Originally published on LinkedIn by Ibtehal Fathy, Global Inclusion & Diversity Officer at Mars.
As a shift manager early in my career I was surrounded by male peers who seemed to have credibility from the get-go, while I had to build my credibility from the ground up to earn their respect. I was mindful of how my actions were being labelled as bossy and aggressive, and at times that became draining and frustrating. But I was also blessed with peers who were allies and a manager and a plant director who focused on mentorship, recognition and provided me with a safe space to discover who I was as a leader. Without their support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
As I think about the future of my two young children, it is my personal mission to be a driving force in building a more just world where future generations can reach their full potential — regardless of who they are. And that’s one reason why I’m so proud to be leading global Inclusion & Diversity at Mars, Incorporated, where part of my job is focused on ensuring every voice is heard.
The first step to creating a more equitable society is listening — and “listening” without judgement or falling prey to unconscious biases — quiet women are not “meek”; assertive women are not “bossy.” As women, we don’t need to make our voices stronger, rather we need to be heard. Through the #HereToBeHeard campaign that Mars recently launched, we’re making a concerted effort to listen to women across our business to better understand what they need to reach their full potential. This campaign puts a spotlight on the idea that we need to do a better job of listening to women, and taking that further, that global businesses have a responsibility to elevate the voices of women and act on what they’re saying.
Here are some actions that we’re taking at Mars:
- Articulating the company’s gender commitments and progress.
- Training our leadership teams on inclusive leadership, where they learn to identify ways to address biases and cultural barriers.
- Focused interventions and sponsorship of women within our supply, technology and digital functions.
- Creating different Associate platforms, such as regional work groups and our Women at Mars Associate Resource Groups, that focus on supporting our diverse population and continuing our gender balance efforts.
- Developing an award-winning women’s leadership program - ‘Women Leading Purposefully’ in partnership with Harvard University, to support women on their leadership development journeys.
Although we’ve made progress, there is still work to do. One of our three global goals for I&D is to achieve gender balance across 100% of our business leadership teams. Research has shown that creating opportunities for women bolsters communities, drives profitability and enhances value. Despite that impact, women still face a range of barriers to reaching their full potential, one of which has been COVID-19. According to the UN, the COVID crisis risks reversing progress for gender equality by 25 years. Addressing barriers will require systemic cultural change to set women up for success.
We launched our #HereToBeHeard campaign by first asking the women of Mars – “What needs to change so more women can reach their full potential?” We wanted to hear their candid thoughts on how we can continue to drive gender equality across all aspects of our business. Now we want to hear directly from women all around the world – in and outside of Mars.
For women to reach their full potential, we have to be liberated from the pressure to conform to male leadership models. Being empowered to leverage your own leadership style is key to sustaining our own strengths and personal power – not only in our day-to-day work, but also in overcoming the inevitable obstacles both in and out of work. For this to be possible and sustainable, it’s critical to have allyship from men, sponsorship programs and structural and behavioral inclusion at all levels of the organization.
I’m proud to have helped create this campaign and to be part of a business that recognizes the bold action that needs to be taken to help women across the world reach their full potential – including me. I urge you to share your voice to this campaign - BeHeard.Mars.com.