“There are three things we, as women, can do for ourselves,” said Mitch Oliver, VP of brand & purpose at Mars, Incorporated. “The first is to be visible. If you’re asked to do the presentation, do it. This is particularly important if you’re privileged enough to be able to speak up for other women. The second is to be demanding. No one knows what we want, unless we tell them. And thirdly, be supportive of other women.”
Mitch was speaking at the Purpose Summit, Campaign’s hybrid online and in-person event, bringing together leading marketers from around the world to discuss best practices in brand sustainability and purpose-driven marketing. She spoke alongside business lead Jenny Spindler and co-founder Alex Lewis from Revolt London (a marketing agency that specialises in brand activism) as they discussed Mars’s new Here To Be Heard report.
Purpose-led communications, explained Spindler, need to be organic. “Mars was already doing lots of amazing work to ensure that women working in the company were able to thrive. But things were happening in isolation. There was no umbrella. So, Mars created the company-wide programme ‘Full Potential’.”
This brought all the gender-equity programmes together, binding them with overarching company aims such as gender-balanced leadership across all teams, shared and equal parental-leave policies and equal pay. But doing this work internally still left many of those who engaged with Mars — whether as workers, suppliers or customers — out of the conversation. So the company decided to take the next step and make gender equity a core and high-profile part of its brand purpose. The result was the Here To Be Heard campaign.
“We started on International Women’s Day in 2021,” Spindler said. “The first thing we recognised is that we weren’t experts in gender equality. So, us telling people what needed to happen wasn’t the best approach. Secondly, International Women’s Day is already a crowded time in the media landscape, so it would be difficult to get cut-through. So we decided that instead of talking, we’d listen.”
One small step
Mars launched a listening campaign that reached over 329 million people in 88 countries. The campaign asked one simple question: what needs to change so more women can reach their full potential? More than 10,000 women responded, some in writing and others in voice submissions of up to half an hour in length.
“Over 70% of our respondents had one simple answer,” said Oliver (pictured), “men are essential in being part of the solution.” Breaking down the results into specific concerns, women wanted an end to discrimination, equal career opportunities and paths to get more women into positions of power. They wanted more support as parents, better work-life balance, gender-equal learning and an emphasis on the mental health and wellbeing of women and girls.
But the thing that all these individual issues have in common, is that for them to come about, women said, men have to change. Spindler talked about what Mars had learned from the exercise and how it had put what it had learned into action. “You need to look at the representation in your teams. When you’re commissioning, do you have a woman-led bid in there? Does your media output serve women well? Is it empowering?”
The presentation ended with a note from Lewis, who addressed what men could learn from the research results. “Be part of the solution. Champion others who are doing the same. And above all, listen. Open your ears.”