Putting people in boxes is bad for business

Day One Podcast: Insights Room 101

Episode 13: Deepa Shah

On The Day One podcast – Insights Room 101, hosted by Hannah Mann, our guests describe three of their worst insight industry pet peeves and aim to lock one of them away forever in Room 101, much like the popular British TV show. Our guest on this episode is Deepa Shah, a senior leader with extensive experience working for high growth global businesses within technology, healthcare comms, market research/insights, and creative services. Deepa joins us on The Day One podcast to share what things in the industry she’d like to see banished in Room 101 forever. The main pet peeves Deepa describes are: a lack of representation and the term “BAME”, the term “back office” to describe everyone who not working in the front of house, and the term “growth strategy”. Deepa provides meaningful criticism during our conversation, and we hope you enjoy it.

For her first insights choice for Room 101, Deepa wants to get rid of not only the lack of representation in the industry but specifically the term “BAME”, an acronym standing for “black, Asian, minority, or ethnic. Because people are putting people like her in boxes, there is an effect on people getting promoted, making it to the top, and career progression in general. She believes opportunities should be the same for every person irrespective of what they look like, who they are, and what they do.

Deepa wants the industry to see people like her as normal human beings who need support breaking into the industry and staying in the industry. She wants the industry to treat people like her as they treat everyone else.

When I ask why she thinks this issue persists in consumer insights, Deepa explains that the industry is still being run by white men who have been in their roles for many years. In the wake of covid, when women left roles, white men filled those roles. Not only were women leaving the workforce in general, but they were also leaving to start their own thing. She doesn’t think the industry will change in her lifetime.

Deepa’s second insights irritation is another pesky term, namely “back office”. She explains that this term referring to the finance team or the human resources team or any member of the organization who is not working in the front of the house with clients and new business doesn’t make such people feel valued. Because they’re not pulling in client work or client revenue while working on market research, they think they’re simply the cost of business. But without these teams, Deepa argues the business would not run well.

Deepa’s final banishment is yet another term: “growth strategy”. Really, she doesn’t like the idea that it’s a “strategy”. She asks, what else would we be doing? Trying to shrink? She thinks it’s a phrase used to bamboozle the rest of the organisation. Of course, an organisation wants to grow and plans for growth no matter the industry whether it be qualitative research, healthcare research, or any consumer insights field.

Deepa and I both agree to banish “BAME” and terms that put people in boxes forever. We both enjoyed the conversation, and we hope you do, too.

About – Deepa Shah:

Deepa Shah is a senior leader with extensive experience working for high-growth global businesses within technology, healthcare comms, market research/insights, and creative services. Spending much of her career working as a CFO in agencies in the major holding groups, including Omnicom Group Inc., and Publicis Groupe, Deepa now works as a consultant CFO for ambitious independent agencies from start-ups to £10M+ turnover.

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