EDI Newsletter – January 2024

Anyone who was at the MRS Equality Summit in June 2023 will know what an amazing day it was. Our heads are still spinning with Bollywood dancers, rooftop vistas and the sheer joy of being in the room with so many inspiring, caring and committed people. So, while it is all still fresh, we wanted to get our main takeaways down on paper and to commit, publicly, to some actions. We’ve noted our top ten takeaways from the day and five actions, as well as the next steps to take this forward.

Equality Summit Chairs, Babita Earle and Rebecca Cole, share their top ten takeaways

1. The power of storytelling. Hearing someone tell their story, with honesty and grace, opens us up to truly understand that others face barriers that we do not. We can begin to understand how people may be shaped by their experiences and to respond with humility and empathy. Our speakers were spellbinding. Kenny Imafidon spoke about spending time on remand for a crime he didn’t commit, Amazin LeThi brought her perspective as an Asian LGBQT+ woman in sport and Sania Haq told us about the personal meaning and value she gets from her work with The Bollywood Co.

2. Strength in vulnerability. As our speakers showed, there is great strength in being open and honest about who we are and where we have come from.

3. The importance of connection and allyship. So many of the delegates said that the thing that stood out for them from the day was the joy of being together with so many other like-minded people. One of the most encouraging aspects of the day for us was talking with people who aren’t already part of the networks but who want to be involved, make connections and support the work of the EDI Council.

4. EDI is intersectional. One of the things that shone through on the day was how much we can learn from each other. We already have good connections between the networks – Women In Research (WIRe), Colour Of Research (CORe), @MRSPride, MRSUnlimited, MRSSocial Inclusion - and the Representation in Research group, but there is a huge opportunity for us to work together even more on outputs and events. 5. We have a lot in common. Our network heads (Christine Hemphill, Shazia Ginai, Michael Albert Brown, Steven Lacey Rebecca Cole, Danielle Todd) reflected on what unites people across the groups which includes that we have faced barriers, we have experienced trauma resulting from people’s reactions to our background or identity, we are deeply committed to change, and we are exhausted by how hard it is.

6. We each have a superpower. The panel of Pledge signatories reflected on their personal superpowers, which include Dr Nick Baker’s resilience, Amina Arraleh, Assoc. CIPD's compassion and Megan Cross’s being caring. We can all consider how our best characteristics can be weaponised in the fight for EDI.

7. We need to redefine ‘normal’. If we add up the people who have a form of ‘difference’ we find that we are the majority, not the minority. We need to stop viewing our diversity in contrast to a fictitious norm. Thank you Mark Thorpe for landing this.

8. Progress over perfection. We know that we won’t solve all the problems of EDI in the market research sector in one day. But we will take action based on the Summit and we will continue to review, refine and redo as necessary, moving us forward each time.

9. EDI needs to be in the organisational DNA. It is not sufficient for organisations to pay lip service to EDI without working for change. It can’t be an add-on; it has to be woven through all of the decisions that a company makes. Some of the results we discussed showed that this is still a big problem

10. Don’t be afraid of repetition. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable that we are saying the same things about EDI again and again – it can feel like nothing is changing. However, sometimes it takes a while for messages to be heard, understood and acted upon.

Five early actions:

It’s early days but here are some actions that we are committed to taking.

1. We will look into how to ensure that Inclusion Pledge really does lead to organisational change – we don’t want to risk it becoming a tick-box exercise. One idea is to create a welcome pack with resources to support Pledge organisations to make changes.

2. We will work on engaging more with clients – bringing more clients into the networks and aiming to make looking for suppliers that have signed the Pledge part of the research buying decision.

3. We will work on ensuring that companies throughout the supply chain are supported to sign the Pledge and to be accountable for the organisational changes that signing requires. The Pledge for independent consultant, launched together with the ICG, is part of the way we are bringing the Pledge to the wider research ecosystem, and we will consider what else is required to do so. Another key part is that it is not just client-side organisations that can leverage their buying power to insist on EDI – we will encourage agencies to look for operational suppliers who are signatories too, and to ensure that their suppliers can support their inclusive research requirements.

4. We will facilitate more connections between the networks, and more people engaging in the work of the networks. Early ideas include visiting other network meetings, creating a ‘networks roadshow’ to spread the message, and combining the news and updates from all the groups into one place for easier access.

5. We will work on getting more personal stories heard, to facilitate empathy and Allyship. Early ideas include reverse mentoring for Pledge CEOs from network members, and a regular interview with researchers about their EDI story. Watch out for a regular communication.

Huge thanks again to everyone who took part and made it such an emotional, powerful and productive day.

Equality Summit 2024, 16 May 2024, London

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI): moving from policy to action

MRS is delighted to announce our Equality Summit which will be taking place on the 16th May 2024. This event will bring together business leaders, equality champions and allies, from across the insights sector and beyond, who are doing remarkable things to promote equality, diversity and inclusion and who are keen to share their journeys and experiences.

Full conference agenda to be announced February 2024

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