Originally posted on LinkedIn by Duncan McCulloch, General Manager, Mars
Earlier this year, we asked a simple question. “What needs to change so more women can reach their full potential?” More than 10,000 women from 88 countries responded. Women asked for equal career opportunities and called for more women with decision-making power. Quite frankly, I couldn’t agree more.
As a leader, I have a responsibility to create a culture of inclusivity. And building a diverse team is my top priority. Today more than ever, it’s expected of leaders – and it’s about time we all walked the talk.
A New Perspective
My diversity journey really began with Mars – and it’s something I’m incredibly thankful for. As a white, British male from the U.K., I wasn’t truly exposed to a diverse workforce until I started traveling the world and broadening my horizons. But I immediately saw the value. I had the opportunity to work across Europe, then Asia, followed by Africa and now the Middle East. Every step of my journey introduced me to new people, cultures and beliefs. I’ve worked with brilliant, capable, talented Associates in dozens of countries. I learned very early on that talent isn’t defined by colour, race, religion, nationality or gender. I saw each person offer something truly unique to our business and it’s helped shaped my perspective for the better.
Time to Take Action
So why is it so important to me to act as an ally for gender equality? You’ll see many cite the stats – and you can’t argue numbers. Yes, diverse teams are good for the bottom line. But for me, it’s so much more than percentages and performance. It’s about changing lives and shaping our future.
Working in the Middle East, it’s not just about empowering women – but working to create a cultural shift. Take Egypt for example. We’ve worked tirelessly to petition the local government to allow women to work on the shop floor 24/7. Many had been working standard hours for some time, but it was limiting career advancement. But they’ve now earned that right. We’ve gone from having 0% women in the factories to 12%.
The Women who Inspire Me
As a result of these societal shifts, we’ve increased efforts to put women into well-deserved leadership positions. We’re bringing this to life through our Emerging Leaders Development Program (ELDP). We now have our first female GM for Egypt, Dalia Salib. As a leader, she sees an enormous obligation to empower others on her team, but she does it by serving as an incredible role model herself. She’s truly the embodiment of the Mars Responsibility Principle.
And by giving women these new opportunities, we’re truly transforming lives. Take Nesma Abdelnabi. She started on the shop floor and has been promoted to Production Manager, managing a team of 15 Associates. She’s gone back to school and is even in the same class as her son! I had the privilege of meeting her for the first time just last month. She was anxious to thank me for the opportunities she’s been given. It seemed quite ironic as I was anxious to thank her for choosing Mars…and in turn, teaching me what it means to truly persevere.
We’re bringing these ideals to life through our brands, too. Galaxy® chocolate recently launched the #IChooseMovement. With just a simple song, we were able to celebrate the courageous Arab women who are embracing their full potential. For me personally, it was another reminder that allies play a critical role in the fight for true gender balance.
Why I'm an Ally
As a leader, you’re often remembered by the results you drive. But in perhaps my most important role, I’m Dad to two teenage boys. They may not remember the fact that I grew our Middle East and Africa business a certain percentage any given year. But they’ll remember the stories I tell about Associates like Dalia and Nesma. They’ll remember that I stood beside these women as an ally and stood up for what’s right – gender equality. I want to make my boys proud and if being a vocal ally for women ends up being part of my legacy, then I’d like to think I did something right.