Making My Grandmothers Proud: One Woman’s View of the CEO Action on Diversity and Inclusion Pledge

By Mita Mallick, Director of Diversity Outreach & Inclusion, Unilever NA

Someone once asked me: “Why is gender equality so important to you?”

Well, the obvious answer: Because I am a woman. The real answer: Because I am the granddaughter of two extraordinary women.

My maternal grandmother was married when she was 10 years old. My paternal grandmother was married when she was 12 years old. Both married men in their 20s, and went on to have very large families.

My maternal grandmother had seven daughters and only two sons, something my grandmother and her daughters were constantly reminded of. A perceived burden that these girls, including my mother, bore on our family and on society.

Maybe my paternal grandmother was luckier. After all, she went on to have six sons and only four daughters. She raised them while her husband spent time in jail as a Freedom Fighter imprisoned for taking a stand in the struggle for his country’s independence.

My parents left India to create a better life for themselves and for the family they hoped to start. And in only three generations, my family has experienced, first-hand, the impact of gender equality. By the opportunities my parents created for me, by the opportunities my community created for me and by the opportunities Unilever has and continues to create for me.

At Unilever, we believe that there’s no line where Unilever ends and society begins. Our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan speaks to our firm belief and commitment that we, as a company, have a responsibility and role in helping to positively shape and impact the world around us.

Unilever is proud to be gender balanced at manager level and above in North America. Both men and women continue to play an active role in creating a culture where everyone can bring their full selves to work. We have developed and continue to deepen a manifesto called “Every Voice Matters, Every Story Celebrated,” which empowers our employees to create and maintain our culture and helps to drive our business. While we have made significant progress on our D&I journey, we still have much to do. As the director for D&I at Unilever, as an employee and as a mother, I am proud that our U.S. CEO Kees Kruythoff has signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion Pledge, which is the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace. By signing the Pledge, we are unequivocally stating our belief that diverse teams perform better and everyone has an equal say and equal chance. And through initiatives, like the formation of the Unilever US D&I Board, and public commitments, like the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion Pledge, our leadership is making diversity and inclusion a business priority.

We are proud to stand together with more than 250 other companies to share our knowledge and create more equal opportunities for all — no matter who you are, where you have come from or what you look like.

At Unilever, I have been and continue to be afforded many opportunities to make a difference. As a daughter, mother, wife and inspired employee, I am doing my best to take the lessons I learned from my grandparents and parents and use them in service of society. By staying true to my convictions and living my purpose, I know both of my grandmothers would have been very proud.