By Stefanie Straub, Global Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, Mars, Incorporated
2022 has only reinforced the urgent need to push our agenda on gender equity. The World Economic Forum projects it will now take 132 years to close the gender gap – up from 100 years before the pandemic. Building on what we heard in our 2021 #HereToBeHeard campaign, we continue to progress toward the world we want tomorrow – one where society is inclusive and all women can reach their Full Potential.
I’ve been energized to champion Full Potential, our platform on gender equity across our workplaces, sourcing communities and the marketplace and have been in awe of the passion that has gone into our gender action strategy. Earlier this year, I reflected on the resilience, grit, and determination that women bring to society each and every day. I see the same qualities in our Associates who are working to ensure the future of work is one where everyone thrives.
To understand what’s changing across our global business to create the workplace of tomorrow, I spoke with two of our Full Potential Champions – Kalpesh Parmar, General Manager for Mars Wrigley India, and Erica Coletta, Vice President, People & Organization for Global Petcare. They have both been leading efforts within our (sometimes virtual) four walls and shared their motivations and successes, and their ideas to tackle ongoing gender inequities.
Stephanie Straub, Kalpesh Parmar and Erica Coletta
Kalpesh Parmar, General Manager, Mars Wrigley India
“I’ve seen first-hand how society can place expectations on women that prevent them from reaching their full potential. From education to opportunities, we know that we have to tackle the root of the issue to create a fair, equitable, and thriving community. For me, the motivation is simple: gender-balanced teams outperform unbalanced teams. The evidence is clear and that’s why we’ve implemented sweeping change on the Mars India management teams.
I am proud of our progress towards gender-balanced leadership teams. When I arrived in early 2020, the gender divide was striking with only 13% of the unit leadership team being female, and only 1 woman in a senior management role. Over the last three years, through consistent and deliberate focus, we have changed for the better. As of Q4, 2022, we have 33% female representation on the unit leadership team, and 3 women in senior management roles. And guess what? Our performance has hit a record high. This year, our business in India is on track to grow by high double digit and positive earnings.
And we’re just getting started. We saw the power of our global #HereToBeHeard campaign in 2021 and launched a similar campaign focused on listening to women across India. Just like the global campaign, we’ve asked, “What needs to change for more women to reach their full potential?” and we’ve heard from more than 6,000 women so far. Next year, we’ll share more on what we’ve heard, and the actions these insights are shaping locally. We have to listen before we act and that’s just what we’re doing.
We’re proud of our progress, and we’re motivated to continue tackling gender inequality.“
Erica Coletta, Global Vice President, People & Organization, Mars Petcare
"We know that while gains have been made on our journey towards a more equitable society for all genders, there remain many challenges. Not least of which are the 32 years of progress we have lost towards gender equity due to COVID-19 in the last two years alone. The pandemic has increased levels of stress and burnout among women, greatly affected women’s health and wellbeing and progress has been eroded in places around the world.
As a working mother and a business leader in the Mars Petcare business which is made up of more than 73% women, supporting and protecting the wellbeing and opportunities of all our Associates – is of paramount importance. With my teams we’ve experienced and heard first-hand about the challenges women face – both in and out of the workplace.
Despite the many hurdles we still collectively face (and that these journeys are often two steps forward and one step back) I think it’s important to focus on what you can control. Leading the people and organization (HR) function for Global Petcare has provided me an opportunity to work with many inspiring leaders to harness the energy of Associates across functions, levels and geographies to address the issues facing women at Mars – building a workplace where everyone can reach their full potential. I strongly believe that when women thrive, we all thrive. And when women rise, society rises.
To bring this to life, we recently hosted the first Women of Mars Petcare and Allies B(old) I(nclusive), G(lobal) B.I.G. event with thousands of virtual attendees from around the world. It focused on answering the guiding question, “How do we make work, work better for women and their allies?” Insights from the many conversations with leaders and Associates are helping us inform our plans moving forward. This recent event was part of our many ongoing Mars-wide efforts to build a more inclusive and thriving workplace and workforce for all.
I have also been moved this year by the power of our Associate Resource Groups (ARGs) within Mars. Of our 90+ ARGs, about a third are focused on supporting women. We’re seeing more and more women participate in ARGs and it’s great to have this network of support driving action on issues like burnout, disproportionate care burdens and return-to-work, that can affect women in the workplace.
But we also hear from our ARGs that we need to do more to support our Associates and I’m more committed than ever to drive change across Mars to enable us to bring our Purpose to life. Harnessing our collective efforts to make back lost ground and tip the scales on gender equality has never been more important than it is today. Together, we can achieve the world we want – one where society is inclusive and everyone can reach their full potential."
It’s leaders like Erica and Kalpesh who are driving actions that place Mars among America’s Best Employers for Women, among other accolades. But we know we have so much more to do. We need to continue to advance support for parents. We need to tackle issues of bias and stereotypes. We need to more deeply engage men as allies and sponsors. And we need to continue to progress on our ambition to reach 100% gender-balanced business leadership teams.
These outcomes will not happen by accident. That’s why we continue to focus on our Full Potential platform to create a world where society is inclusive, and where all women can reach their full potential.