To Close the Gender Gap, Luck Is Not A Strategy
Originally published on LinkedIn by STEFANIE STRAUB, Vice President & General Counsel, Mars
I recently saw a statistic that has stayed with me ever since I first read it. The World Economic Forum estimates that it will now take 136 years for the gender gap to close1, an increase of 36 years since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. As a mother of a six-year-old, it upsets me to think that my daughter will not experience gender equity in her lifetime. This is an uncomfortable truth that will deny yet another generation of women the opportunity to live in the world as equals.
It also reminded me of a time when I felt the pressure of deciding between a career or family. Soon after I became pregnant, I was offered my first global General Counsel role. It was a brilliant opportunity, but equally terrifying as I questioned whether I could juggle the job, the travel demands and responding to the needs of my family. How could I possibly find the time to be a good mother and a good leader, all at the same time? I knew I had support at home, but before I took the job I needed to have an honest, open conversation with my future line manager. The support I received was immense. He encouraged me to take the time I needed and offered a flexible approach to my eventual return to work. Rather than feel under pressure, I felt that I could make things work. This reassurance was what I needed to hear. In other words, I was lucky that I had a great line manager. However, simply relying on luck is not good enough.
It is this same conviction that led Mars in January to launch the groundbreaking global listening study #HereToBeHeard. The study posed a simple but poignant question to women all over the world and at all intersections: what needs to change for more women to reach their full potential? This act of starting a positive dialogue centered on listening and learning from their experiences and inspired more than 10,000 women in 88 countries to share their stories. And, this week we released the findings of the study in a new report authored by BSR in consultation with experts at leading gender advocacy groups, the Unstereotype Alliance convened by UN Women, CARE, and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, including analysis from Oxford University Saïd Business School's Future of Marketing Initiative.
The depth and nuance of the deeply personal stories and diverse perspectives in the report reinforced my desire to step up and do more to shape an inclusive world for women of all races, backgrounds and cultures. We must push for systemic change where policy drives long-term changes in behavior. To make sustained progress on gender equity, we need an inclusive approach that involves women in the design and implementation of transformative policies. And, critically, men have an active role to play as allies with women.
At Mars, we listen and strive to ensure that everyone in our workplace and communities is heard, valued, and given equal opportunity in every aspect of their lives. It is why the voices in the study of the more than 1,200 Mars Associates representing more than 77,000 of their women peers are so important. Mars is committed to doing its part and the report offers a roadmap to create a more equitable and inclusive environment. We are using its data and the expert recommendations to fuel our next steps, shape our priorities and guide our investments.
For us, today’s report continues a journey that we have been on at Mars to help create positive change for all women. I hope that you take the time to read the report, let the lessons and insights from these powerful voices sink in and take action to effect enduring and systemic change to ensure that luck is not a strategy to help women realize their full potential.
What do you think needs to change for more women to reach their full potential?
#HereToBeHeard #TomorrowStartsToday #GenderEquality