Unilever achieves equal representation of women and men in leadership roles

The FMCG giant reached its gender balance target a year ahead of schedule.

Fast-moving consumer goods multinational Unilever has reached gender balance across its global management ranks a year ahead of the company’s target. In a statement released on Tuesday, the company announced that have of its 14,000 managers are now female. With 45 percent of the non-executive board also being made up of women, it is the first time that the Anglo-Dutch FMCG giant has the same number of women as men in leadership roles, a target the company had only planned to reach within a year’s time. 

“Women constitute the majority of our consumers and we owe a lot of our success to them,” said Leena Nair, Unilever’s head of HR, in the statement.

The female representation in leadership structures has risen by 38 percent over the last decade. The management gender gap was lessened largely as a result of progress in departments where women had historically been under-represented, particularly in technology, finance and supply chain where representation now stood at 47 percent, 50 percent and 40 percent respectively.

Unilever said improvements had been driven by its dedicated diversity and inclusion team, which has implemented a number of initiatives, including a network of nearly 100 diversity and inclusion champions, who drive inclusive culture across its markets. 

There was also an introduction of gender-balanced interview requirements as well as a "gender appointment ratio", which measured the track records of senior leaders in appointing women.

Alan Jope, Unilever's chief executive, said: "Women’s equality is the single greatest unlock for social and economic development globally and having a gender-balanced workforce should be a given, not something that we aspire to. We’re very proud to have reached our goal of equal representation of women and men among our 14,000 managers, but our work doesn’t stop here. We will continue to work towards equal opportunities for women and other under-represented groups both within our business and beyond." 

Aline Santos, Unilever’s executive vice-president global marketing, and global chief diversity and inclusion officer, added: "Harmful stereotypes and gender-based norms are one of the biggest barriers to achieving gender equality globally. That’s why Unilever is committed to eradicating stereotypes in the workplace and across the advertising industry.

"Using the influence of our brands to drive positive change in society, we hope to create a gender-equal world that allows people to be whoever they want to with the entire finance department now being 50 percent female - an area where women have historically been underrepresented. About half of Unilever’s board is also female.”