The Hershey Company aims to recognize, honor and uplift women and girls in celebration of Women's History Month this month and International Women's Day on March 8. 

Recognized by Forbes as the Top Female-Friendly Company in 2021, Hershey says it is committed to continuing its efforts in 2022 to advance gender equity with meaningful partnerships, celebratory packaging and global storytelling efforts.

In addition to launching the “Celebrate SHE” initiative, the company has donated $150,000 to Girls on the Run, a U.S. based nonprofit organization with a mission focused on supporting, empowering and inspiring girls, as well as $100,000 to the United Nations’ Girl Up, a nonprofit committed to advancing girls' skills, rights, and opportunities to be leaders.

Candy Industry recently spoke with Marlene Creighton, VP – Food East, about how Hershey supports gender equality inside the workplace and beyond.

CI: Why did The Hershey Company pick the Hershey bar to celebrate Women’s History Month?

MC: In the U.S., we selected the iconic bar and packaging to highlight the three very important letters in the center of our flagship brand: the SHE in Hershey’s. After all, there is no Hershey’s without SHE! 

CI: Hershey had a similar campaign to mark last year’s International Women’s Day. Is this an expansion of that campaign?

MC: This is the first year of a national Celebrate SHE roll-out in the U.S., but the campaign has some momentum. In 2020, Brazil first launched a campaign focusing on celebrating female artists. India joined in 2021, honoring female leaders. Also in 2021, a small and mighty team of Hershey women brought the idea to life in the U.S. via grassroots efforts. They decided International Women’s Day — which is a chance to reflect on progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by women — was the ideal date to celebrate SHE.

CI: Can you provide a percentage breakdown of gender across Hershey’s leadership and its total workforce?

MC: We’re proud to have 48 percent gender diversity around the world. More than 37 percent of leaders globally are women, and our board is 42 percent gender diverse. These numbers are as of 2021 reporting, but we are actively working toward our goals of increasing the number of women and people of color in leadership roles even further by 2025.

CI: What does it mean to be among the few Fortune 500 companies led by women? 

MC: We take great pride in being a role model in this space and illustrating that women can have it all. Women are a critical force in the future of all we do. I tell my 15-year-old daughter that the possibilities are endless. When she grows up, she doesn’t have to choose between work or family. We at Hershey make sure our work coexists with our families. 

CI: Looking internally, what does The Hershey Company do to promote gender equality among its workforce? Specifically, what does it do around the issues of the pay gap and parental leave? Looking externally, how does Hershey support gender equality?

MC: First, I’m so proud to share that Hershey has no pay gap for salaried positions in the U.S. In 2020, we achieved 1:1 aggregate gender pay equity, and in 2021, 1:1 aggregate people of color pay equity for salaried employees in the U.S. We’re now actively working toward achieving 1:1 aggregate pay equity for salaried positions around the world by 2025.

In 2016, we expanded our maternity leave program to paid parental leave. Another benefit that I know many of my colleagues appreciate is fertility and family building coverage.

Looking externally, we have meaningful partnerships that are creating change for women and girls around the world. For our Women’s Heritage Month initiatives, we’ve partnered with Girls on the Run in the U.S. and Girl Up in markets around the world. We’re also proud members of Paradigm for Parity – a coalition of business leaders dedicated to addressing the leadership gender gap in corporate America. 

CI: Why did Hershey decide to partner with Girls on the Run? Are there plans to support other organizations promoting gender equality?

MC: We simply fell in love with Girls on the Run and its mission. Their vision is to help create a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and pursues her dreams. We felt that fit perfectly with our goals and our company’s long-term focus and investment in women and girls.

We’re also partnering with Girl Up as part of our international campaign and have many other meaningful partnerships with nonprofits focused on equity.