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Why We Need to Shift Our Thinking and Listen to Women’s Voices

Originally Published on LinkedIn by Dr. Guangtao Zhang, the Director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC).

What needs to change so that more women can reach their full potential?

I believe there needs to be a real shift in thinking but more than that, we need to foster urgent and lasting change. We must find ways to ensure that all women’s voices are heard, and that all women are empowered to reach their full potential.

Even before the pandemic, it was estimated it would take more than a century to close the gender opportunity gap for women. The economic impacts of food insecurity exacerbated by COVID-19 is just one example of the imbalance that persists, with these more likely to be felt by women who often lead households. At Mars, we believe if it’s not safe, it’s not food, and at the Mars Global Food Safety Center, we are committed to delivering research to ensure safe food for all, as food safety is key in delivering food security.

In my career at Mars, I’ve felt privileged to be inspired by some incredible female leaders including Dr. Abigail Stevenson, VP of the Mars Advanced Research Institute (MARI) and Dr. Maria Velissariou, Global Corporate Research and Development (R&D) Vice President and Chief Science Officer at Mars, Incorporated. Some key insights I have learned from them include assuming positive intent, having the Five Principles at the core and translating science into practical applications.

To create equity we need to listen, and we need to act

I’m proud to say that at the Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC), 50% of our world-leading scientists are female, with women making up 69% of the team. The Mars GFSC is a global team and it’s important to have those diverse voices and perspectives heard, especially in STEM.

I’m also proud of the many actions being taken by Mars, for example the $5m contribution to COVID-19 responses with a key focus on women, children, and migrant workers in partnership with CARE.?

A female scientist conducts an experiment

These are all great steps but there is more to do. As a leader in Mars and in science myself, I believe I have a responsibility to sponsor and advocate for women in and outside of the organization. We all need to help women reach their full potential, across industry and across society.? We need to listen, and we need to act.

Starting with women in our business, Mars has begun conducting a global survey to capture the voices of millions of women telling us what needs to change in our workplaces, our sourcing communities, and the broader marketplace. Once the survey is complete, Mars will partner with the Sa?d Business School at the University of Oxford who will independently analyze the data, and the results of the survey will be shared globally in a study by Oxford this summer. The results will inform action plans for Mars’ Full Potential platform, including policies Mars can implement and advocate for in its commitment to unlocking opportunities for women. I look forward to helping ensure that every voice is heard today, so that tomorrow we can help more women reach their full potential.

At Mars, we want to hear from you. Please share your voice and vision for change at www.beheard.mars.com to help shape the future for women. Please encourage as many others to do so as you can.

Dr. Guangtao Zhang joined the Mars GFSC in 2015 as Analytical Food Safety Manager, becoming Head of Research in 2018 and then the Director of the Mars GFSC in January 2021. Dr. Zhang has a BSc in Chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China and an MSc and PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Washington. After holding a postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University, he was a faculty member at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, developing therapeutics for breast cancer.

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