Q&A with Tish Archie-Oliver, Unilever’s Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging for North America
Tish Archie-Oliver has more than 20 years of human resources experience, including 15 years focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion-related work. Tish is currently the Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging for North America at Unilever, which has one of the top internship programs in the U.S. Recently, we spoke with Tish about her role at Unilever, the culture at the firm, her recommendations for prospective interns, and more. Below is an edited version of that conversation.
Vault: Can you talk a little about your background—where you grew up and went to school?
Tish: I’m a fourth-generation New Yorker—Harlem, to be exact. I went to elementary and high school on the Upper East Side. During my senior year of high school, I decided to attend Claflin University, founded in 1869, the first Historically Black College in South Carolina. I majored in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. I joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated’s Gamma Nu chapter, and served as the Vice President of Phi Beta Lambda Business Fraternity and Miss Phi Beta Lambda. I attended graduate school at American Intercontinental, where I received my MBA in Global Technology Management.
What are your favorite aspects of your role as Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging?
My current role is a culmination of my professional experiences: talent acquisition, talent development, and D&I. When I was 28, I created a vision for my career—a purpose—to lead diversity and inclusion for a Fortune 500 organization. I knew I wanted to be a voice—a vessel. I wanted to create opportunities for historically underrepresented groups, to create platforms for all people to be successful—and my career allows me to do so. At Unilever, I get the opportunity to live in and fulfill my purpose, forging paths for underrepresented people to be successful and forging platforms for all people to feel included and connected to the organization—a true sense of belonging.
I feel I have the best job in the organization. I interact with people at all levels, and engage with senior leaders on our strategy and commitments, talent in office roles, and our manufacturing facilities. I partner with business and HR leaders to develop the resources to empower them to make equitable decisions and create an environment where everyone belongs.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
I love my professional job, but my day starts with me fulfilling my most important job—motherhood. I spend time with my son in the morning, cuddling in bed before it’s time for him to get ready for school, then I drop him off to start his day. I usually go back home to check my calendar for the day and catch up on pressing emails that need an immediate response.
I spend most of the day connecting and engaging with colleagues regarding their commitments on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, connecting with external partners on our strategy, and preparing for upcoming events/experiences with my team.
What part have mentors played in the progression of your career?
I have always had mentors—internal and external—and some relationships have been more formal than others. They have all played an integral role in developing and advancing my career. I have gleaned so much from them, both personally and professionally. Considering we never stop learning, mentors are essential for everyone regardless of career or level. I respect and nurture all of my relationships because they are so meaningful to me, and I make time to mentor others because I understand the impact my mentors have had on my life.
How have Unilever’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives affected the firm’s culture?
Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of beauty and personal care, home care, and foods and refreshment products, with sales in more than 190 countries, reaching 2.5 billion consumers a day. Our organization leads in the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and sustainability space. We’re committed to contributing to a fair and socially inclusive world. In 2020, we reached our global goal of 50 percent women in managerial roles. In 2021, we pledged a minimum of $8 million for activists and organizations working toward social justice and racial equality, increasing our supplier diversity spend to create a more diverse workplace.
While Unilever has long been a passionate advocate for greater diversity and inclusion, we know there’s much more work to do to ensure it’s holistic and integrated into everything we do, which includes but isn’t limited to talent, brand, and supplier equity. We recognize that making real change requires a long-term, multi-dimensional approach grounded in our business strategy and, most importantly, rooted in data. We’re taking deliberate steps to eradicate systemic racism, and to foster a more inclusive workplace where employees feel empowered to amplify their authenticity in a culture of inclusivity and belonging.
As we sought to advance our efforts, our first order of business was to conduct an equity and culture assessment to determine if and where there are barriers preventing people from entering the organization and successfully matriculating through the organization. Our next order of business is the rollout of our five-year Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging action plan and full integration into our business and talent priorities.
Do you have any recommendations for undergraduate students looking to join one of Unilever’s brands as an intern? What do you recommend they should consider when deciding which firm to join as an intern?
We’re at an inflection point in society and as leaders. We must examine the environment and opportunities we create for all people and seriously acknowledge the work we have to do to ensure we are fair and socially inclusive. As a student, I think it’s crucial to know and understand what’s important to you. Understanding what you value and what you need and want in an employer should be the priority for anyone looking to obtain employment. Ensuring the organization’s values align with yours will be the first step in choosing an employer. The next step is connecting with different people to gain different perspectives and build a diverse network—and once you establish your network, nurture it.
This post was sponsored by Unilever.