Helping attract more top female engineers to the FMCG sector

Unilever is running a series of events around the world to raise the profile of engineering careers with students who will be entering the industry in the next two years.

Working towards gender balance

The idea is to excite and educate students about jobs in the FMCG industry, in particular bringing alive the differentiators – such as the ability to positively impact the environment – of being an engineer at Unilever. We started this series of events in October in Latin America, at our Tultitlán factory in Mexico and Valinhos factory in Brazil. In November, we ran a similar initiative at our Heilbronn site in Germany.

Marc Engel, Chief Supply Chain Officer, says: “It’s very important that within our supply chain and in particular in engineering – where traditionally women are under-represented – that we build a culture of gender equality and gender balance. In the past two years, we have doubled the number of female engineers, but we need to go much further towards true gender balance.”

A glimpse into the world of engineering

In co-operation with WomEng and Williams Martini Racing – two organisations working in very different areas of engineering – we set up two events in Latin America for over 100 students. Senior leaders and management trainees from our Future Leaders Programme delivered impactful sessions at two-day events in Mexico and Brazil. Female engineering leaders shared their career journeys and challenges. And an interactive supply-chain business game and factory tour provided a insight into real-life engineering at Unilever.

WomEng, a global organisation which attracts and develops female engineering talent, partnered with Unilever on the programme, after achieving success together in other geographies, including South Africa and Kenya. WomEng facilitated upskilling and leadership enhancement workshops around key topics for young female engineering talent, such as personal branding and visioning, mentoring and networking, and finding your purpose.

Hema Vallabh, who is co-founder of WomEng and spear-heading the WomEng participation in the project, says: “WomEng has spent a great deal of time and effort in building robust and impactful programmes that are scalable and replicable. It’s great to be able to put this into action in these new geographies and more so to see the WomEng–Unilever partnership flourish globally.”

As Unilever is an official partner of Williams Martini Racing, members of the F1 engineering team shared insights and advice on careers in the motor sport industry. Three top students from each location had a unique behind-the-scenes Williams Martini Racing experience at the Grand Prix, meeting race engineers and the F1 drivers. Nicola Salter, Williams Group HR Director, says: “It’s important for us to inspire the next generation of female engineers, so we are proud to work with Unilever and WomEng on this initiative. In years to come, we hope to have senior engineers and leaders who have come through this programme delivering results across our companies.”

In Germany, 25 students – selected from seven of the leading universities in Germany, Switzerland and Netherlands – got a flavour of what it’s like to work as an engineer in our Foods R&D and Supply Chain. Here we also took the opportunity to tap into the assembled millennial minds, crowdsourcing ideas for future business models in 3D food printing and sustainable portion packs. Tim Warren, Global Digital and Processing Director, Unilever Foods, says: “It’s important to understand what this generation value in a workplace, and the crowdsourcing and sustainability challenge really produced some incredible results.”

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