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#HereToBeHeard, 10,000 Women: Mars Unveils Findings from Global Listening Study

Elevating the voices of women who often go unheard, the #HereToBeHeard listening study inspired 10,319 women in 88 countries to issue a powerful call for systemic change. The new report provides practical recommendations to break down the barriers restricting women from achieving their full potential.

Mars, Incorporated recently released the findings of #HereToBeHeard, a global listening study created to amplify the voices of women across all intersections – including race, age, sexuality, religion, disability and more – in a meaningful dialogue on how to shape a more inclusive world. The crushing and disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women has set the march to equality back by 136 years. This new report aims to advance action on gender equity.

In just three months,10,319 women from 88 countries took part in a crowdsourcing initiative. They were inspired to answer one question: What needs to change so more women can reach their full potential? From soundbites to deeply personal perspectives, women called for systemic change they want to see from their employers, governments, communities and men to break down the barriers they face. The result is a timely report that challenges society to listen, learn and do more to help deliver gender equity. The study is part of the Mars Full Potential platform to advance action on gender equity.

Stefanie Straub, Vice President & General Counsel, Mars, Incorporated comments: “#HereToBeHeard is already having a profound impact on how we use our scale and influence as a global business to help create enduring, positive change for all women. At Mars, we want to do our part. The report lays out the pieces of the puzzle that can help us focus our actions to create a more equitable, inclusive environment. We’re using its data and expert recommendations to fuel our next steps, shape our priorities and guide our investments. The message is loud and clear – it’s up to all of us to march forward and help 10,000 voices reach their full potential.”

#HereToBeHeard’s findings

Mars worked with a team of scientists from the Oxford University Saïd Business School’s Future of Marketing Initiative and external qualitative analysts to examine women’s responses. Through a combination of machine learning and network analysis, the Oxford team identified 28 topics. We qualitatively grouped these topics into eight themes that women mentioned most frequently: 

  1. An End to Systemic Discrimination and Harmful Gender Stereotypes (80 percent)
  2. Equal Career Opportunities (79 percent)
  3. More Decision-Making Power (65 percent)
  4. Support as Parents (30 percent)
  5. Greater Work/Life Balance (26 percent)
  6. Gender Equal Learning (24 percent)
  7. Mental and Physical Wellbeing (19 percent)
  8. An End to Gender-Based Harassment and Violence (15 percent)

Seventy-one percent of women stressed that men play a critical role as allies in solutions or as barriers to progress.

What businesses and others can do

Globally, the pandemic wreaked havoc on women in the workforce. It has triggered a “she-cession” that cost 64 million jobs. Additionally, it has cost at least $800 billion in income–the combined GDP of 98 countries. This mass exodus of talent and potential represents both a tragic loss and an undeniable social responsibility of business. They must lead the recovery. In order to do so, businesses must create more opportunities for all women to thrive.

Based on key findings from #HeretoBeHeard, BSR – in consultation with gender experts from The Unstereotype Alliance, convened by UN Women, CARE, and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media – have provided eight practical recommendations to help break down barriers women face to achieving their full potential.

“Businesses often move quickly to offer solutions, but there is something quietly radical about asking an open question, taking the time to listen and then acting with women, not just on their behalf,” said Christine Svarer, BSR Director, HERproject. “The recommendations included in the #HereToBeHeard report are relevant and useful to any company committed to advancing gender equity – but they are only a starting point. Transformational change ultimately requires continued engagement. By purposefully giving women a meaningful role in decision-making, they can help to create the programs and policies required to address the barriers facing women of all backgrounds and create a more equitable, inclusive world.”

