Podcast: Championing inclusion, diversity, equity, and access in market research

We spoke with Sherri Dansby and Damon Jones, founding members of the Insights Association's IDEA Council about the state of DEI in the insights industry, and what you can do to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

On our podcast, we were joined by Sherri Dansby and Damon Jones, founding members of the Insights Association's IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) Council, which works to fulfill a mission to deliver measurement, education, and standards of excellence to address the lack of representation in the insights profession and the populations it researches. The initial focus of the group was on racial equity, and now includes gender and sexual orientation. The council includes a diverse group of insights industry professionals, all passionate about inclusion and diversity.

Sherri and Damon shared with us some of the accomplishments the IDEA Council has achieved since its inception in 2020. We talk about the “IDEAtor” fellowship program for young professionals, the Equity Toolkit, and “research on research” efforts to understand the current state of inclusion and diversity (aka DEI) in the industry and conclude with ideas for how to improve the execution of market research studies.

“IDEAtor” Fellowship Program

Developed in 2021, in partnership with Equitas, as a way to support the next generation of insights professionals from diverse backgrounds, the IDEAtor fellowship program for young professionals launched in 2022 with 10 fellows or IDEAtors. This 12-month internship program was developed specifically to address the needs of consumer insights and data analytics organizations. It aims to accelerate the recruitment and progression of diverse talent in the MR industry while also building the body of knowledge around inclusive insights. Host companies help fund the program and provide six-month remote fellowship opportunities to recent graduates and those early in their careers.

Equity Toolkit

The IDEA council recognized early on that there was an appetite and need for information about the importance of DEI within the industry. The Equity Handbook provides guidance for how organizations and individuals can advance the IDEA principles. The Equity Toolkit includes:

  • A framework to help people keep IDEA principles top of mind and a part of their business operations, including: 
  • SMART goal plans and recommendations to advance DEI;
  • Resources for inspiration including organizations focused on DEI;
  • Creating a culture of accountability and transparency, dedicating resources to solving for IDEA within your organization & measuring progress, and setting goals for improvement.

“Research on research” 

Efforts to understand the current state of DEI in the market research industry include an examination of survey methodologies. Typical surveys rely on historical wording from the Census or other mainstream sources to guide the questions and the response options for demographic questions. The IDEA council took a closer look to try to understand perceptions and desires of people of color regarding this issue. The council then asked people to review options, choose preferences and share why they made their selections. People see themselves as multi-dimensional and many want surveys to allow them to fully describe themselves.

The IDEA Council has published “The Evolution of Demographic Questions”, a position paper on how to ask demographic questions on Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Race and Ethnicity.

How to improve the execution of market research studies

Sherri says “The work that we’re doing now will have an impact on study design, and eventually on who is designing the studies.” It is critical to keep DEI a part of your business strategy, and visible to the entire organization, not just at the top. Assess the current state of DEI in your organization, and then set goals for improvement and monitor progress.

Our guests encourage listeners to think about how they individually can contribute, as new business strategies start with individual level contributions. Finally, they invite you to connect with the IDEA Council for inspiration! 

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