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Ibtehal Fathy

Ibtehal Fathy: Championing Inclusion and Diversity at Mars, Incorporated

Breaking Barriers, Fostering Inclusion, and Embracing Authenticity for a Brighter Future!

In recent years, there has been a growing focus on increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Trailblazers like Ibtehal are proactively driving change to recognize the significance of cultivating an inclusive environment that supports all employees. By championing diversity and fostering a culture that respects different viewpoints, organizations can unearth novel concepts and spur innovation.

Ibtehal Fathy, a visionary leader at Mars, Incorporated, has emerged as a driving force behind fostering inclusion and diversity within the company. Building on her remarkable career and lived experience as an Arab woman, Ibtehal possesses a deep understanding of the challenges faced by many people of different backgrounds and has an unwavering commitment to their success. As a woman whose career arc began in the male-dominated supply function, she is passionate about dedicating her time and strengths to ensuring equitable access to mentorship and opportunities for women. She has become not only a catalyst for change in the Asia-Australia, Middle East, and African regions but also across the world as the global inclusion and diversity head of one of the most successful companies in the world.

Thriving in her role as Mars’ Inclusion & Diversity Officer, she finds immense fulfillment in the company’s focus on supporting women in the sciences. She believes that cultivating the right mix of talents, backgrounds, and perspectives is essential for making informed decisions and breaking free from conventional thinking. She sees inclusion as the realm where the magic happens, enabling teams to unlock their full potential. As a leader, she strives to demonstrate unwavering support and sets an example for others to follow in championing inclusion and diversity.

Ibtehal’s unwavering dedication is a testament to her exceptional leadership and commitment to driving positive change within the company. Her influence extends beyond her immediate role, inspiring women across the globe. As she continues to pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse future, her journey stands as a beacon of hope, empowering individuals to embrace their unique qualities and revolutionize the corporate world.

Let us venture further into her odyssey!

Inspiration Behind a Successful Journey

Ibtehal has an extensive history with the company, having held various positions in Supply and People & Organization (P&O). During her time at Mars, she has worked as a shift manager, project engineer, and plant director, among other roles. In 2012, she transitioned her focus to P&O (HR) and became the P&O VP for Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Australia for the Mars Wrigley segment. She eventually transitioned to her current role in Inclusion and Diversity (I&D).

Throughout her professional journey, Ibtehal has held leadership roles in science and engineering across three different countries—Egypt, the UAE, and Germany—at local, regional, and global levels. As a female executive, it was often the case that she went into a room and didn’t see leaders who looked like her. Moreover, she has had to confront and challenge societal stereotypes about Arab women, especially in male-dominated industries, during the earlier stages of her career.

However, working at Mars, a global organization with facilities and offices in more than 70 countries, has allowed her the opportunity to work with people across different regions, cultural backgrounds, languages, and identities. These experiences have ignited a career in inclusion and diversity, where she can cultivate inclusion and diversity environments that empower individuals from different

backgrounds to express themselves freely. Her past experiences, combined with her passion and sense of mission, have culminated in a pivotal moment where Ibtehal can make a positive impact on the world.

Inception Story

More than 100 years ago, two men who shared a passion for food started making beloved confections that have stood the test of time. Since then, Mars has expanded into pet food and pet care, evolving to create products and services that people (and their pets) love. Today, it has more than 140,000 Associates situated in over 70 nations. The corporation is celebrated for its legendary trademarks, such as M&M’s®, Snickers®, Ben’s Original™, Royal Canin®, Pedigree®, and Banfield Pet Hospital®.

Mars, a family business for generations, has always operated in a way that’s mutually beneficial to both the company and its stakeholders, translating into industry-leading work for both people and the planet.

Art of Positioning

Ibtehal firmly believes that Mars’ success in the fiercely competitive and ever-changing market is largely attributed to the diversity present in its workforce. Along with this, the Five Principles of Mars also play a significant role in contributing to their triumph. “The Five Principles are how we do business at Mars. And we recognize that the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today.” Every Associate can depend on the Five Principles to guide their decisions, both big and small:

  • Quality: Quality begins with delivering our best to the people and pets we serve. It continues through all that we do.
  • Responsibility: We take responsibility without being asked. We support the responsibilities of others.
  • Mutuality: A mutual benefit is a shared benefit. Shared benefits will endure.
  • Efficiency: Our resources are precious. Being efficient helps us accomplish more and waste less.
  • Freedom: Freedom lets us shape our future. Performance allows us to remain free.

The responsibility of embedding I&D into every aspect of the business, in alignment with the Five Principles, is in Ibtehal’s charge. Her team is responsible for showcasing how different teams with unique thinking styles contribute innovative ideas. Inclusion and diversity play a crucial role in enhancing the well-being of Mars’ Associates and delivering better business results. The company takes pride in the positive influence of its I&D efforts and Five Principles on its extended supply chain, the marketplace, and society as a whole.

Building a Thriving and Inclusive Workplace

Ibtehal’s team is committed to developing a more inclusive society by creating a welcoming work environment that extends to the communities and marketplaces where they operate. A crucial step in their comprehensive Inclusion and Diversity strategy is raising awareness. To achieve this, Mars has conducted research and data analysis, as well as hosted learning circles and educational workshops on I&D and implicit bias. These sessions were designed to showcase the differences in workplace experiences and how implicit bias can lead to harmful stereotypes and misconceptions.