Looking to the future

Moving forward, Mars will leverage the insights from #HereToBeHeard to design and implement new policies and actions in service of the Mars Full Potential gender equity platform, launched in 2020. The insights include more than 1,200 Mars Associate voices. Mars has taken a series of actions to unlock opportunities for women in its workplaces, sourcing communities and the marketplace. The business has confirmed gender pay equity across its global workforce of 133,000 Associates, half of whom are women. Among a set of other I&D targets, Mars set a goal of reaching 100 percent gender-balanced leadership teams.3 In its first year, the business made notable progress against this goal. For instance, the balance increased from 43 percent to 50 percent today. 

Victoria Mars, family member and ambassador of the Mars Full Potential program: “We heard from women around the world who shared their stories, their ideas, their ambitions, and their frustrations. It’s a simple question but the depth and breadth of the answers have been insightful, challenging and moving. Businesses must do their bit to make a difference. Mars remains deeply committed to this work. We encourage businesses, governments and more civil society partners to step up action and invest where it matters most. May their 10,000 voices be a powerful instrument for change.”

To help advance gender equity, listen, learn, do more:

Together, we can ensure more women will reach their full potential.

#HereToBeHeard’s themes, voices and insights

1. An end to systemic discrimination and harmful gender stereotypes (80 percent)

“A new system is needed: one where women are conceived as strong, respected, and with the same abilities as any human being, without any prejudice. Different possibilities are needed for each woman, including transgender, Indigenous, immigrant, single mothers.” – Mexico, 18–24 years old, self-employed, mixed-race/ethnicity, bisexual

Many of the women mentioned the need to address patriarchal systems and norms. Such norms permeate politics, sports, work, education, family and social life. Women stressed the need to change how society views women’s strengths and skills. They believed that both women and men have a role to play in changing these mindsets. Women just beginning their careers, ages 18–24, were the most likely to mention this theme (87 percent), as were women in the U.K. (84 percent) and the U.S. (87 percent).

2. Equal career opportunities (79 percent)

“Expectations about how to develop a senior career must change to give women the space to grow their career alongside their personal aspirations.” – France, 45–54 years old, employed full-time, heterosexual

Women responded saying equal career opportunities are critical to breaking the “glass ceiling” and “level the playing field”. Women called on government and company-led initiatives to drive this change. They stressed the importance of mentors and sponsors along the way. They frequently mentioned the gender pay gap, alongside its negative financial impacts on women and their families. Women across geographies and from diverse backgrounds spoke to this theme. However, high levels of Hispanic and Latina women, in particular, mentioned it (88 percent).

3. More decision-making power (65 percent)

“More women need to be present in leadership roles across all industries. Women – and not just White women, ALL women.” – UK, 18–24 years old, employed full-time, Asian/Asian-British, heterosexual

African American and Black women were more likely to speak to this topic (75 percent compared to 65 percent for the global group) as were women from the U.S. and U.K., particularly in relation to needing more women of color and other underrepresented groups in positions of power. Responses indicate a desire to see more women in positions of power in governments, businesses, communities and families.

4. Support as parents (30 percent)

“When a man works late, he’s providing for his family. When a woman works later, she’s abandoning hers.” – U.S., 35–44 years old, employed full-time, White, heterosexual

Women consistently cited a lack of “Support as Parents” as a barrier to fully engaging as mothers, caretakers and employees. Women stressed the need for adequate paid leave to care for their newborns, assurance that motherhood would not impact their careers and a culture that accepts and encourages all parents to take leave regardless of their gender. This theme stood out among employed women in the 35–44 age range. Women in the U.K. mentioned “Support as Parents” 20 percent more often than the global group.

5. Greater work/life balance (26 percent)

“For me, that means… safeguarding certain areas in my life.” – UK, 35–44 years old, employed full-time

Mothers in particular called out the challenge of balancing personal responsibilities and paid work. They feel they have little flexibility around working hours, location and expectations. Regardless of location, women between the ages of 25–44 were 23 percent more likely to mention this theme than other groups. Their solutions covered ideas such as allowing more flexibility at work, and a strong push to break the stereotypes of women as the only suitable caretakers. The latter solution would require having men take on their fair share of care outside of work.

