One Year Later: Bridging Social Justice and Market Research
A lot has changed in the year since George Floyd’s murder moved the world into protest. As a Los Angeles-based company, we saw that crime and ensuing unrest open fresh wounds in our community. The events of last summer compelled us to examine our own consciences and business practices. Affirming that Black Lives Matter wasn’t enough, so we committed to strengthening our ethos, becoming a more actively anti-racist company, and challenging our inherent biases.
To do that, I met with our CEO to establish an internal Action Team. We’re a diverse, employee-led and organized group that spearheads initiatives to improve our company culture and examine how our business practices can better support a more equitable and just market research industry and world.
It’s no surprise that research is where we start. Our ongoing Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) workshop series identifies an ongoing issue with systemic racism or oppression to research and discuss with our broader team. The initiative gets us thinking critically about why parts of our economy or society are the way they are and how those structures hold specific groups of people back. That critical thinking doesn’t just allow us to become aware individuals. It allows our team to examine issues more thoroughly and draw more informed conclusions from the consumer data we analyze every day.
We also use the findings from the JEDI series to inform how we think about our research practices. Are we wording demographic questions in a way that’s inclusive? Do the classification options we present to respondents make analytical sense in light of our subjects’ lived experiences? Are there more questions we should be asking to better understand consumers and inform our clients? The answer to that final question, we’ve discovered over the past year, is yes. So we’ve adapted.
The Action Team also provides an internal forum where we can discuss issues of justice plainly. We’ve been a fully remote office since March of 2020, so building virtual spaces where our colleagues feel comfortable asking questions of each other is an important part of maintaining the water cooler connection that we used to have. It allows us to listen to each other’s experiences and recognize the needs we should be caring about.
Beyond establishing channels where we can communicate and learn from each other, this work has resulted in a number of concrete changes to our business practices.
- We re-evaluated our recruiting process to make it more inclusive. We consider carefully whether demonstrated skills or a 4-year academic degree are the best indicators of fitness for a role at our company and we are beginning to actively recruit from the community college system in Southern California to ensure that socioeconomic background is less of a barrier to finding employment here.
- We reviewed how we ask demographic survey questions around race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality to push our questionnaires to be as inclusive as possible for respondents and as demographically detailed for our analysis and clients.
- Our email signatures now include our personal pronouns in an effort to build an inclusive company culture and be welcoming and accessible to all clients and vendors.
- We’ve circulated mentorship opportunities internally to give each other the tools to give back to our communities in a meaningful way by supporting others’ personal and professional development.
- Leadership has been reiterating the importance of employees taking flextime and looking after their mental health, especially when they and the communities to which they belong experience hardships.
We’re not stopping there. We recognize that building an equitable and just space in our corner of the world requires sustained introspection, commitment, and action. We’ve got more initiatives in the pipeline that will improve our internal processes as well as contribute to a better market research industry. And we’re calling on our colleagues and peers in our industry to examine their own teams and companies.
- What are you doing to foster a diverse, equitable, and just environment?
- How are you using your position of privilege to lift up your community for the common good?
- And in what ways are you committing to listen and learn so that your processes and decisions are informed and truly work for your people?
We’re excited about this work because we never want to stop applying ourselves to making this company and the world a better place. We’re happy to share that journey with you.
Chairwoman, Alter Agents Action Team
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