A new Unilever report details the company’s plan to challenge discriminatory norms and outdated stereotypes across the business and in society at large. Entitled Opportunities for Women: Challenging harmful social norms and gender stereotypes to unlock women’s potential, the report builds on Unilever’s #Unstereotype commitment that was launched last year, which pledged Unilever to changing the way it portrays women and men in its advertising. The recent report outlines work that the company is doing to support women in its workplace, in its supply chain and customer development network, through its brands and, through partnerships and advocacy, in broader society.
The report was launched at a panel discussion co-hosted with UN Women at the Commission on the Status of Women, which this year focuses on Women’s Economic Empowerment. The panel included Alan Jope, president of personal care at Unilever, who discussed how to address social norms and stereotypes through the private sector.
“Empowering women and girls offers the single biggest opportunity for human development and economic growth,” Jope says. “However, harmful social norms and stereotypes hold back women from fully participating in society.”
According to the report, women control 64% of consumer spending and are the fastest-growing group of consumers in the world today. The report further states that the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that if women played identical roles in the labor force to men — employed at the same rate, for the same number of hours, in the same industry sectors — it would add US$28 trillion, or 26%, to global GDP by 2025. Western Europe could increase its GDP by 23% and South Asia by 48%. Research also shows that women reinvest 90% of their income into their families, compared to 30–40% for men.
The company states it is making good progress on its 2014 target of empowering five million women by 2020 through its three-fold approach:
- Promoting rights and safety, building skills and capabilities.
- Creating economic opportunities through job and livelihoods.
- Making a commitment to challenge norms and gender stereotypes that hold women back.
Through the report, Unilever is calling on business to accelerate gender equality and women’s empowerment in the private sector by:
- Being gender aware, by ensuring they have the right information and disaggregated data in place to inform policies
- Being gender active, by having the right policies and practices in place that respect women’s rights and empower professional and personal development
- Being the new norm, by ensuring that harmful norms are not perpetuated through outdated business practices, while actively promoting more positive portrayals of women along the value chain to challenge stereotypes.
“We are already making a difference to the lives of women, through the work of brands like Dove, with campaigns like ‘My Beauty My Say’ and partnerships like Surf’s work with Oxfam to alleviate the burden of unpaid care work on women,” Jope says. “Together with others, we want to be at the vanguard of challenging these outdated stereotypes and help make gender equality a reality for our business and across wider society.”