Originally published at thehersheycompany.com. Ganesh Harinath is a Manager of B2B eCommerce at Hershey. The Hershey Company ranked No. 6 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2022.
We at The Hershey Company talk a lot about what it means to be #StrongerTogether. But what does it really mean? In pursuit of that answer, we have demonstrated our passion for, and commitment to, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), thereby helping employees feel heard, respected and valued. That passion and commitment should be at the forefront of our conversations to reach every corner of the organization and create real change.
As a long-standing employee at Hershey, I am excited to see our progress on DEI. We have made incredible strides on our corporate journey in such a short amount of time, and our laser-focused strategy is a large part of that success, but we have more work to do — including for the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community. And, if you look at the stats, you might not understand why. Parity on pay. Parity on placement. Mission accomplished, right?
For many of us, however, the need to feel heard, respected and valued runs deeper than numbers. That’s why, in January of 2021, when I observed other Business Resource Groups (BRGs) partnering with the Hershey Board of Directors, I began to ideate how people who look like me might have a seat at that table.
Over the course of the ensuing year plus, I presented my vision for what this would look like to our most senior leaders. At every point, I received confirmation and willingness to partner, and with every conversation I re-doubled my resolve to bring this vision to life.
And on June 1, 2022, that’s exactly what happened when Anthony (Tony) Palmer, the Lead Independent Director of the Hershey Board of Directors, graciously joined us live at our corporate headquarters for a Fireside Chat. It was the first in-person event of this nature in several years, and it was the first of its kind in API BRG’s 16-year history. The event itself was incredibly well-received, both by the broader Hershey populace, as well as API BRG members.
In addition to being CEO of his own company, Tony Palmer is the Lead Independent Director of The Hershey Company’s Board of Directors. He has worked for some of the biggest names in CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) during his career and worked internationally for much of that time. An Australian native, Tony spent many of his formative business years outside the U.S. As Tony dove into his own background, he explained how his career was positively impacted by mentorship from Asian and Pacific Islander (API) executives from a variety of CPG firms. He specifically mentioned how his own composition was forever shaped by those conversations, and how the impact of those diverse, authentic relationships bled through in all points of his career — including his ongoing leadership on our Board of Directors. He further explained the numerous API individuals he mentored throughout his career, and the force for positive change that small cohort became as they, in kind, reached out to others who, like them, were crying out for mentorship. The power of that gracious attitude and the simple act of making someone feel heard, respected and valued had long-lasting impacts to Tony’s career.
I was awestruck by the opportunity to learn first-hand from someone whose trajectory is universally revered in our industry. And I was humbled to know that some small part of his diverse experience set was informed by the many unique and distinct cultures that form API racial and ethnic groups. Tony’s intentionality in seeking out those growth opportunities is remarkable, and his passion in that space was incredibly refreshing to hear about and learn from.
Now, as we work through the core lessons from Tony’s time speaking to our organization, I find myself contemplating how I can put those key learnings into action. How can I continue to help others succeed? How can I seek out diverse experiences and perspectives to ensure the business is as holistically sound as possible? What small but meaningful relationships can I form to improve not just my own career trajectory, but those of the API community here at The Hershey Company?
In short, authentic relationships and a desire to challenge oneself are at the core of these answers. Tony’s remarkable journey was punctuated by success after success, but only after he shifted his perspective and began to lead with empathy. It was only then that his passion came into focus, and his relationship with his teams were elevated to the next level.
Here at Hershey, we continue to focus our conversations on allyship and how to become an ally. I was thoroughly impressed by the allyship and determination Tony exhibited in his career and the level of care he continues to exhibit for all his teams, especially those of API extraction. It’s this “tell, show, do and then review” ethic that will further inspire the change we want to see in our organization as we continue our journey to creating an environment where people of all walks of life feel they have a place at the table… that their voice matters, and that they are a true member of the team… that they are heard, respected and valued.
And that’s about the best definition of #StrongerTogether I can imagine.