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#EquityIs: Celebrating five women leaders driving growth and change

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This International Women’s Day we celebrate the work done by five leaders to embrace equity and cultivate change.

Leaders driving change. From right to left: Joy Ho, Esi Eggleston Bracey, Van Nguyen-thi-bich, Ira Noviarti and Hajar Alafifi

The World Economic Forum estimates that empowering women to participate equally in the global economy could add $28 trillion in global domestic product (GDP) growth by 2025.

However, economic inclusion of women isn’t an automatic outcome of diversity. The biases and structural inequalities that contribute to inequality in society can still be barriers in the workplaces.

As Evelyn Espinal, Global Head of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion acknowledges: “Efforts to simply increase representation of under-represented identity groups are ultimately unsustainable without addressing the societal ‘isms’ (such as sexism, racism, ableism or ageism) that negatively impact our communities, our consumers and our employees.”

It’s why Unilever’s ED&I strategy focuses on ensuring equity for our people, in our brands for our suppliers and in our communities.

And on International Women’s Day, we’re taking the opportunity to recognise the work that goes on every day to remove the obstacles and barriers that ensure that all employees benefit from an inclusive and fair workplace.

  1. Van Nguyen-thi-bich: Promoting inclusion to win Vietnam’s talent war

    Headshot of Van Nguyen-thi-bich, General Manager for Personal Care, South-East Asia and Head of Country for Vietnam

    Bio: Van is General Manager for Personal Care, South-East Asia and Head of Country for Vietnam. Find Van on LinkedIn

    In the space of 27 years, Unilever Vietnam has become a billion euro turnover business. It is now Unilever’s 12th-largest marketplace. Van has focused on integrating sustainability into business growth, digitisation which will see 100% end-to-end automation across all the factories by 2024 and building a talent powerhouse via annual upskilling programmes.

    In their work to #EmbraceEquity… Van has created a workplace where the gender balance is 55:45 at management and director levels. Unilever Vietnam holds the top spot as employer of choice in the country. It has also been recognised by UN Women as one of the most gender-responsive companies in the Asia Pacific region, thanks to its corporate culture and community partnerships which work to empower women to achieve economic autonomy.

  2. Esi Eggleston Bracey: Championing the CROWN Act and inclusive beauty

    Headshot of Esi Eggleston Bracey, President of Unilever USA and CEO of North America Personal Care

    Bio: Esi is President of Unilever USA and CEO of North America Personal Care. Find Esi on Linkedin

    Positive Beauty is at the heart of Esi’s achievements since joining Unilever in 2018. She’s co-founded the MELE skincare brand for people with melanin-rich skin. She also helped shape and create the Polycultural Centre of Excellence at Unilever’s R&D hub in Trumbull to deliver a more diverse, inclusive product experience for under-represented people. Under her leadership, Dove and four other organisations co-founded the CROWN Coalition, which champions the CROWN Act, legislation aimed at ending race-based hair discrimination. This work has unlocked growth, with 19% of Unilever’s business now coming from the US.

    There are 20 million Americans who now have protection from hair discrimination. There are still many Americans who don’t.

    Esi Eggleston Bracey, President of Unilever USA and CEO of North America Personal Care, and member of the Crown Coalitiion.

    In their work to #EmbraceEquity… Esi continues to champion the CROWN Act alongside many legislators, organisations and leaders like the Joy Collective and legislative strategist Adjoa Asamoah. The CROWN Act (or legislation inspired by the CROWN Act) is now law in 20 states, and the CROWN Coalition continues to work towards making it law nationwide. “There are 20 million Americans who now have protection from hair discrimination. There are still many Americans who don’t,” Esi says.

