A thought-leadership piece by Ruth Partington, CEO and Founder, EMPOWER Translate

I moved my family from the UK to the South of France in 2006. No stranger to the country, I dared to believe I was well-prepared for cultural integration…

Cue my confusion a year later when I asked my 5-year-old if she would like a ‘pain au chocolat’ pastry for breakfast (its Northern French name).

Completely horrified, she replied: “Mummy, you mean ‘chocolatine’.”

A memorable taste of regional divides, it remains my unique reference point when considering genuine inclusivity and diversity in research.

Within the workplace, top-level reports from the likes of Deloitte and The Wall Street Journal have unequivocally proven the game-changing benefits of diversity and inclusivity. We know that D&I enhances performance and business outcomes, and creates competitive advantage by boosting innovation and business results. The Market Research Society (MRS) has taken significant steps to facilitate D&I, including pledges, MRS Pride and MRS Unlimited.

But what of our wider influence, outside of ourselves? Are we recruiting participants in a way that is genuinely inclusive and allows for diversity? Are we truly giving voice to the millions of people we engage, as is our industry’s fundamental purpose?

My time with the MRS’ Representation in Research Steering Group has highlighted a widespread issue: Participant Alienation.

Look no further than language options for Nationally Representative studies. An English-only survey in the US alienates 8.6% of population that does not have a firm grasp of the English language. In England, you alienate up to 1.4% of the population. In India, that number is 90%.

Beyond language, we equally overlook accessibility for the technology-illiterate (8% of the UK population) and those with visual, hearing or other disabilities.

For global researchers, these statistics are only first hurdles to inclusive and accessible research. The gender question, for example, should include 3+ options in Germany, but only 2 in Russia. B2B surveys in Kenya, where smartphones are used extensively for business, must be optimised.

We are creating non-inclusive environments for our ever-diminishing pools of participants and potential recruits, with horrifying Alienation results. Looking at the population statistics in this article alone, the integrity of selling ‘NatRep’ is at stake. Drop-out rates and spoils cause mounting pressure for quota fulfilment. Costs skyrocket for recruitment of marginalised or hard-to-reach demographics.

Participant Alienation mainly stems from the upfront financial, time and expertise requirements of inclusive research. We are also pressured into balancing rich, meaningful data with an acceptable Cost Per Interview.

I would challenge that two are mutually exclusive.

By investing in technology, expertise and language, we can recount hidden costs, nurture our participants and bring the benefits of diversity and inclusivity to touch all the people we engage. In an industry whose objective is to give voice, it is time to challenge our assumptions, challenge the status quo – even challenge our clients.

Ultimately, holistic D&I is what will move Insight to the heart of business strategy and secure our much-needed seat at the C-Suite table.

…just make sure to label the pastries correctly while you’re there!

Ruth Partington

CEO and Founder, EMPOWER Translate