Mars Associates has come together to prioritize inclusivity and diversity in the workplace, resulting in a collective awareness of their importance. As a company, it has set aspirational goals for inclusion, gender diversity, and workforce representation and has made significant advancements toward achieving them. I&D efforts have been integrated into the company’s business strategy, partnering with the Talent Acquisition team to ensure greater access to talent recruitment from diverse backgrounds. To support this initiative, a comprehensive learning strategy has been implemented, including training programs for Associates, managers, and senior leaders.

Additionally, Mars has identified individual and collective actions leaders can take toward creating an inclusive workplace. The launch of “Unmuted,” an internal podcast, is one of the many storytelling initiatives that have been introduced to empower Associates to share their personal experiences.

In addition, Associate Resource Groups (ARGs) established by the company serve to strengthen and unite diverse communities. For example, one such group, the Women @ DigitalMars ARG, provides leadership and mentorship opportunities as part of its programming.

What makes a strategy successful? Ibtehal believes that the strategy must be deliberate, prioritized by leaders to drive it forward. Without this understanding, I&D will not be a priority for the business. As such, Mars is committed to building a foundation for equity and inclusion at every stage of the Associate’s journey and closely monitors progress as a company. Recognizing that I&D is a journey, not a sprint, Mars emphasizes the need for resilience and perseverance to achieve the aspiration.

Insider Tips from an Inventive Leader

Ibtehal has had many roles before taking on her current responsibility of scaling Mars I&D. Throughout her career, she has advised aspiring business leaders, including entrepreneurs, to prioritize honesty and integrity in their leadership. Leaders hold significant influence over many livelihoods, so it’s crucial to lead with fairness. When faced with difficult decisions, seek advice from trusted sources, including mentors, sponsors, peers, and family. Take the time to do your research, gathering as much data as possible, to ensure that you are making an informed decision.

It’s also essential to take ownership, trust your intuition, and be confident in your leadership abilities. Although determined, she acknowledges that failure to deliver the desired results can sometimes be disappointing. Nevertheless, self-compassion is key. Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, Ibtehal reframes them positively and reminds herself of her past successes. This approach allows her to

empathize with others and develop skills that meet the needs of her team. She has learned to accept that imperfections are a part of being human and that they do not diminish her through self-development, courage, and introspection, making her a better leader.

Scaling Services and Operations

The overarching objective of her team is to guarantee that all Associates experience a sense of belonging and are provided with the chance to achieve their full potential. Over the coming 24 months, they will concentrate on enhancing their efforts in three critical domains, which they

refer to as their “Big Rocks.”

  • Activating line managers and leaders: The importance of middle management cannot be overstated. Line managers hold considerable sway in shaping the day-to-day experiences of Associates. Progress on inclusion and diversity is greatly facilitated by senior leaders who both advocate for these values and set an example through their actions. It all begins with those at the highest levels of the organization.
  • Embracing inclusion: Fostering a psychologically safe environment is crucial to promoting inclusion among Associates. This involves building a sense of belonging, where Associates are encouraged to bring their full and authentic selves to work.
  • Driving equity for all: Mars aims to create a fair and balanced environment that enables every person to achieve their full potential. It aims to ensure equal opportunities for all Associates, with a special emphasis on women and marginalized communities. The focus is on providing everyone with equitable access to opportunities, regardless of their background or circumstances.

As the proverbial saying suggests, embarking on a journey of a thousand miles commences with a single stride. Through the implementation of these targeted objectives for the years ahead, their resolute commitment is to realize their aspiration through incremental progress.

Unmatched Excellence

Ibtehal is pleased with the favorable remarks from colleagues about the organization’s prioritization of

inclusivity, as evidenced by the latest Mars Associate Survey. Additionally, Mars is dedicated to creating a beneficial influence on both society and the environment, which is demonstrated by its Sustainable in a Generation scorecard. This scorecard monitors the advancement made towards accomplishing the company’s ambitious objectives stated in the 2017 Sustainable in a Generation Plan.

Mars has made remarkable progress in advancing gender equality in its advertising efforts. Over three years, the company has increased the portrayal of women in its advertisements from 41% to 48%. Moreover, it has implemented measures to ensure that its advertising content is free from gender prejudice. As a result, the company has earned a prominent standing in the industry and has taken on a significant role as the Vice Chair of the Unstereotype Alliance. This initiative was established by UN Women to eliminate detrimental stereotypes from media and advertising content and currently has 238 member companies and nine national chapters.

Additionally, the company’s billion-dollar brands are leveraging their influence to empower individuals to thrive, as evidenced by MALTESERS® in the U.K. Through its #TheMassiveOvershare and #LoveBeatsLikes campaigns, the company is promoting maternal mental health. These initiatives have resulted in over 270,000 visits to the support website, providing people with important information and resources. M&M’s® has also committed with its #ForAllFunkind campaign to enhance the sense of belonging for 10 million individuals by 2025. These efforts have not gone unnoticed, as the brands have received various awards and recognitions in recent years.

  • Forbes – America’s Best Employers for Diversity
  • Forbes – America’s Best Employers for Women
  • Forbes – America’s Best Large Employers
  • Forbes – The World’s Best Employers
  • Brandon Hall Award for Excellence in Leadership Development