Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 1, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Unilever Canada Inc. was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2018):
- Unilever Canada maintains a number of employee resource groups to support the personal and professional development of its diverse workforce, including a Women's Interactive Network, N'Abling (for persons with disabilities) and U-Connect (for young professionals)
- As part of the company's focus on achieving gender balance within supply chain operations, Unilever Canada launched peer coaching groups called "Success Circles" to help female factory employees build networks across North America
- Unilever Canada works with a number of community organizations to recruit diverse candidates and recently signed on to participate in Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council's Mentoring Partnership initiative to provide mentoring to new Canadian job seekers
Unilever thrives on a feast of inclusion
When the material planning team of Unilever Canada Inc. gathered recently for a lunch meeting at the company's Toronto headquarters, they had more to choose from than egg-salad sandwiches and chocolate-chip cookies.
"I brought biryani," says Afifa Jaheen, Demand Planner in the company's personal care products division. "It's a mixture of rice, spices, vegetables, meat, eggs, yoghurt and dried fruits. Others on the team brought pasta, desserts and Sri Lankan shrimp."
The different dishes reflect the diverse heritage and backgrounds of the team's nine members, ranging from Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi and Indian to Guatemalan and Scottish, as well as the diversity of the company's 750 employees.
Tracing its history back to the 1890s, Unilever Canada puts that diversity to good use through formal and informal teams that "tap into the thoughts and experiences of all our employees, collectively making a greater impact from both a business and social standpoint," says the company's President, Gary Wade.
Unilever Canada's culture of diversity extends to gender balance at the management and executive levels and in the company's factories and supply chain, Wade adds. "I'm very proud of the progress we've made. We achieved gender balance in 2014 and currently have 54 per cent women represented in our management and above team."
Employees themselves have helped to create Unilever Canada's inclusive culture. With the company's support, they've created five Business Resource Groups (BRGs) that provide leadership, professional development and networking opportunities.
Each BRG has its own unique mission and offers professional development through education in social and cultural issues. They focus on recruitment of diverse talent, development of a sustainable culture of inclusion and driving innovation and business growth, while giving back to the diverse communities within which they live and work.
Currently, BRGs include a Women's Interactive Network, which further develops the universal benefits of gender equality at Unilever; a young professionals' group called U-Connect, which is a grassroots community of junior employees whose aim is to create a culture of knowledge sharing, community and fun; N'Abling, a group for people with disabilities that contributes to a workplace culture that celebrates accessibility and inclusion; a professional development group called Enrich U, which promotes personal and professional growth opportunities, and a Sustainable Living Team that educates, inspires and supports employee and customer-led sustainability initiatives.
"BRGs play a vital role in shaping a culture of inclusion at Unilever," says Wade, "by ensuring that everyone is valued, feels included, and can bring their personal passion into our workplace. We're looking forward to building an even more inclusive culture and going beyond gender, so that employees can bring their authentic selves to work."
For Afifa Jaheen, Unilever Canada's inclusive and diverse culture has already made a noticeable impact. "It makes the company a stronger and more resilient organization," says Jaheen, who spent her Professional Experience Year at the company as a chemical engineering student at the University of Toronto before joining full-time in 2015. "You get to learn a lot, and you get everyone's different perspective on things."
Born in Ireland, Jaheen grew up in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, with a population of 14 million. By the time she arrived with her family in Canada, she'd moved seven times throughout Asia and the Middle East. "It made me who I am," she says.
Now in her mid-twenties, Jaheen contributes her own unique perspective to her team and to the company. "Inclusion makes a big difference to the culture of this company," she says. "And I love the different foods."