Profiles in Disruption: Look Who’s Saying NO to the Status Quo!

October 16, 2014Catalyst’s new #DisruptTheDefault campaign is a call to action for individuals and companies to make bold moves that forge meaningful change for women and men in the workplace—and the world! It’s also about showcasing how others are doing this in their lives and their companies.

Each and every one of us has the power to #DisruptTheDefault and change the way we think and act, and to challenge others to do the same.

In our new Profiles in Disruption blog series, we’ll introduce you to role models who are taking concrete steps to create a better world for women, men, girls, and boys.   

Sharon MacLeodMeet: Sharon MacLeod, this year’s Catalyst Canada Honours Business Leader Champion. Growing up on a farm with three older brothers, Sharon was expected to “do everything the boys did”—so it was eye-opening when she walked into her first meeting as a director at Unilever to discover she was the only woman in the room. Sharon is now Vice President of Personal Care North America at Unilever, where she vigorously promotes diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Three Proudest Achievements:

1) Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign and Self-Esteem Project
Dove’s Self-Esteem Project seeks to drastically improve girls’ and women’s self-esteem. We have raised awareness of girls’ and women’s self-esteem challenges, and created resources for teachers, mothers, and mentors that empower them to work directly with the girls in their lives on these issues.
These campaigns have touched more than one million young girls in Canada and 14 million girls worldwide. One in three Canadians know about them. We partnered with the inaugural G(irls) 20 Summit, modeled on the G20 Summit, to bring 21 girls from around the world to Toronto to discuss how young women can solve the world’s greatest challenges. Dove has also worked with Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl campaign, which aims to put an end to gender inequality, promote girls’ rights, and improve financial conditions for women everywhere.

2) Making Gender Diversity Visible, Vocal, Relatable, and Relevant
Three years ago when I shared our diversity strategy with Unilever Canada’s board, the resistance was palpable. Women were reluctant to acknowledge that they were, well, women—and maybe even “different.” Men were nervous about saying the wrong thing and concerned about what other men would think. The discomfort in speaking openly about gender diversity and policies to promote it required a substantive change in our culture.
Having a positive attitude toward gender diversity is not enough. As leaders we need to vocalize our beliefs in ways that are relatable and relevant to our audience.
It was sharing the business case for gender balance—it’s not philanthropy, it’s a smart business decision—that made the conversation relevant. Inviting board members to vocalize the business case at Women’s Interactive Network and Town Hall discussions helped raise awareness and change attitudes throughout the company.

3) Setting Gender Balance Goals
At Unilever, our goal is to fill 50% of leadership roles with women by 2015. Insisting on advancement through merit is critical to our success. I believe in women’s ability to take on a greater share of leadership roles, not because of their gender but because of their talent, insight, and expertise. Unilever Canada has already moved from having 43% of leadership roles occupied by women in December 2012 to 46% in December 2013. We expect to reach 50% by the end of 2014.

Join Sharon and other “disruptors” in saying “no” to the status quo by taking our pledge today.



The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.