Hershey’s Petross Talks Hiring Inequality On Science 4-Hire Podcast

Cleveland — Alicia Petross, vice-president and chief diversity officer for The Hershey Co., recently shared insights on tackling hiring inequality with Rocket-Hire podcast host Dr. Charles Handler.

In an episode of the Science 4-Hire, Petross noted: “We’ve made targeted efforts to expand DEI across Hershey. We look at our diverse consumer base, and we believe our company should be equally diverse from our boardroom to our manufacturing floors.”

Handler said the company’s “data-driven, goal-oriented approach has produced impressive results.”

“One of the beautiful things about Hershey’s DEI plan is that leadership isn’t just on board — they set the strategy. Even before last year’s renewed racial justice movement, Hershey’s executive team committed to growing the business by investing in more diverse talent and perspectives,” said Petross.

Hershey uses its customer base to set its diversity hiring goals, she explained “Our U.S. consumer base is 28 percent Black and Latinx. But at the time, our U.S.-based workforce was only 15 percent Black and Latinx. That meant we had a gap in being able to fully realize one of our core philosophies, which is we want our workforce to be as diverse as the consumers we’re serving.”

To fill the gap, Petross and her team honed in on four key areas that had the most growth potential: the sales function, supply chain, finances and information services, pointing out Hershey could make quick gains in areas where they could scale diverse and inclusive hiring practices. These key areas also had great career opportunities, so diverse talent would have better internal mobility options and move up within the company.

Improving DEI requires deliberate, intentional processes and channels for holding people accountable to them, she said. “We take this goaling process pretty seriously — such that our executive committee holds goals relative to representation that are linked to pay,” Petross says. “It hardly gets more serious than that.”

Setting specific, realistic goals is vital to improving diversity, equity and inclusion, said Petross. “By 2025, we want between 30 percent and 40 percent of our U.S. workforce to be comprised of people of color,” she said. “And we want 22 percent of people leader roles occupied by people of color.”