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The authority on gender empowerment in business for nearly 20 years.

Winner of Standard Bank Top Woman Award for Diversity in the Workplace – how is future-fit multinational Unilever giving back?

Written by Staff Writer

November 30, 2020

Unilever South Africa (Pty Ltd), a subsidiary of Unilever PLC, is one of the largest FMCG companies in South Africa. The company is over 100 years old and started operations in South Africa in 1891 when the Sunlight trademark was registered. The company has over 3 500 employees across two corporate offices and seven manufacturing locations in the country.

Unilever is consistently championed as a top employer in South Africa. What are the key ingredients to this success?

At Unilever we bring our purpose to life with the work that we do – creating a better business and a better world. The Unilever business strategy is centered around being purpose led and future fit. We bring purpose down to an individual level so that every employee not only knows the “What” and “How” of work, but the “Why”. This enables them to bring their full potential to work each day. We also pride ourselves in world class capability building and diversity and inclusion is at the heart of what we do!

As a multinational in South Africa, what are some of your major CSI programmes?

In 2010, we launched the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), framing our approach around big goals, underpinned with bold targets the heart of the global sustainable development agenda. We’ve since seen the way our work has changed the world around us – empowering women, protecting forests, improving health and supporting sustainable farming.

Our brands have purposeful bold commitments on climate, improving the livelihoods and wellbeing of societies. One example is Joko, which as the tea of strength has partnered with POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse).  JOKO donates R1 from each Joko 100s pack to POWA to help create safe spaces where victims of domestic abuse can use their strength to end the silence and end the violence.

What are the key gender empowerment milestones the company has implemented?

In Unilever SA we have maintained gender balance at management level since 2015, making significant progress at senior management level and achieving 49.7% female representation at end 2019. We are also proud of the iconic Black Female appointments made over the years at an Executive level.

In 2020, Unilever Global was the Catalyst Award Winner, which is an accolade to companies who’s innovative organisational approaches result in addressing the advancement of diverse women. As Unilever SA we are proud to have been one of the key contributors to the case study, highlighting our work on both representation and inclusion, submitted for this win.

What have been some of your major challenges and how did you overcome them?

As a company that serves a diverse consumer base, we have a greater appreciation of the importance of ensuring we have the right representation in our business. We realised that a different approach was required to support our ambition of maintaining gender balance at management and improving representation at more senior levels. The biggest win has been the commitment and sponsorship from our most Senior Business Leaders who formed a Diversity Board to champion this important agenda. Our leaders lead for a culture where our employees experience a sense of belonging and are fully able to thrive. 

Why, in your opinion, is it important to enter awards ceremonies?

Achievements such as the Top Gender-empowered award, enable us to further champion this important cause and help lead an industry movement to strive for equality, diversity and inclusion for women in the workplace.

Awards are acknowledgment of the efforts and progress made by all. It is important to recognise the behaviours that support the organisation’s goals and values. It is a testament to the strides being made and instils pride in our employer brand.

What exciting plans do you have for 2021?

We will continue to focus on diversity and inclusion as a strategic enabler, maintaining gender balance at leadership levels and embedding Men as Allies, through our Women’s Interactive Network as we strive for true gender equality in the workplace and society.

We will continue driving inclusion by further entrenching a sense of belonging for all!

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