6. Gender equal learning (24 percent)

“Misogyny and sexism are taught from the earliest moments and permeate through the rest of our lives at work, school, and everyday life. It needs to be nipped at the bud and that can only be done through generational work, seeing women get to work in any industry they want, and equalizing social and gender roles.” — U.S., 18–24 years old, student, Black/African descent, lesbian

Women cited the importance of education free from gender stereotypes as critical for girls to see themselves in roles and fields where there is still an underrepresentation of women, such as STEM. Roughly 20–30 percent of women across different age, geographic or ethnic groups raised this concern. A slightly higher rate of women in the U.S. mentioned the topic. Women emphasized the need for gender-neutral participation in all activities (e.g., sports, science tech) and stressed that boys, like girls, must learn that everyone can achieve what they set their minds to and are not limited by their gender. They called for more role models for girls from different careers to inspire the next generation of female leaders in all fields. Women in France (34 percent) had a much higher instance of this theme.

7. Mental and physical well-being (19 percent)

“It’s common for women’s issues to be dismissed, overlooked, or downplayed by medical professionals, preventing women from receiving necessary treatment and support, which sometimes has fatal consequences… ” – U.S., 25–34 years old, employed full-time, White, bisexual

Women called for better access to healthcare services for both “Mental and Physical Well-Being”. They cited difficulties receiving proper healthcare. These situations were often exacerbated for women of color or those who cannot afford proper care. Women called out their health as under-researched and underfunded, leading to undiagnosed illnesses or misdiagnoses. They stressed the need to have control over their bodies and have the ability to make the right decisions for themselves. This requires having access to resources such as contraception and mental health support, control over their reproductive rights and proper sex education. Women who were either fully employed or between the ages of 25–44 cited this more frequently than other groups.

8. An end to gender-based harassment and violence (15 percent)

“We need to be seen as people, not objects. We need to be heard and [we need people to] believe what we say when we do it. Our decisions need to be respected.” — Mexico, student, bisexual

Greater accountability from governments and businesses is essential to implement laws and policies to protect women and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. Respondents called on men to take accountability for and stop misogynistic thinking and behavior. They asked men to actively call out violent words and behavior by other men to create safer environments for everyone. Women of all backgrounds mentioned this topic to varying degrees. Asian and Hispanic/Latina women (23 percent), women with a disability (28 percent) and LGBTQI+ women (33 percent) mentioned this topic more often. U.S. respondents were also more likely to raise this theme than the global average.

9. Women said men can be both allies and barriers to progress

“Men need to change…. Men have to choose to be different on their own, and until that happens, I think it’s going to be very hard for women to reach our full potential.” – U.S., 35–44 years old, self-employed, mental health/emotional disability, physical disability, Black/African descent, heterosexual

The eight themes above represent opportunities for specific programmatic or policy changes. The data analysis revealed one more trend: the role of men in achieving gender equity. Most women (71 percent) mentioned men as either a barrier or an ally to achieve their full potential. Women were clear in their call for men to change and assume accountability for harmful and discriminatory actions against women. They stressed the need for men to step up at home and take on their share of domestic and care work, to speak up at work when they hear derogatory comments and to make space for women’s voices to be heard.

About Mars, Incorporated

For more than a century, Mars, Incorporated has subscribed to the belief that the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today. This idea is at the center of who we have always been as a global, family-owned business. Today, Mars is transforming, innovating and evolving in ways that affirm our commitment to making a positive impact on the world around us. Across our diverse and expanding portfolio of confectionery, food and pet care products and services, we employ 133,000 dedicated Associates all moving in the same direction: forward. With $40 billion in annual sales, we produce some of the world’s best-loved brands.

We know we can only be truly successful if our partners and the communities in which we operate prosper as well. The Mars Five Principles are Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom. Using these principles, we inspire our Associates to take action every day to help create a world tomorrow in which the planet, its people and pets can thrive.

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