How to empower women by helping to ‘unstereotype’ limiting norms

In a nutshell

Unilever envisages a world in which every woman can create the kind of life she wishes to lead, unrestricted by limiting norms and stereotypes. Therefore, many teams within Unilever work on empowering women to reach their full potential and ‘unstereotyping’ our workplace and brands.

What’s the issue?

Some 70% of the people making the decisions to buy Unilever brands are women and 64% percent of consumer spending is controlled by women. Yet globally many women lack access to skills and training, and face roadblocks to actively participate in the economy. In short, gender inequality holds women back from fulfilling their potential.

What’s the story?

We empower women to reach their full potential and challenge limiting social norms and gender stereotypes in society at large. We do this not only because we recognise that gender equality is first and foremost a matter of human rights but also because gender equality is a powerful enabler of economic growth. It makes business sense:

  • we depend on women as discerning consumers with rising incomes and freedom to choose their spending;
  • we depend on women as creative, engaged employees as they understand the predominantly female consumer base;
  • and we depend on women as empowered, sustainability-minded partners in our supply chain and routes-to-market.

How are we taking action?

  1. Unstereotyping mindsets in the workplace

We are accelerating progressive policies in our own company via the launch of several initiatives to reduce unconscious bias. This is often a barrier for women to progress via leadership positions.

Read how we are taking action to lead the way here.

  1. In our Supply Chain and Customer Development

We are engaging greater numbers of female-owned and female-run micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to increase the penetration of our products in rural and low-income urban markets.

Some examples:

Project Guddi Baji – Pakistan
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Guddi Baji, or Good Sister, trains women to become home-based entrepreneurs selling Unilever Hygiene and personal care brands and providing beauty services. Between 2012 and 2016, we trained more than 4,000 female entrepreneurs, enabling us to reach more than 37,000 people in 135 towns and 2,400 villages.

Project Shakti – Middle America
Read the full story here

In El Salvador and Colombia, Project Shakti recruits and empowers 1,000 women to become micro-entrepreneurs, selling its products directly to consumers, face-to-face and door-to-door.

Project Zeinab – Egypt
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Based on the Shakti model, project Zeinab has trained 2,000 women since 2014 and empowered them to start a grocery business. Zeinab provides its members with vast experience and knowledge that boosts their confidence, pushes them to raise the bar in all aspects and raise their children in more progressive ways.

  1. Through our brands

We committed to #Unstereotype our advertising in 2016. Through thought-provoking marketing, our brands such as Dove, Surf and Axe are addressing the different norms and stereotypes that impede girls and women but also men. Many of our brands have changed their advertising and communication.

Read more about how we are changing our advertising here.

  1. In society at large

We work with many partners and organisations, such as UN Women, Oxfam, Vital Voices, our suppliers and many others for the benefit of women everywhere. These partnerships range from implementing programmes benefitting female smallholders and partnering to train future female entrepreneurs, to collaborating in bigger multi-stakeholder platforms to drive systemic change.

Read more about how the Global Partnerships team is advocating gender equality here.

In Summary

“When we provide women with training and entrepreneurial opportunities, they not only become ambassadors for Unilever and our brands, but also role models for other women and girls, showing it is possible to challenge limiting norms and stereotypes, and succeed.” – Gerald Kuehr, Chief Customer Officer, Unilever

To learn more, please contact:

Katja Freiwald,

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