Gender Equality Awards 2017: Responsible Business Awards for Gender Equality- Unilever

Image of Unilever logo

Strategy with purpose
Unilever is a purpose-driven business and the organisation’s sustainable development plan is key to its philosophy. As 70% of Unilever’s customers are female, having a diverse and inclusive organisation offers a strategic advantage.

Unilever’s two drivers for success are representation of women, including targets and transparency around tracking and measurement, and creating a more progressive culture and working environment. Without creating an organisation where women feel they can thrive, employers cannot improve diversity.

Leaders with accountability
Accountability is key to Unilever’s work on gender diversity. To achieve this clear targets have been set, with the CEO taking ownership and showing commitment from the top, and now 50% of Unilever’s UKI management is female. Unilever also has a Global Diversity Board which spearheads the global strategy and is chaired by CEO, Chief HR Officer and comprises 11 other senior executives.

Targeted action
Unilever is a multi-dimensional and multi-faceted organisation, with 21 sites in the UK including global offices and teams. To change the culture and achieve progress on equality, it is key to look into details and hot spots, for example, Unilever’s supply chain organisations are male-dominated. The organisation has targeted proactive school engagement workshops, ambassador programmes and work experience – with many of the programmes focussing on sustainability and STEM.  Beneficiaries of these programmes become applicants to Unilever Apprenticeship schemes; at one site, two-thirds of applicants to the apprenticeship programmes have come from this route. Representation of women in the Supply Chain area has seen a steady increase since 2012. Unilever is continuing to focus on attracting women to other areas of the business where they are under-represented and on accelerating promotion for women to senior positions.

Recruiting and managing diverse talent
Diverse talent is managed through mentoring, coaching, learning courses (in partnership with INSEAD), succession planning and performance management, with diversity and inclusion targets linked to performance plans, which are linked to reward. There is also a balanced scorecard as part of the recruitment process, which requires recruiters to look at both male and female candidates for roles.

Agile working for all
Agile flexibility is an aspect Unilever is keen to drive for working parents, focusing around wellbeing. The organisation has a global maternity policy and offers alternative childcare backup care at discounted rates which parents can use as needed. 90% of office based employees currently utilise agile working and Unilever is also working with its sourcing units on this agenda.

Unilever has generous leave policies: maternity, paternity, parental, shared parental and adoption leave openly available to all employees, enabling partners to share leave without being held back in their careers.

Strategic approach
Unilever’s integrated approach requires clear policies. To communicate this and manage things consistently across the organisation, the ‘Supporting U’ campaign was developed. It provides testimonials for all the services Unilever offers employees, including a maternity and paternity support page and promotion of agile and flexible working offerings, to raise awareness and ensure employees get the support they need.

As Unilever aims to impact five million women around the world, male leaders are crucial for bringing about change and acting as advocates. To do this, Unilever has committed to the UN HeForShe guidelines.

Unilever is aiming to increase transparency and consistency across all levels, including ensuring there is a robust internal talent pipeline to enable female employees to progress into senior roles. Although 60% of graduate recruits are women, there is a significant gap between this and representation in senior management which the organisation continues to address. Unilever’s focus on creating a transparent and inclusive working culture has led to more women taking up these opportunities and leaders getting to know individuals working in their teams rather than making a judgement on face value.