With gender equality playing an important role in the workplace today, Unilever Sri Lanka, one of the largest fast-moving consumer goods companies in the country, reached another milestone in its journey towards achieving diversity and inclusion by recruiting its first ever female workforce at Unilever’s Horana manufacturing facility. The 23 new women employees possess vocational qualifications with some having degrees in various specialisations. They will be joining the production lines of Horana’s Personal Products Plant, and Baby Cologne Plant that is currently run entirely by females.
In Sri Lanka, 55% of Unilever’s management committee are made up of women while 31% of its total workforce are females. Globally the company has achieved a 50:50 gender balance which was a commitment made in 2010 to achieve gender balance in managerial roles across its global business by the end of 2020, a target which Unilever achieved a year early.
Speaking about Unilever’s commitment to diversity & inclusion, Ananya Sabharwal, Director, Human Resources of Unilever Sri Lanka said, “We have been striving to increase female representation in our frontline operations in Manufacturing and Sales, which are currently male dominated. Introducing our first ever female workforce at Horana marks one of the proudest achievements in the diversity history of Unilever Sri Lanka. I am humbled to say that we have also launched some industry-first policies like our fertility support and domestic violence support policies. For us, diversity is not just about gender balance, but about creating an inclusive climate for all kinds of diverse talent. I truly believe that allowing people to be themselves helps both individuals and organisations thrive”.
Commenting on the milestone, Nayani Peiris, Head of Employee Relations and Senior HR Business Partner of Unilever Sri Lanka said, “Seeing our first female employees at Horana is the fruitful result of careful planning over a few years. It has been a long and exciting journey but worth the effort to get it right the first time around. Having been a relatively male dominant site from inception, our Horana factory floor underwent several changes to create an inclusive environment for our female factory workforce. We are proud of our efforts and the steps we have taken to drive more female representation at the workplace.”
Adding his thoughts, Damith Abeyratne, Horana Factory Manager, Unilever Sri Lanka said,“From designing and building state-of-the-art female friendly washrooms and sanitary and welfare facilities, to identifying areas where our female factory workforce could be deployed, and creating awareness on the importance of diversity & inclusion to our male employees, we have invested heavily to build an all-inclusive environment at our factory premises. We are happy to have come this far in empowering women and promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion in our workplace.”
Unilever tested the waters first by introducing women employees on casual terms during peak periods over the last 3 years. The company then underwent a comprehensive plan to retain its first female factory workforce. The plan included conducting ‘Discover Your Purpose’ workshops to enable the recruits to grow and evolve in their careers and excel in life, extending its 24/7 ambulance services, inhouse dental, eye and ayurvedic medical services with free medical counselling from doctors and medicines from its inhouse pharmacy, as well as its 6 months maternity leave policy to these women to support a seamless integration between personal and career wellbeing and growth.
Unilever Sri Lanka will continue its efforts to build people-centric interventions and policies that will enable its people to thrive in the workplace.