The Young Foundation and the Social Research Association (SRA) have today unveiled the results from their landmark study into diversity and inclusion in the social research profession.

The report, which is the first of its kind, has found that the sector has far to go in terms of how representative it is of wider society, the extent to which diversity and inclusion are valued, and how research is funded and designed. It states that much more needs to be done to improve access and retain talent as people progress in their careers, as routes to becoming a social researcher can be challenging, while exclusionary and discriminatory behaviour limits progression, and a lack of diverse representation at senior levels is seen as both a reflection and cause of the problem. In addition, the report has found that inclusive practice often gets squeezed out because of timing, money or other resourcing issues, and/or because not enough perspectives have been involved in the design of the brief or subsequent design of the research.

Negative experiences

The study found that social researchers from marginalised groups tend to have negative experiences of working in the profession, which struggles to include and accommodate for a diversity of identities, backgrounds and circumstances, despite good intentions. Those who identify as having multiple minoritised characteristics reported worse experiences than those with fewer. The intersections of those characteristics – such as race, class, gender or sexuality for example – compounded the complexity of challenging poor behaviours, practices and processes. Furthermore, minority groups felt burdened with the need to lead and create change.

Five recommendations

The report makes five overarching recommendations, calling on all organisations and individuals working in the social research sector to actively engage with and respond to in order to drive change. These are as follows:

  1. Build a culture of reflection, support and transparency: 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.
  2. Develop meaningful action plans that: actively involve staff in design and implementation, build on best practice within the profession and from other industries, 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.
  3. 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 behaviors, practices and processes are happening.
  4. 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, and ensure there are safe and supportive forums for staff who experience workplace exclusion or discrimination to come together for support and change-making.
  5. 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.

A rallying call

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 which 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.”

Download the report here

Inequality Posted on: 1 July 2021


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