Mars Unveils Findings from Global Listening Study to Advance Gender Equity

Mars, Incorporated have 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. Launched at a time when the crushing and disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women has set the march to equality back by 136 years1, the 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 and 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, inspiring report that challenges society at large 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’re committed to doing our part and 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 the 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.”

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, which were qualitatively grouped into eight themes most frequently mentioned by women:  

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

Notably, 71 percent of women stressed that men play a critical role – either as allies in solutions or as barriers to progress. 

What Business and Others Can Do
Globally, the pandemic wreaked havoc on women in the workforce, triggering a “she-cession” that cost 64 million jobs and at least $800 billion in income – the combined GDP of 98 countries.2   This mass exodus of talent and potential represents both a tragic loss and an undeniable social responsibility for business to lead the recovery by creating 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.” 

Moving forward, Mars will leverage the insights from #HereToBeHeard – which includes more than 1,200 Mars Associate voices – to design and implement new policies and actions in service of the Mars Full Potential gender equity platform, launched in 2020.  Since then, Mars has taken a series of evolving 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% gender balanced leadership teams.3  In its first year, the business made notable progress against this goal, increasing the balance from 43% to 50% today.  

Victoria Mars, family member and ambassador of 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 and 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: www.mars.com/heretobeheard 
Together, we can ensure more women will reach their full potential.

THEMES, VOICES & INSIGHTS: 

1.    An End to Systemic Discrimination and Harmful Gender Stereotypes (80%) 
“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 permeating politics, sports, work, education, family, and social life. They stressed the need to change how society views women’s strengths and skills, recognizing 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%), as were women in the U.K. (84%) and the U.S. (87%). 

2.    Equal Career Opportunities (79%)
“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 

Critical to break the “glass ceiling” and “level the playing field.” Women called on government and company-led initiatives to drive this change, including the importance of mentors and sponsors along the way. The gender pay gap was widely mentioned alongside its negative financial impacts on women and their families. While women across geographies and from diverse backgrounds spoke to this theme, particularly high levels of Hispanic and Latina women mentioned it (88%). 

3.    More Decision-Making Power (65%)
“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% compared to 65% 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%)
“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

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 their career would not be impacted, 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 and women in the U.K., who mentioned “Support as Parents” 20% more often than the global group.

5.    Greater Work/Life Balance (26%)
“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, with little flexibility around working hours, location, and expectations. Regardless of location, women between the ages of 25–44 were 23% 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 by having men take on their fair share of care outside of work.

6.    Gender Equal Learning (24%)
“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

The importance of education free from gender stereotypes was cited as critical for girls to see themselves in roles and fields where women are still underrepresented, such as STEM. This topic was raised by roughly 20–30% of women across different age, geographic, or ethnic groups, with a slightly higher rate for women in the U.S. Women emphasized the need for gender-neutral participation in all activities (e.g., sports, science, tech) and stressed that boys, like girls, need to be taught 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%) had a much higher instance of this theme.

7.    Mental and Physical Wellbeing (19%) 
“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, situations that 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 by 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 frequency than other groups.

8.    An End to Gender Based Harassment and Violence (15%)
“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. We need our decisions to be respected.” — Mexico, student, bisexual

Greater accountability from governments and businesses to implement laws and policies to protect women and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. They called on men to take accountability for and stop misogynistic thinking and behavior and asked them 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%), women with a disability (28%), and LGBTQI+ women (33%) mentioned this topic more often and U.S. respondents were also more likely to raise this theme than the global average.

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

While the eight themes 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%) mentioned men as either a barrier or 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.

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