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Unilever pledges global support for International Women's Day


Average read time: 6 minutes

London/Rotterdam – To support this year’s International Women’s Day, Unilever has pledged its global support for UN Women HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 and Lean In movements to raise awareness of the challenge of gender inequality. This cause is more important now than ever.

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  • Research shows that 66% of the world’s work is done by women, yet they earn just 10% of the world’s income.
  • A recent UN study of Fortune 500 companies found that companies with the highest representation of women in management positions delivered 34% greater returns to shareholders than their counterparts with lower representation.
  • According to Goldman Sachs , if the female employment rate in the developed world rose to match that of men, the overall level of GDP could be boosted by over 12% on average.

Women’s empowerment and their inclusion in the economic cycle has a magnifying positive impact on growth and on the health and progress of those around them – and as part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, ambitious targets have been set to be able to address these issues and deliver positive change in the communities and markets that they serve. This is not only the right thing to do, it also makes business sense. Over 70% of our consumers are female.

Unilever recognises the significant challenges women can face: discrimination, lack of access to good jobs, unequal pay, trafficking, and health and safety issues. As a company we have committed to empowering 5 million women by 2020 through:

  • Building a gender-balanced organisation with a focus on management
  • Promoting safety for women in the communities where we operate
  • Enhancing access to training and skills for women across our value chain
  • Expanding opportunities for women in our value chain

To mark International Women’s Day, Unilever is supporting through a number of global campaigns which include:

  1. UN Women HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 Campaign
    UN Women HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 Campaign aims to engage ten governments, ten corporations and ten universities as instruments of change to address gender inequality. Unilever is supporting the movement globally, and encouraging our 172,000 employees, our business partners and our consumers worldwide to pledge their support.
  2. Lean In Campaign
    Lean In is a public awareness campaign in partnership with the NBA/WNBA focused on men and their important role in reaching gender equality. The campaign emphasizes how men benefit from supporting women — happier marriages, more successful children, and better team outcomes — and provides practical information on how men can do their part at home and at work. At Unilever we’re supporting Lean In in the US through the Dove Men + Care brand, and globally through the Unilever brand.
  3. Unilever CEO Paul Polman joins B Team leaders Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group and Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO and Chairman of Kering, in a global call for action against all of forms violence and discrimination faced by women, and for building companies that truly value diversity. (Text of op-ed available if required)

Marcela Manubens, Unilever Global VP for Social Impact said:

“Whilst making up a third of the global workforce, on current trends, it will be 2096 before women have the same economic power and opportunities as men. We can’t and shouldn’t wait that long. As part of Unilever’s commitment, we are promoting women’s rights across our organisation and global supply chain, embedding the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, building skills and creating job opportunities.

"Women must have equality of opportunity and this work is what gets me up in the morning every day. Our brands play an active role too - the Dove Self-Esteem Project has reached 13 million women and girls since 2005.”

Unilever’s focus is on economic empowerment – based on:

  1. Rights: Safety for women and girls.
  2. Skills: Financial literacy and inclusion e.g. our Hibiscus Supply Chain improvement programme which empowers rural women in Sudan to increase the yields on their farms – please see notes below.
  3. Opportunities: Development and expansion of inclusive business models, our Shakti which encourages female entrepreneurialism is a good example of this – please see notes below.

This forms part of Unilever’s wider USLP commitment to decouple growth from our environmental footprint and increase our positive social impact.

Notes for the editor

Media Enquiries: Please contact the Unilever Press Office at or 0207 822 6719

Case studies

Dove global research shows that only 4% of women describe themselves as ‘beautiful’, and that self-criticism and anxieties about appearance and beauty develop at a young age. The Dove Self-Esteem Project helps girls to build body confidence and strengthen their self-worth. So far we have reached over 14 million young people by empowering those closest to them - their parents, teachers and mentors - with the skills and materials to deliver effective self-esteem education. By the end of 2015 we aim to have helped 15 million girls. Learn more about the Dove Self-Esteem Project

Project Shakti is our initiative to financially empower rural women and create livelihood opportunities for them. Project Shakti provides livelihood-enhancing opportunities to women micro-entrepreneurs, called Shakti Ammas, across India. The Shakti Ammas are given training for familiarisation with our products and basic tenets of distribution management. We have a team of rural sales promoters (RSP’s) who coach and help Shakti Ammas in managing their business. This includes help in business basics and troubleshooting as well as coaching in softer skills such as negotiation and communication which enable them to run their business effectively.

In 2010, we extended Project Shakti to include ‘Shaktimaans’. Shaktimaans are typically the husbands or other male family members of Shakti Ammas. They sell products on bicycle in surrounding villages, covering a larger area than Shakti Ammas can cover on foot. Today, Project Shakti has over 72,000 micro-entrepreneurs.

Unilever’s Hibiscus Supply Chain improvement programme aims to improve the livelihood of 5,000 smallholders. In Sudan around 60–70% of the farmers are women, and this programme is empowering them as they face overlapping crises of poverty, environmental degradation and discrimination. The programme enables them to boost their yields, improve their seeds before sowing and enhance their processing techniques, such as drying, to give their produce better quality and value. At the same time, as part of the programme, farmers benefit from healthcare and hygiene support and access to clean drinking water.

1 - Download the Women’s Economic Empowerment, OECD (PDF | 1.1MB)

2 - Economic Power of Women, UN Women

3 - Giving Credit Where It’s Due, Goldman Sachs, 2014

4 - Women in Business: From classroom to boardroom (PDF - 3.0MB), Grant Thornton, 2014:

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