The contents of Schlesinger Group’s recently released guidelines, “How to Craft Inclusive Demographic Questions,” include inclusive screener review recommendations for open-ended questions and self-identification options that, among other things, present best practices for transgender and non-binary inquiries.
Schlesinger Group, the world’s most comprehensive data solutions and research technology provider, recommends this approach out of respect for respondents’ need for updated language around demographic identification.
”In response to ESOMAR’s 37 ‘Questions to Help Buyers of Online Samples,’ published last year, we felt the need to include a 38th question, ‘How is your company addressing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in online sample?‘” says Joe Giacobbe, Schlesinger Group’s Senior Vice President of Global Panels. “We asked ourselves that question. We identified this as an area in which our practices as a market research community could better align with how much we value our respondents’ need for inclusion and representation.”
Changes to the company’s panel questions went live earlier this year.
Self-identification provides panelists with the opportunity to describe their identity for themselves, instead of selecting from a pre-coded list that could never be completely exhaustive, he said. It reduces the chance that someone is unintentionally excluded from a panel due to lack of representation of their identity category. Lastly, this helps researchers learn how others describe themselves to help evolve the question over time.
“Expanding our list allows for more precise categorization,” says Jaime Klein, Schlesinger Group’s Chief Talent and Integration Officer. “Separating ‘transgender’ into its own question acknowledges that transgender is not a gender but rather an indicator that one’s sex assigned at birth differs from their gender identity. For example, someone who is transgender would not necessarily state they are a transgender man but simply that they are a man.”
This design allows for more precise assessment and understanding while also being inclusive of the complexity of people’s identities, said Klein. A version of this line of questions has been tested on large-scale government studies, based on the SOGI Adult Measures Recommendations FAQs and the Insights Association.
When relevant – for example under current Census design and medical research categories of interest in healthcare or consumer research – asking explicitly about sex at birth distinguishes sex from gender, which are separate and equally valuable demographic questions to understand a target audience, said Giacobbe.
“This is an ongoing discussion, and we believe it benefits everyone involved to discuss learnings and best practices as they evolve,” said Giacobbe. “Over half of the Fortune 500 uses Schlesinger Group for our global access to respondents around the world. This can have a tremendous impact, not just on their experience in a survey, but on their relationship with brands, products, marketing, and customer experiences.”
To learn more about this approach, including Schlesinger Group’s recommendations around racial and ethnic background, and sexual orientation, please view the full document.