Report to AAPOR Executive Council from Working Group on Long Term Diversity

Introduction and Background

As a multidisciplinary organization, AAPOR has had a long commitment to diversity. This commitment to diversity is stated in Article VI, Section 5 of AAPOR’s Bylaws, in which the “breadth and diversity of its membership” are to be reflected in the appointments to AAPOR’s committees; in the AAPOR 2025 Strategic Vision, in which AAPOR commits to promote our core values across. its membership regardless of employment, geographic, and social and demographic characteristics (including as specified in the Statement on Diversity and Inclusion their sex, gender, gender identity, age, race, race, religion, ethnic background, nationality, sexual orientation, or disability status); and in the 2013-2014 Strategic Plan in which diversity is identified as an important driver for the future direction of the organization. AAPOR’s commitment to diversity is also demonstrated by the requirement that key leadership positions such as President, Conference Chair and Councilor-at-large are rotated between individuals from for-profit and nonprofit organizations. In early 2016, AAPOR reaffirmed and deepened its commitment to diversity by adopting its first formal diversity statement.

Across these documents, AAPOR recognizes that increasing and valuing diversity at all levels of the organization are necessary to maintain the “big tent” nature of the organization. By having a diverse membership and leadership, AAPOR can:

  • Identify and promote new ideas to benefit members and advance the profession;
  • Strengthen and grow the membership base;
  • Serve the wide range of researchers who use the tools that AAPOR is uniquely positioned to provide (such as Standard Definitions for Response Rates);
  • Quickly respond to issues that may arise within the research industry; and
  • More effectively represent the many constituencies served by AAPOR.

Despite a written commitment to diversity, recent analyses of characteristics of individuals in existing leadership roles, committee compositions, and the membership at large have raised concerns that AAPOR has fallen short of implementing its commitment to diversity.  For example, the 2016 Presidential Address identified that the share of AAPOR Presidents who are women is far lower than the share of members who are women, and a report to Executive Council in 2015 from the Membership and Chapters Relation Committee showed that many of the AAPOR Committees were unrepresentative in terms of committee member characteristics compared to membership characteristics.  In June 2016, AAPOR Executive Council created a working group to develop a comprehensive plan for Council that would lay out AAPOR’s next steps to enhance diversity in the long term for the organization and more broadly for our industry.

The work group was chaired by Past President Mollyann Brodie, and included Councilor-at-Large Rich Morin, MCR chair Anna Wiencrot, MCR Diversity Subcommittee chair Ana Gonzalez, former MCR chair Kristen Olson, and former AAPOR President Rob Santos.  The work group met by phone over the summer and fall of 2016 to explore what AAPOR is already doing; the group already had considered  what other similar organizations have done in this arena.  It also identified and discussed new approaches, including the resources required for each and the likelihood of success, as well as some of the institutional challenges that may need to be addressed to ensure success.

Because of the robust nature of this plan, the workgroup concluded that the tasks should not be left to AAPOR Council to manage annually. Like the Transparency Initiative, the workgroup proposed a Diversity Coordinating Committee (DCC) to track, implement, and amend this plan as necessary for success. The DCC membership is still being finalized, however Council has already appointed Dianne Rucinski as Chair and committee membership includes workgroup members Rob Santos and Mollyann Brodie.

This report and the DCC is the culmination of those discussions.  It is an ambitious, multidimensional implementation plan with short, medium and long term action items and was adopted by Council in March, 2017. Each piece of this plan will be overseen by the DCC, and includes delegation of the tasks to AAPOR committees and staff.  Appendix A of the report lists briefly some ideas that were left out of the recommendations and an explanation of why they aren’t included.

At the outset, it is important to recognize that AAPOR has taken substantial strides toward implementing its commitment toward diversity. The proposed steps below are designed to build upon this strong foundation. First, the Membership and Chapter Relations committee (MCR) established a diversity subcommittee, providing data analysis of the membership and committee structure for the Executive Council, identifying what other organizations do to implement their commitment toward diversity, and other diversity-related tasks.

Second, AAPOR’s first diversity statement, initially drafted by MCR’s diversity subcommittee, was adopted in early 2016 (AAPOR Diversity Statement). This statement publicly reaffirms AAPOR’s commitment to a diverse membership on a wide range of dimensions, and states AAPOR leadership’s responsibility in ensuring diversity in all facets of the organization.

Third, starting with work by Councilor-at-large Cliff Zukin in 2014, AAPOR has adopted a set of term limits for committee members, is now regularly tracking committee membership and characteristics of committee members, and developed a set of guidelines for committee chairs to use when selecting new committee members to assist in meeting AAPOR’s diversity goals.

Finally, AAPOR developed a set of guidelines for establishing affinity groups, which are subsets of members who want to share experiences and ideas around a similar theme or affinity. AAPOR also specified what the organization would do to support these groups. Therefore, the new guidelines reflect the shared responsibilities by both the Executive Council and the leaders of the affinity groups.