Global furniture and home décor giant Ikea opened its first store in India in Hyderabad today. About 48% of its Hyderabad workforce is women. While it’s a wee bit short of the world standards of 50% women, it is still an example for Indian corporates in terms of ensuring gender equality in the workforce.

Retired policy-maker Praveen Chandra, who envisioned and approached Ikea to consider Hyderabad as its base to expand in India, spoke about hiring women for the store. “I am part of the training program in which we trained young women from government colleges. And the change we see in them now is phenomenal.”

ikea opens first store

One of the female co-workers working in the store’s restaurant told SheThePeople.TV that their whole team, including men and women, set up the 1000-seater restaurant. “Here girls and as well as boys got together to do all the jobs that we were given. From installing the chandeliers to setting seats to décor, girls have done everything. There is no such thing as a man’s job,” she said.

ikea opens first store
The restaurant at the Ikea store

The store employs 950 co-workers in the Hyderabad store directly and 1500 indirectly in services. The company has a non-negotiable commitment to hire 50% women co-workers at all levels in India, including forklit drivers and assembling co-workers.

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DIPP Secretary, Ramesh Abhishek, who was also present for the store launch, spoke to us about the increasing need for women to join the workforce. He praised Ikea’s effort in hiring equal number of girls and extending opportunities to them. “Women are better than men in every respect and they just need these opportunities and by giving it to them, Ikea is actually showing the way to other corporates. It is actually a win-win for everyone,” he said.

The Swedish company said it ensures equal policies for both men and women. So if they give six months’ maternity leave to their women employees and four months of flexi working hours after that, they also approve six months of paternity leave for fathers after their wives get back to work

Talking about Ikea’s policy, its HR lead Anna-Carin said, “What we have found is that the policies that are good for women are also good for men. So one of the things that we are doing in all our stores and locations in India might not be there in every store in the world. But specifically to India, we are building a daycare centre inside our stores to make sure that our mothers who come back to work have somewhere safe and secure to keep their child. What we find is that the men also want to have these benefits. So the benefits there are for women are equally extended to the men.”

It isn’t just reservation that helps increase gender equity at workplace. This Swedish company has taught that one needs to go beyond announcing reservation and actually work towards training and incorporating women in the workforce.

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