  3. Ira Noviarti: Digitally empowering women in businesses big… and small

    Headshot of Ira Noviarti, CEO and President Director of Unilever Indonesia

    Bio: Ira is CEO and President Director of Unilever Indonesia. Find Ira on LinkedIn

    As CEO of Unilever Indonesia, Ira has steered it to become the country’s top-ranking FMCG brand and the eighth-highest market capitalisation on the Indonesia Stock Exchange (€11 billion). It is market leader in 13 out of 15 categories through its 43 brands, with 100% market penetration, which means there’s at least one Unilever product in every household.

    Under Ira’s leadership, Unilever Indonesia has achieved 50:50 gender balance in senior management and at board level. During Indonesia’s Presidency of the B20 (the Business 20 event which forms part of the G20 Summit), Ira chaired the Women in Business Action Council (WiBAC) and alongside 150 top executives she worked to drive equal opportunities for women in business through a policy and action recommendation paper and support aggregator, One Global Women Empowerment (OGWE).

    50:50Indonesia enjoys 50:50 gender balance in senior management and at board level

    In their work to #EmbraceEquity… Ira has worked to see Unilever Indonesia and Tokopedia, the country’s leading e-commerce provider, collaborate in programmes to nurture the digital capabilities of Indonesia’s 60 million micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). These are the backbone of the economy and 50% are owned by women. “Together, we welcome a generation of women who are skilled, resilient and empowered to support the national and global economic recovery,” Ira told The Jakarta Post.

  4. Hajar Alafifi: Driving diverse teams - from factory floor to board level

    Headshot of Hajar Alafifi Chairperson and MD at Unilever Sri Lanka

    Bio: Hajar is Chairperson and MD at Unilever Sri Lanka (USL). Find Hajar on LinkedIn

    Unilever Sri Lanka has come through a currency devaluation and a period of 70% inflation to deliver the highest-ever recorded growth, coupled with the highest-ever competitive share gain. It’s an achievement Hajar puts down to “a diverse and talented team who showed compassion towards each other, our consumers and the business”. Her country board is 55% women.

    Our aim is to give an authentic platform to everyone through a ‘speak up’ culture where all voices are heard

    Hajar, Chairperson and MD at Unilever Sri Lanka.

    This has accelerated talent development, helped tackle unconscious bias and enabled Unilever Sri Lanka to enjoy many firsts. “We have our first female sales manager, factory manager and an all-woman shopfloor. It’s also changed the way we design, think and manage projects,” she adds.

    1st During Hajar's time as Chairperson, Unilever Sri Lanka has seen its first female join the Customer Development Leadership Team and also hiring of women on the factory shopfloor.

    In their work to #EmbraceEquity… Hajar introduced a fertility support policy, menstrual leave as part of sick leave and a domestic violence support programme. More than 3,000 Sri Lankan women also earn a livelihood by selling products from Unilever Sri Lanka’s portfolio. ‘’Making women seen, heard and recognised is everyone’s responsibility,” says Hajar. “We can all embrace it, nurture it and lead for it.”

  5. Joy Ho: A leadership role model for Japan’s LGBTQ+ communities

    Headshot of Joy Ho, General Manager of Unilever Japan

    Bio: Joy Ho is General Manager of Unilever Japan. Find Joy on LinkedIn

    Joy Ho was promoted to General Manager of Unilever Japan in July 2022 and is an openly LGBT leader. Alongside a keynote speech at last year’s Workplace Pride Japan conference, Joy has used LinkedIn to show support for Tokyo’s recent partnership certificates for same-sex couples. Unilever Japan also has company policies that benefit same-sex partners, such as marriage vacation, bereavement leave, maternity and parental leave and childcare leave.

    Equal benefit and opportunities will help to build a stronger talent pool, more creative solutions and a much more effective workplace.

    Joy Ho, General Manager, Unilever Japan

    In their work to #EmbraceEquity… Joy actively speaks out both internally and externally to share support for all employees, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.“Equal benefit and opportunities will help to build a stronger talent pool, more creative solutions and a much more effective workplace,” says Joy. “You, and I, WE can all make differences in Japan and in this world, by speaking up for those unvoiced, building a more fair and socially inclusive world together.”

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