New study shows that social research sector scores low on D&I

The report found that underrepresented groups tended to have negative experiences in the sector

Two research organisations have released the results of their study into D&I in the social research sector, and the results prove the industry has much to do to achieve workplace equity.

The lack of D&I in the social research sector

The report, co-authored by The Young Foundation and the Social Research Association (SRA), found the sector had to do more to better reflect the diversity of society and improve industry access to underrepresented groups.

They also found that more needed to be done to aid talent in career progression where “exclusionary and discriminatory behaviour” prevented this. Furthermore, a lack of diversity in senior positions was also noted as a roadblock to sector-level D&I.

Another interesting finding was that inclusivity was often left out “because of timing, money or other resourcing issues.” Another reason that inclusion practices weren’t prioritised was “because not enough perspectives have been involved in designing the brief or subsequent design of the research.”

In terms of staff experiences, the study found that underrepresented groups tended to have negative experiences working in the social research profession “which struggles to include and accommodate for a diversity of identities, backgrounds, and circumstances, despite good intentions.”

Those with multiple minority characteristics reported worse experiences while minority groups generally “felt burdened with the need to lead and create change.”

The report then offered five recommendations for organisations and individuals in the sector to help drive change, these were:

  • Build a culture of reflection – scrutinise your own work and practice, and ensure that staff are closely involved with this process whilst not inflicting the burden of leading and creating change on those already most negatively affected.
  • Develop meaningful action – establish plans that actively involve staff in design and implementation and build on best practices within the profession and other industries. Ensure these are explicitly endorsed by senior leadership, can be embedded in organisational policies, processes and practice, and have a linked framework for measuring and reporting progress to ensure collective accountability.
  • Commit the necessary resources – provide the necessary financial, practical, and human resources to implement the actions identified, provide the training and specialist support to allow staff to adapt to new ways of working, and ensure the mechanisms are in place to respond appropriately and supportively if/when staff feel that poor behaviours, practices, and processes are happening.
  • Welcome challenge – invite feedback (and respond to it) on how inclusive your research or commissioning practices are and what can be done to improve them. Ensure there are safe and supportive forums for staff who experience workplace exclusion or discrimination to come together support and change-making.
  • Be willing to collaborate – contribute to efforts within and across sectors in social research to share best practice and approaches to improving diversity and inclusion – in line with the principles of ‘open access’ and the ‘creative commons’ – and provide financial and in-kind support to initiatives which are working to improve the profession as a whole.

Victoria Boelman, Director of Research at The Young Foundation, said: “This research has thrown into sharp relief many of the issues that lots of us within the profession have been grappling with for some time. As the largest-scale study of equality and diversity in the social research profession to date, it’s all the more vital that the social research ecosystem rallies around it to tackle these issues and commit to creating a profession that is truly diverse and inclusive, and which gives greater voice to those we represent.”

Ailbhe McNabola and Diarmid Campbell-Jack, Co-Chairs at the Social Research Association, said: “The Social Research Association is immensely proud to be publishing this unique and timely research alongside The Young Foundation. We hope this report will mark a new era in taking action on diversity and inclusion, opening up conversations on the issues across the profession and bringing about many changes for the better. We also aim to play our part in these conversations and changes.”
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