It is no secret that gender equality at the workplace is one of IKEA’s top priorities. Perhaps it stems from its home country, Sweden’s commitment to gender equality, but as a global organisation, IKEA is certainly taking gender equality wherever it goes. The ripple effects reached Indian shores six years ago, turning into bulging waves of gender parity towards 2022.
“In India, we’ve been working with our equality, diversity and inclusion agenda since 2014,” informs Parineeta Cecil Lakra, country people & culture manager, IKEA India. It may be called an agenda on paper, but the Company has made sure to internalise equality and inclusion beyond a superficial level and make it a part of its core philosophies. “It’s a very natural thing for us because we think it’s simply the right thing to do,” adds Lakra.
The goal is “to create an IKEA which is an equal workplace, irrespective of gender,” informs Lakra. Achieving a 50-50 gender balance at the workplace drives IKEA’s efforts towards equality, diversity and inclusion. Its work in India has helped IKEA achieve “46 per cent women co-workers in the Company overall, 60 per cent at the country-management level and 50 per cent in management roles,” states Lakra. The Company also announced its commitment to employ 50 per cent women at its outlet in Navi Mumbai, the latest and second IKEA store in India.
As IKEA continues to expand its footprint in India, the Company is also devoted to enabling more women to join the workforce. “In the Indian context, we’ve had to keep a closer eye on women’s participation, because from a societal aspect, it’s not natural for us to have a lot of women in the workplace,” says Lakra.
For this, IKEA India pays particular attention to “ensure that we’re seen as an attractive employer by potential women co-workers and that we can offer them not just a good workplace but also a good career opportunity,” she explains. This is the driving inspiration for many of the Company’s gender-neutral policies. From parental leaves, for both men and women, to on-site daycare centres and commute facilities for late and early shifts, simple steps have been taken that go a long way in facilitating the workday of an employee.
“We ensure that we’re seen as an attractive employer by potential women co-workers, and offer them not just a good workplace but also a great career opportunity”
More than lip service
When equality, diversity and inclusion are considered only superficially, organisations often tend to make some rookie errors. “Sometimes organisations can experience a pitfall in introducing many women at the entry-level, and then missing out on focusing at the managerial levels or essentially not growing them,” notes Lakra.
To counter this, “We keep a close eye not just on recruitment across levels, but also in terms of development opportunities,” says Lakra. “When we have training or leadership programmes, we consider how the women are being represented in those groups and ensure we maintain that equality,” she adds. This close eye is “the first step which actually helps create an equal, inclusive and diverse workplace,” notes Lakra.
Avoid positive discrimination
Hiring just to achieve target numbers is another common error when talking of diversity. This often turns counter-productive, leading to misemployment and opportunities being taken away from deserving candidates. “That’s also one of the pitfalls that happen,” says Lakra. “When we talk about a gender-balanced workplace, we also don’t want to do any kind of positive discrimination where we’re favouring one versus the other,” she notes.
Scrutinising the recruitment process is key to avoid this tendency. “When we look at our recruitment process, we ensure there is a balance all along the way,” says Lakra. “Whether it’s the number of candidates that are coming in for a particular job, or assessment centres at the time of volume recruitments, or the interview panel. We simply ensure that we have equal representation in the entire process, so we’re picking the right candidate.”
Most importantly, achieving equality, diversity and inclusion at the workplace is not a one-time exercise. “The thing about gender balance is, it’s like a weighing scale. One has to ensure that it stays balanced,” illustrates Lakra. Therefore, even though the Company is grabbing headlines for its target of achieving 50-50 at the workplace by 2022, it’ll remain a constant endeavour. “Although we’re moving in that direction right now, it will not stop here. It’s a never-ending commitment that we have,” says Lakra.