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New Visions for Insights: MRX through the Eyes of IDEAtors

WIRe + Insights Association

March 2, 2024

“The future never just happened. It was created.” These crucial words — first uttered by Mae Jameson, the first black female astronaut to reach space, and shared with us by Zappi’s Alejandra Magdaleno — are an ideal encapsulation of the momentum and vision foundational to the IDEAtor program. The program is a product of Insight’s Association’s IDEA Council and is a 12-month paid, remote apprenticeship for diverse college graduates and vocational or early career professionals to gain practical work experience. As we enter into a new year, WIRe and the IDEA Council have partnered to speak with some of this year’s program participants — all Women of Color — to take the pulse of the industry, highlight their experiences and expertise, and collectively envision a new path forward. 

Zero Gravity: Take the Leap Into a New World

Moving into a research role is, for many IDEAtors, an opportunity to apply their previously-honed skills in a new light. "Transitioning to the research industry marked a significant career change for me. Having spent most of my professional life in the medical field, I was able to hone my attention to detail and problem-solving skills in a different capacity," shared LinkedIn's Shannon Harris. "The prospect of working with a diverse range of brands that I admire and use was alluring, but what truly captivated me was the program's focus on diversity and inclusion." The same was true for Mariana Melo-Vega, who, after studying Literature as an undergrad in Peru and pursuing a PhD in Latin American Cultural Studies, held a deep reverence for global narratives and perspectives. She noted "What attracted me to the research industry was to uncover these narratives in the wild, as they are being lived and transformed by people. I hope that my work will contribute to these perspectives being heard, especially from voices often ignored."

Others were drawn to ongoing Industry conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion and how they might further the dialogue. IDEAtor Cheyenne Serano was initially attracted to the research industry when she was introduced to her mentor, Reyna Hohagen. "When I met with Reyna, we immediately connected on the need for positive representation in the marketing industry. My hope in beginning a career in the research industry was to bring my knowledge and passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion to all aspects of the research process. Additionally, I was aware that the research industry was predominately white and male, and I wanted to have a role in diversifying this industry and paving the way for marginalized people like me to have a career in market research."

Coming into Orbit: Observing the Industry

As observers of an evolving ecosystem, our IDEAtors have made essential observations about the current state of Market Research and the need for further change. Apprentice Latoya Nixon noted that, as someone new to the field, she was disappointed to find a "hesitancy among many individuals to address sensitive topics related to inclusivity and equity for minority groups." Cheyenne echoed this sentiment, observing that market research is often conducted through "a white lens, often excluding non-white consumers from research. This has further marginalized people of color and people from other marginalized communities." However, all of our IDEAtors urged that a heightened focus on further supporting diverse professionals would be vital to evolving the industry. "There is such opportunity in hearing people's voices," Mariana shared. "…and so much to lose when we build products, services, organizations and societies that are not centered on people's actual needs, perspectives and emotions."

Alejandra expressed a fascination with the role of researcher that keeps her engaged with the industry. "Exploring the intricacies behind everyday products and consumer behaviors has been a fascinating journey," she shared. "It's also been amazing to see how flexible a career in Market Research can be. The versatility of roles within the industry, spanning research, sales, engineering, and project management, has underscored the diversity and breadth of opportunities available."

Rotational Pull: Supporting (and Attracting) Women of Color in Market Research

When asked about how Market Research can better support Women of Color, the name of the game is support. “A proactive approach involves demonstrating tangible support through the exploration of topics addressing the unique challenges these women encounter in their daily lives, along with an examination of the historical context that shapes these challenges,” Latoya shared. “By engaging in such discussions, organizations signal a genuine commitment to understanding and empathizing with the struggles faced by Women of Color.” Shannon echoed this, saying, “I think there are lots of women of color that are attracted to various industries, but once they get there, they may not stay.” For her, the key to attracting and retaining Women of Color in the industry is multifaceted: “It’s so important for companies within the research industry to create a diverse and inclusive workplace culture that values and celebrates differences to keep diverse talent. When someone loves where they work, they will most definitely brag about it to other people.”

“Another thing to consider doing is offering mentorship and sponsorship programs that help women of color advance in their careers. These programs should provide training and development opportunities that help build their skills and knowledge so that they do not have to remain in entry-level roles and can explore opportunities to find the right fit for them within the industry. Continue to foster an inclusive work environment and create a supportive network of colleagues and mentors who can offer guidance and advice or simply be a safe space to navigate challenges. Recognizing and rewarding the contributions of women of color in the workplace can be beneficial as it can lead to increased visibility and opportunities for advancement,” she urged.

We have Liftoff: Making a Lasting Impact

Challenging your bias isn’t just a pathway to a more inclusive industry; it’s also vital for evolving how research is conducted. “What does a ”professional” look like? What is their gender performance? How are they dressed? Are they abled? How do they talk and what do they talk about?” Mariana questioned. She noted that, when looking to make a difference, it is important to “train yourself to pay attention and to start framing your thought processes with representation and inclusion in mind.” Latoya mirrored this idea, stating that it is essential that researchers “stay informed about diverse perspectives and experiences. [..] Actively seek literature, articles, and resources that contribute to a broader understanding of different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. This self-education helps break down stereotypes and fosters a more inclusive mindset.” 

Similarly, Cheyenne urged researchers to apply an intersectional lens to both their personal and professional perspectives. “Having an intersectional framework is imperative in creating safe spaces for people of marginalized communities,” she noted. “We need to have intersectional representation where people from all marginalized groups feel represented and safe to be their authentic selves at work.”

To embrace the future of the Insights industry, it is important that research professionals stay educated, advocate for each other, and challenge bias wherever it may reside. In the words of IDEAtor Mariana, “everyone has the power to make a difference within themselves, and this power can be harnessed by building a stronger, more supported community.” 

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WIRe + Insights Association

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