Whose job is it to fight for gender equality?
World-renowned feminist, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem answered this by saying: “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
Making a difference
“We have also turned the lens inwards and want to unstereotype the workplace,” says Aline Santos, Executive Vice President, Global Marketing and Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion. “This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating our own ‘Game-changers for Gender Equality’. These are Unilever employees who are actively challenging outdated stereotypes and limiting social norms, and who embody the unstereotyped mindset we aspire to across the business.”
This big ambition requires many people to play their part through practical actions in their day-to-day roles. The difference they have made to their own role and the example they have set to colleagues have led to changes worth celebrating. Here are just three of these brilliant stories.
Melody Makuvise: Took on 'job by men'
On 3 November 2017, during the night shift at her factory, Melody Makuvise made history. She became the first woman in Unilever Zimbabwe to move from the packing line – where she and 12 colleagues pack and palletise finished Royco products – to operating the whole machine line.
Good manufacturing practices, technical know-how, people management and quick thinking are required to keep the line producing 13 tonnes of Royco each day. Using her eight years of experience on the packing line and upskilling with training meant that Melody was not only capable but also confident of taking on the role.
“When I set my heart on achieving something, I do it,” Melody says. “My motto in life is ‘never let fear get in the way of greatness’. I knew I had the skills to do this job. I wasn’t going to let my gender keep me back from taking on a role I was capable of. My colleagues – male and female – have been incredibly supportive. I hope I have paved the way for other women to consider similar roles.”
Faziah Khan: Myth-buster shows work-life balance
A lot has changed in field sales in Unilever Pakistan where, traditionally, jobs were predominately done by men. But work on improving washroom facilities, day care for children and female-friendly distribution centres has seen more female hires in this area.
In 2017, another landmark hire was made when Faizah became the first female area sales manager in Pakistan. “I am currently serving in a department which is male dominated,” Faizah explains. “I work every day with a distribution sales force and retailers who are mainly male. What has helped me gain their respect and trust, is doing my job well and being true to myself.
“I am an area sales manager and a mother of a young son and daughter. Alongside my work life, I have family commitments and responsibilities. I work hard and deliver my best to meet my customers’ needs and to keep my region performing. However, I also ensure that my family needs are met too.
“This has been enlightening for both male and female colleagues. They can see a work–life balance is attainable and nothing can stop a woman working in sales. My gender does not stop me doing my job well, and it’s great to see lot of my work colleagues and retailers recognising that women have enough potential to handle a field job in parallel with managing their family lives.”
Ageel Angawi: Mentoring women and men
Ageel Angawi grew up in Saudi Arabia, a country where female empowerment and rights continue to be a work in progress. Today he is a vice president in Home Care in a region where female talent is still under-represented in senior leadership positions.
As a workplace mentor, Ageel is challenging that and his approach is simple. “I like to think of the workplace as a theatre of possibility,” he says. “My role is to help women and men equally put on their best show, day in day out, liberating them from any fear, doubt or beliefs society might have instilled in their minds over time.
“It’s worked perfectly for us over the last few years, but there’s still more to do. We need more examples to ensure it becomes a culture across the region. As far as I am concerned, gender balance has been extremely rewarding for the business, and I can’t imagine things differently.”
“International Women’s Day is the perfect time to remind ourselves how much still needs to change,” Aline says, “I feel a real sense of optimism when I see so many of my colleagues taking the right actions”
As Gloria Steinem said… for us to get to gender equality, we need a collective effort. And this is just the kind of effort our Game-changers for Gender Equality are making.
Image: [left to right] Melody, Faizah, Ageel