry which has similar issues and, arguably, more resources. We have made good progress this year, in particular on the MRS Inclusion website which now has a lot of great content and information available.  Next year I’d like to see us do more for small agencies; we are engaging with the ICG to work on this. I think we also need to do more for agencies and organisations that are at the beginning of their DI&E journeys and need more help and support. Overall, I am extremely proud of how we have come together as a team this year and I think we are well placed to put all of our plans for next year into action.” Jane Frost, CBE, CEO of MRS

A year of action

The Council agreed that 2021 had been the year to put strong foundations in place and that 2022 will be a year of action. In particular, the Council will focus on the following areas:

Continuing to increase sign-ups to the Pledge and broadening the reach beyond the big agencies.

Providing more support to the industry to help organisations activate their DI&E strategies.

Continuing with the goal to ensure that the talent in our industry is reflective of the world we research, from Board level through to entry-level recruitment.

Continuing to celebrate and inspire people with positive stories of how we are making our industry a more diverse and inclusive place to be.

Driving greater awareness of the work that the Council is doing - it is great to know that our collective efforts are having an impact and we will do more to share this with our colleagues and friends in the industry.

If you have any questions about diversity and inclusion, need any more information or want to share your ideas for how the Council could support the industry in the coming year, please check out our website or email

We would like to wish everyone a happy and peaceful holiday period, and we look forward to a more diverse and inclusive 2022 for us all.

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