Unilever Sri Lanka was recently crowned ‘The Organisation with the Most Female Friendly Company Policies in the Sri Lankan Workplace’ by AICPA, CIMA and SATYN Magazine at the 2022 Women Friendly Workplace Awards. The company was also recognised as ‘One of Sri Lanka’s Most Outstanding Women Friendly Workplaces’, underscoring its commitment to ensure more inclusion, development, and representation for women to thrive in their careers and life.
The Women Friendly Workplace Awards recognises companies that foster measures to empower and support women in the workplace and encourages organisations to address UN Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality, prevailing in the country, to ensure a safer and thriving workplace for women.
Commenting on the award, Ananya Sabharwal, HR Director of Unilever Sri Lanka said “We are honoured to receive this esteemed recognition and thank AICPA, CIMA and SATYN for providing a platform to be recognised for our efforts. We have been striving to foster equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace for decades by launching meaningful policies which support women and diverse groups.”
She added “Apart from our Anti-Harassment Policy which we already have in place, last year on International Women’s Day (IWD), we launched a Fertility Support Policy and Domestic Violence Support Policy. This International Women’s Day, we decided to #BreaktheBias and end the stigma around #MenstrualHealth by launching Menstrual Leave as part of our Medical Leave Policy and making sanitary napkins available across our office and factories, at the cost of the company.”
Ananya further stated “We also have other inclusion enabling policies for both men and women such as our Career Break Policy to help people bring their full selves to their life and work. I myself have benefitted from this Career Break policy that gave me the space to volunteer, travel, pursue advanced Yoga courses and to really invest in myself as a human being.”
Unilever Sri Lanka focuses on developing women, enabling them to succeed in their careers. The company’s women employees are groomed and pipelined to take up senior leadership roles through a carefully curated unbiased career development process. 80% of its female managers have been sent on development visits overseas.
Adding her thoughts, Hajar Alafifi, Chairperson & Managing Director of Unilever Sri Lanka said, “We’re determined to nurture a culture where all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, and where their uniqueness is celebrated. As such, we’ve set clear goals to accelerate diverse representation in our leadership and have even achieved some of them. 55% of our Country Management Committee are women and last year, we crossed the 40% mark in gender balance for the first time among our management employees and are in pursuit of reaching 50-50 gender balance by 2025.”
She added “We continuously strive to create an environment where we can truly collaborate beyond all differences.”
In 2021, Unilever created history in diversity in the company by recruiting 27 female employees to its Horana factory shop floor. Over the last few years, the company has also witnessed the appointment of its first female Factory Manager and first female Area Sales Manager. These milestones have enabled the company to break traditional gender stereotypes while encouraging female participation in traditionally male-dominant industries.
The company also supports new parents by offering extended Maternity Leave for 6 months and Paternity Leave for 3 weeks. The company also has a ‘buddy system’ in place that makes sure that new mothers have the right support system at work when they return from maternity. Unilever Sri Lanka also recently reopened its créche facility inclusive of a structured pre-school education system for working parents who need childcare support whilst at work. The facility also caters to children with disabilities.
Going beyond its own employees, Unilever also has a flagship women’s empowerment programme, ‘Saubhagya’, which provides sustainable livelihoods to 5,000 females through the sale of Unilever products in their communities. The initiative won the Merit Award in the ‘Best Sustainability Projects’ category at the Best Corporate Citizen Sustainability Awards in 2020.
From left to right: Nayani Peiris - Head of Employee Relations & Senior HR Business Partner - Supply Chain & R&D, Unilever Sri Lanka; Keshavi Puswewala - Senior HR Business Partner - Corporate Functions and Talent and Organisation & Employer Brand Lead, Unilever Sri Lanka; Hiruni Perera - Reward Manager, Unilever Sri Lanka; Anjalie Jayatunge - HR Strategy, Learning & Engagement Lead & Assistant HR Business Partner for HR, Unilever Sri Lanka; Ruvini Perera - HR Business Partner - Supply Chain & Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Unilever Sri Lanka; Jency Paul - HR Business Partner - Go To Market, Unilever Sri Lanka; and Tahanee Harris - Assistant Manager - Talent & Employer Branding, Unilever Sri Lanka.