When women are given the rights, the skills and the opportunities to succeed, it creates a powerful ripple effect.

It’s not just their prospects, pride and income that improve. It adds up to a transformational difference for their families, the society around them and long-term economic growth. In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that achieving full gender equality in the labour force would contribute up to US$28 trillion to the global economy by 2025.

That’s why we’re committed to supporting women across our global value chain from the core of our business outwards. We’re doing so with employees in our own offices and factories, and with those working in the fields where our ingredients are harvested. With the micro-retailers selling our products, and those reached by our advertising, partnerships and investments. From our purpose-led brands to the people who buy them, we’re working to promote equality, challenge stereotypes and innovate for a more inclusive world.

Here are some of the ways we’re doing it.

Achieving equality within our business

Across Unilever, we recognise that a diverse and inclusive business is a better business. Managers in every part of the company are trained to identify and minimise unconscious bias to ensure that we attract, recruit and retain talented people. Their gender, age, beliefs and background don’t come in to the equation, but their passion, drive and skillset do.

We also celebrate the people we call our Game Changers for Gender Equality – hundreds of proud allies who set a positive example for all. Among these inspiring employees are UK-based Marta, who founded our thriving Women in Tech network. There’s also Kenya-based Michael whose efforts to challenge outdated biases in recruitment at our tea plantations have seen the proportion of women in senior roles surge from 12% to 32% and rising in the past two years. Meanwhile US-based Nathalie launched a mentoring programme for women of colour in our Supply Chain function, helping several to advance in their careers.

Meanwhile, Dove Men+Care last year announced its purpose to champion paternity leave for all fathers and all families. The brand’s advertising celebrates the experience of taking paternity leave and how men, and those they care for, have benefited.

Dove Men+Care has also created a digital hub to equip men with guidance about claiming paternity leave, and has established a council of advisers, partners and experts to conduct proprietary research. In response, Unilever has changed its own global secondary carers leave policy and will provide a minimum of three weeks’ paid leave.

In March 2019, Unilever Australia also announced a new superannuation policy addressing the financial security and the wealth gap at retirement. This move ensures a more balanced and inclusive workplace for the company’s employees in Australia and will build long-term financial security for parents taking primary carers leave, still predominately women.

Supporting farmers and micro-entrepreneurs

Our Shakti entrepreneurship programme launched in India in 2001, giving women an opportunity to earn an income selling Unilever products door-to-door in isolated rural communities. Since then, Shakti has grown enormously. It now provides more than 100,000 women in countries including India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Guatemala, Myanmar and Colombia with training and work, allowing them to increase their income, their standing in society and their share of voice in household decision-making.

We’re sharing the learnings from women’s safety initiatives in place at our tea plantations in Kericho, Kenya and Assam, India, too.

Last year, as part of our partnership with UN Women, we launched a framework entitled A Global Women’s Safety Framework in Rural Spaces (PDF | 7MB), outlining how we improved conditions for thousands of women in tea estates by working with them – and the men on the plantations – to shift norms, creating safe workplaces for all.

We supported plantation workers to set up networks which ensure managers at these vast estates are informed and educated about the challenges faced by women working in the fields. Following their input, we’ve introduced regular women-only bus services so they can feel safer on their way to and from work. We’ve also improved lighting, set up safe places for women to breastfeed their babies and provided daycare for young children.

“The women workers are our most valuable resource,” says Unilever Procurement Manager Daleram Gulia. “They are also someone’s daughter, mother, sister. Safety and feeling safe are a basic human right in the workplace and in all spaces.”

International Women's Day

A women’s group at our tea estate in Assam, India.

Reaching women through partnerships

We’ve established a range of partnerships with organisations all over the world, to help reach women with programmes that make a positive and lasting impact.

Unilever’s TRANSFORM partnership with the UK’s Department for International Development, meanwhile, aims to enable 100 million people in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa to access products and services that will improve their livelihoods, health, wellbeing or the environment by 2025.

As part of that, we supported the scaling up of Kasha. It’s a mobile-ready e-commerce and content platform that sells and discreetly delivers women’s health and hygiene products, giving them an opportunity to access items such as sanitary pads and contraceptives without fear of social stigma.

Joanna Bichsel, CEO and Co-Founder of Kasha, says: “It’s about time we started building technology solutions that are optimised for women and serve their needs. Women own the household and are the key decision-makers for the home in terms of health and hygiene products. They deserve to be treated better.”

International Women's Day

Kasha allows women to order products they need discreetly via mobile.

Building brands with purpose

Unilever is a business built on purpose. Over 100 years ago William Lever made Sunlight soap bars affordable and accessible to the masses, putting cleanliness and hygiene within reach of people in Victorian Britain. Years later we’re still shaping our brands to make a positive difference – and gender equality is at the centre for many.

Dove is on a mission to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence not anxiety and to help improve the self-esteem of girls and women so they can reach their full potential in life. Dove is the number one provider of self-esteem esteem education in the world. So far, in Australia & New Zealand we’ve reached over 764,000 young people with Dove Self-Esteem workshops run in partnership with the Butterfly Foundation (Australia) and Life Education (New Zealand).

Vaseline has embarked on a mission in partnership with Direct Relief, an international humanitarian aid organisation dedicated to improving the health and lives of people affected by poverty and emergency situations. Through our partnership, The Vaseline® Healing Project, we aim to help heal the skin of 5 million people by 2020 and have already reached over 2.5 million people.

Over one third of the world’s population don’t have access to a basic toilet, which is something that most of us take for granted. Since 2012, Domestos has been working with UNICEF to help change the lives of over 6 million people living without basic hygiene and sanitation. Of these, nearly 2 million people are now living in open defecation free communities, benefiting from improved health, safety and dignity.* 

*Results are reported by UNICEF in accordance with its methodology and includes reach from direct & indirect initiatives

International Women's Day

TRESemmé launched its first #poweryourpresence MasterClass in London this month.

Challenging stereotypes in advertising

Millions of people see our commercials – and with that reach comes responsibility. That’s why Unilever is a founding member and vice chair of the Unstereotype Alliance.

It’s a global coalition led by UN Women which launched in 2017 to banish damaging portrayals of gender in advertising and all brand-led content. Members aim to eradicate gender bias and stereotypes from their ads by 2020 – and we’re building this pledge into the creative process for every brand we own.

Along with companies from across the consumer goods and advertising sector, we have also helped to develop an industry playbook and framework which will launch this year to help businesses assess whether their communications are progressive and inclusive.

Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Unilever, says: “We’ve seen true progress in our industry, but it doesn’t go far enough. Our job isn’t done until we never see an ad that diminishes or limits the role of women and men in society.”

International Women's Day

Kelly Rowland performs Dove Hair’s ‘Crown’ anthem, debunking beauty stereotypes.

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