Sharon MacLeod - Unilever Global Vice President, Dove Men+Care

Achieving a high-performance culture doesn’t need to be at the expense of diversity, equality and respect. One woman I spoke to in our customer development department explained how taking part in the program had given her the confidence she needed to pursue her career goals – doing so as an equal within a male-dominated sales environment. She has recently been promoted to Director and is now achieving real impact in the organization.

Careers at Unilever

Creating an 'Inclusive Culture' has been a priority in my role as Vice President for Personal Care in North America – in addition to leading amazing brands such as Dove, TRESemmé, Dove Men+Care and Degree.

A personalized approach to leadership development

Along with four other women back in 2008, we launched an exciting new venture. We had identified a real need in the business for a learning and development program that focused on women’s leadership skills. Together we created Chocolate Villa, a structured curriculum of executive leadership training aimed specifically at women.

Over 400 women from across Unilever and other organizations around the world have participated in the weeklong program since its launch – and the feedback has been incredible. Senior scientist at Unilever, Bella Wang, was especially positive about her experience. She felt she learned so much from the course that she wanted to pass on her knowledge to others who aren’t able to attend. This led to Bella independently running personal development workshops across Unilever R&D for two years.

Achieving a high-performance culture doesn’t need to be at the expense of diversity, equality and respect. One woman I spoke to in our customer development department explained how taking part in the program had given her the confidence she needed to pursue her career goals – doing so as an equal within a male-dominated sales environment. She has recently been promoted to Director and is now achieving real impact in the organization.

Another aspect we often get positive feedback about is that the program gives participants time and space to think about themselves and their careers. Too often for women, especially for working mothers, this simply isn’t possible. Unilever takes work-life balance seriously; I am proud to say we are frequently mentioned as a top employer by Working Mother, highlighting female progression, family friendly benefits and agile working as part of Unilever’s diversity and inclusion strategy.

Unilever is further supporting the Global Goal for gender equality, its mission to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. This is part of 17 Global Goals set out by world leaders for sustainable development.

Be willing to say something

For as long as there is gender inequality, and prejudice against individuals based on their gender, it is vitally important that those who care about the subject are willing and able to stand up and speak out.

Fortunately, Unilever provides employees like me with plenty of opportunities to voice our opinion. For example, the company is a strong supporter of HeForShe, a solidarity movement aimed at men who believe equality for women is a basic human right. Over half a million men globally have signed up so far, helping to promote women’s empowerment and taking action against gender discrimination and violence to build a more just and equal world.

My office recently increased our gender-neutral restrooms. As much as it’s important to make employees who are transitioning, or not declaring a gender, feel comfortable, to be that person who’s willing to send a note back saying, “I think it’s really great we’re doing this,” sends a much more visible message to the company about inclusivity.

Unilever has again received a perfect score of 100% on the Human Right’s Campaign’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workplace equality, replicating our 2016 result. This is a testament to our progress on building a truly inclusive workplace.

Building a social justice brand

I’ve been working on Dove for the past 14 years and am extremely proud of what we have achieved here: we have created a brand that has a real purpose, and not just based on sales. Dove’s Social Mission is to ensure that girls today grow up enjoying a positive relationship with the way they look and are empowered to achieve their full potential. We have so far helped to deliver self-esteem education to over 15 million young individuals through the Dove Self Esteem Project.

Dove has also inspired me to do more to help women in the workplace. I was involved in running many of the Dove self-esteem projects – and I recognized that we could emulate what we were doing for women and girls in our community within the Unilever business as well. The messages our products send can shape that. They have the power to change the entire culture of a company – sometimes the most developed of brands speak the loudest of all.

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