Gender diversity research prompts Unilever to level the playing field
Unilever Foundry has partnered with UN Women to commit its platform to gender diversity, pledging that half of the startups it works with in the next five years will be female founded.
Stemming from the research initiative on gender representation ‘Scaling Up Diversity’ conducted by Unilever Foundry in partnership with UN Women, the startup platform will be implementing affirmative action over the next five years for half of the companies it works with to be founded by women.
Unilever Foundry’s surveys found that only 17% of global startups are founded by women, and 39% of female founders frequently encountered sexism while running their startup. Aline Santos, Unilever EVP global marketing and head of diversity and inclusion says “through this report we can see a major gender diversity issue in early stage companies – from the low numbers of female founders, to the lack of support women experience across the lifecycle of their companies.”
Partnering with UN Women and its Global Innovation Coalition for Change (GICC), Unilever Foundry is devising steps to remedy the gender bias issues identified in the startup ecosystem. Addressing transparency and discrimination and developing training programs for individuals practicing in and entering the field.
According to the survey, funding was another struggle that challenged 42% of female founders, 24% saying investors were less enthusiastic about backing startups founded by women. One female founder surveyed says “investors questioned me a lot more about whether I’d be able to manage a company on top of raising my two children, which isn’t something that men get asked about.”
On the ‘Scaling Up Diversity’ report, Santos continues “we know that when we embrace diversity and inclusion in larger organisations like Unilever, we unleash the best in creativity, ideas and innovation… we strive to work and collaborate with the most innovative startups in the world”.
Unilever’s research surveyed 685 founders and directors in the US, UK, India and Singapore between November 2017 and January 2018.
Unilever Foundry serves as an entry point for innovative tech companies to connect with Unilever brands. In over four years the global innovation platform has worked with over 150 pilots.
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