We’ve all heard that it’s about the journey, not the destination. In this case, that could not be more precise. When we learned that Hershey was going to be recognized as #1 on Forbes’ list of the “World’s Top Female Friendly Companies,” the energy throughout our organization was palpable. From the Executive wing in the sweet town of Hershey, PA to our teams around the world, Hershey employees across the business celebrated what they already felt to be true: this iconic company is making strides for women. We know it’s the milestones along this journey that create real change; milestones like pay equity, gender diversity and seeing women in leadership roles—and for our female and diverse employees, being able to see that path for themselves. It was these actions that led us to this destination and the continuous impact of those actions that truly matter.
At Hershey, we’re anchored in the story told by the data. So, how the Forbes “World’s Top Female Friendly Companies” list was formed is important to us. Hershey and the 299 other multinational corporations on the list were evaluated in multiple, globally administered independent surveys of approximately 85,000 women who provided 750,000 data points in 40 different countries. The ranking is based on three scores: Employee Score (through anonymous online panels), Public Opinion and Leadership Score. What makes this even sweeter is that this was not an award we submitted ourselves or even knew was happening. All this surveying and the recognition itself was completely unknown to us; our inclusion on the list was a welcomed surprise.
Did the ranking make many Hershey employees feel proud? It certainly did. But does this ranking make Hershey even more equitable? It does not. We know that it’s intentional steps and action that make the difference for employees and our communities.
For myself and the rest of the Human Resources team (and the whole Hershey team!), this journey started years ago with key milestones along the way:
As reported in our 2020 Sustainability Report, we have 48.1% gender diversity around the world, 37.4% of people leaders globally are women and our Board has 42% gender diversity.
In 2020, we achieved 1:1 aggregate gender pay equity and in 2021, 1:1 aggregate people of color (POC) pay equity for salaried employees in the U.S.
In 2017, we celebrated when Michele Buck became our CEO and again in 2019 when she was named Chairman of the Board. She is still only one of a handful of women serving as a CEO for a Fortune 500 company.
In 2016, we expanded our maternity leave program to paid parental leave.
In 2019, Kristen Riggs (who started as an intern at Hershey just 15 years before) was promoted to Chief Growth Officer.
For the past two years, our teams in Brazil, India and the U.S. have celebrated International Women’s Day through custom packaging on our iconic Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar to celebrate the countless contributions of women around the world.
Our teams in Latin America and India are led by women with Larissa Diniz as General Manager of Lain America and Geetika Mehta as General Manager of India.
Michele also frequently appears on ‘most powerful women in business’ lists, such as Fortune's Most Powerful Women.
Our commitment to gender equity isn’t limited to our workplace. Our business still supports the Milton Hershey School (founded in 1909 by Milton and Catherine Hershey) and it’s 2,100+ students to empower the next generation of leaders. We also know through our Cocoa for Good program that when women have an income, they invest it into education and the well-being of their children and family members. That’s why we invest in non-profit partners to provide training for creating additional income streams such as soap making, snail rearing and vegetable farming. When women are empowered, they lift their communities with them.
All of these milestones make us so proud of what we have achieved, but we know we must do more for our people of all underserved groups, including people of color. After the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, we held listening and co-creation sessions with employees around the company to understand how they were feeling and what they needed from us.
The result was The Pathways Project, a 5-year plan to make Hershey more diverse and inclusive. The project includes goals like achieving pay equity for salaried positions around the world and increasing the number of women and POC leaders by 2025. We have also focused our efforts to bring in a wider range of talent and perspectives, as well as strengthened our development programs for underrepresented talent. Building a diverse talent pipeline and recognizing and investing in remarkable people is an important part of continuing our growth.
At Hershey, setting the tone for diversity, equity and inclusion is a business priority that starts at the top with our CEO and Board of Directors (of whom 5 of 12 are female). Many of our largest brands and verticals are led by women. It’s critical that we invite new perspectives, ideas, and experiences in everything we do to ensure our workforce reflects the diversity of consumers around the world.
For more than 127 years, we have done what is right for our people, planet and communities. We know we need to continue our commitment to this journey of doing what’s right so we’re here to celebrate more of these milestones a century from now. This ranking by Forbes is a warm ray of sunshine to highlight years of hard work and intentional action, but it’s the bright future we’re creating that makes me the most proud.
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