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Creating Windows and Mirrors: Hershey’s Amber Murayi on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the ‘World’s Top Female-Friendly Company’

Amber Murayi is the Hershey Company’s Senior Director of Enterprise Strategy & Business Model Innovation & Co-lead of the Women’s Business Resource Group. The Hershey Company ranked No. 10 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021. 

 

My position affords me a unique view of DEI practices at a Fortune 500 company. I lead a team of strategists who are always investigating how to better meet the snacking needs of our diverse consumers around the world.

I am also co-lead of the Women’s Business Resource Group at Hershey’s headquarters. This group is comprised of people who come together to affect company policy, empower employees and create development and networking opportunities for women and men alike. I have the opportunity to analyze internal and external data to see the common threads between different stakeholder groups and witness how both internal and external forces are changing hearts, shifting minds and pushing this company forward.

Repeatedly, and from all angles and considerations, I see that creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace where employees are comfortable bringing themselves to work is a critical, never-ending journey that is key to appealing to a large, diverse consumer base.

 

#1 in the World… with More Work to Do

A worldwide study by Statista and Forbes recently surveyed 75,000 women from 40 countries around the world to aggregate data from various stakeholder groups of multinational corporations. The survey included the opinions of employees and the public, as well as a score that measured leadership diversity at 300 different companies. Hershey was named no. 1 on this list of the “World’s Top Female Friendly Companies.”

As a Hershey team member, Women’s Business Resource Group leader, and as a mom, I am incredibly proud of this recognition, but I know it’s the strides we’re making for women, underserved communities and the next generation of leaders that truly matter. Strides like pay equity or recognizing and investing in remarkable leadership to build a pipeline of diverse leaders, including women.

This recognition did not happen overnight, it was years of intentional actions with key milestones along the way that brought us to this point:

  • 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 of Directors 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 BrazilIndia 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 Latin America and Geetika Mehta as General Manager of India.
  • In 2020, we created an unprecedented, endowed scholarship fund with a decade-long partner, The Thurgood Marshall College Fund. The initial $1.5 million dollar donation will grow to $3 million over the next ten years, providing support for students studying food sciences to support under-represented students.
  • In 2020, we made unconscious bias training a requirement for all employees with continued learning opportunities now and into the future so we can all understand our own biases and create a more inclusive workplace.

These milestones and the recognition are incredible but are not enough. We need to keep pushing and creating change day in and day out.

 

Mirrors and Windows for My Son and My Colleagues

Representation is critical in the workplace, but also in our personal lives. I am constantly pushing myself to make sure my son has enough mirrors and windows. Mirrors so he can see himself in others and see the limitless distance of his potential path, and windows so he can see through to a new perspective and a new path he may not have yet pictured for himself.

From internal surveying and conversations with my peers, I know these mirrors and windows are equally as important in the workplace. Employees need to see paths for themselves to grow at a company and need to see themselves reflected in a diverse leadership team. They need opportunities to step outside of their comfort zone and learn new skills across the business—including commercial skills that are critical to growing in a company offering consumer packaged goods.

In listening sessions with employees in 2020, we heard loud and clear that those mirrors and windows were lacking for some of our colleagues and knew Hershey could and must do better. Earlier this year, the company shared ambitious DEI goals including commitments like achieving pay equity for salaried positions around the world (this has already been achieved in the U.S) and increasing the number of women and POC leaders by 2025.

We have also focused our efforts on bringing in a wider range of talent and perspectives, as well as strengthening our development programs for underrepresented talent. We know that building diverse talent pipelines full of plenty of mirrors and windows and recognizing and investing in remarkable people are important parts of continuing our growth.

 

DEI is Critical to Authentically Showing up for New Consumers and Occasions

To stay relevant as an iconic company, we need to keep evolving. Product innovation and testing and learning with new packaging types, marketing, partnerships and new occasions for our beloved brands are mission-critical to sustainable, long-term growth.

We also need to appeal to and prioritize all consumers, with a specific focus on Black and Latinx communities and segments like young families and consumers looking for better-for-you snacking options. If we want to create snacks for these consumers and celebrate new-to-us occasions with them like Lunar New Year, Diwali, Black History Month and International Women’s Day, we need to do so authentically. We cannot do this without a workforce that reflects our consumers and which can steer us in new directions, identify and create new partnerships and push the company strategy to continue to make us better and stronger together.

We need to have a strong presence of windows and mirrors for employees (from the boardroom to teams around the world) to see and hear different perspectives. It’s our differences that make us stronger.

 

Doing the Right Thing for the Long-term Success of Our Business

Since Milton Hershey started The Hershey Company in 1894, we’ve tried to do the right thing. That’s 127 years of evolving, pivoting and learning. Do we have more room to grow and more work to do? Absolutely.

We need to continue showing up and creating change for the sake of employees and their families, the communities in which we live and work, consumers, and for the long-term success of our business. If we fail to do so, our company won’t be here in another 127 years. I am proud to work for a company that strives to continuously learn, improve and evolve.

To learn more about Hershey’s culture and workforce, visit thehersheycompany.com or explore open positions.

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