positive social change in diversity, inclusion and equity, finding out the backstory behind
their journey to the top and how they are leading the change towards a more inclusive and equitable world.
In a recent episode, we featured a live conversation with Hanneke Faber, the President, Global Foods & Refreshment Unilever, responsible for Unilever’s ice cream, tea and food categories globally, including Unilever Food Solutions. She is a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
On recent commitments released by Unilever
Despite yearly commitments from companies regarding gender and inclusion, the World
Economic Forum still records that it will take nearly 100 years to close the gender gap; we cannot wait that long! In honour of International Women’s Day, the Rise to Leadership Podcast series will share stories of inspiring leaders who are creating positive changes in inclusion, diversity and equity. The first podcast conversation was with Hanneke Faber, President Global Foods and Refreshment at Unilever. Unilever has published bold and ambitious 2021 commitments, which will focus on social equality. But the key question is, how are they going to achieve this?
Working towards gender balance, companies learn from the experience of gender parity.
Unilever has enjoyed great successes regarding gender parity, with 50 per cent of its managers now being women. Hanneke explained that when it comes to gender equality, Unilever is a big believer in target setting, as this creates belief inside an organisation, puts pressure on it to perform well, and holds it accountable to being gender equitable. Every year since 2010, the company has recorded this progress successfully. Hanneke highlighted that to further advance gender parity, companies need to work with other businesses and participate in networks to share examples and convince other companies “to measure what they treasure” and set goals publicly.
Minority groups, minimum wage, and the youth are also part of social equality.
Hanneke was very vocal and transparent about the fact that Unilever has not made enough progress in including underrepresented groups, especially people of colour, in its workforce. She explained that for this to happen, goals need to be set so that “organisations reflect the local communities they operate in”. This is particularly pertinent to Unilever, which operates in 190 countries. In Europe, Unilever’s offices need to collaborate more with markets of migration minorities. Hanneke explained that “no one size fits all” and that more focus needs to be on equitable recruiting. Inclusive behaviour is critical for this recruitment to be successful. Unilever is currently working on a 2 billion Euro hiring scheme to hire underrepresented groups to be part of its employee makeup and suppliers.
Hanneke also highlighted that by 2030, Unilever’s leadership team also needs to make more progress in a living wage for those who supply goods and services to Unilever, such as farmers and suppliers. This is costly and requires a lot of partnerships, but is necessary to solve poverty issues.
A final commitment is to support struggling young people in a fast-changing world and prepare them for the future job market. Hanneke communicated that Unilever is preparing a 10 million Euro training program for young people, “equipping them with skills for employability, such as apprenticeships and work experience with Unilever suppliers”.
In terms of her professional journey, Hanneke highlighted that luck played a role in attaining her leadership position. With a good education and support system (e.g. family), especially when frequently moving for different job posts, she was able to get to the position she is at today. She highlighted that her challenging obstacles were the social pressures of working as a full-time mother and the difficulties of moving to different countries in order to get to top-level positions. She was able to overcome them by having a good support system and a
flexible family life.
Self-care and the COVID-19 pandemic
The conversation closed on the topic of self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hanneke highlighted the importance of exercise, setting boundaries and finding unique coping mechanisms in work life. She also alluded to how, structurally, the workplace needs to change. Sponsorship and leaning in on different appointments, work hour flexibility, informal
and formal networks, and paternity leave are some of the many policies which need to be put
in place to help women advance in the workplace.
Unilever is one of the first companies in the FCMG to reach parity (50/50). We have no
doubt that they will achieve their commitments under the leadership of Hanneke Faber.