MRS Impact 2017 kicks off with diversity and equality high on the agenda

Amanda Osenton
March, 2017

It is clear to see from the number of people in attendance at this year’s conference that the research industry is thriving. With recent statistics showing it has grown over 60% from 2012 to 2016, it demonstrates the absolute requirement businesses have for supporting business decisions with evidence, especially in such times of uncertainty (not naming any particular political events).
However, despite all the positives coming from the growth of the industry, one of the main focuses of this years conference is on the diversity, or more particularly the lack of, throughout both agencies and their client side counter parts. On the back of International Women’s Day last Wednesday, the statistics nod towards insight, as a whole, being relatively progressive towards the inclusion of women in the most senior of positions – 49% agency side and 45% client side. This however, does not mean that the situation anywhere near as good as it can be.

Once again, a turn to the statistics paints a clear picture of the work still required to eliminate the gender gap within society, with there still being a large discrepancy between the pay of the most senior men and the most senior women. This social bias is not exclusive to gender with numbers suggesting there remains a distinct skew towards white British employees in the highest positions of many organisations.

The MRS are painting a very clear picture in the coming year with the roll out of the “& More” scheme which has the aim to increase diversity in the work place. This way of thinking was set out with incoming President of MRS Jan Gooding stating “Working with different people makes us better”. This is an idea that we, as an industry, should embrace.

An insightful talk from Nichola Mendelsohn, Vice President EMEA of Facebook, followed, discussing how data can be used to help tell stories. She also highlighted the importance of keeping in sight the medium with which we tell these stories to allow the message to remain relevant. This led to her demonstrating how at Facebook, a company which was born in ‘modern times’, still has a strong bias towards men in the business. She discussed the unconscious bias that people have versus gender, sexuality and race and how this affects decisions we make in our professional and personal life.

In a simple turn of fate the story of the poor Robert Kelly of Pusan National University, who had his children walk in on his interview on the BBC this weekend, probably shows this point very clearly. Since the incident, there has been much discussion on the subject of how many people assumed the woman who hurriedly ushered the children from the room was a nanny and not his wife. This demonstrates how easy it is for some people to have a subconscious bias and shows there is still a lot of work to do.

Working in a sector which prides itself helping businesses understand its consumers and own employees, we are in an ideal position to lead the front on leveling the playing field for everyone in the industry.

An interesting start to the conference, Impact 2017 really living up to its name. I hope you all enjoy the next couple of days.

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