Gender equality has a positive impact on talent recruitment and retention, says IKEA’s Parineeta Cecil Lakra

The Country People & Culture Manager at IKEA India suggests that organisations striving for a gender-balanced workplace should prioritise the establishment of a gender-equal pay structure and regularly monitor its effectiveness, rather than solely emphasising numerical representation

There is a pressing need for improved workplace inclusivity. Leaders in organisations are posing critical inquiries regarding the future of work, such as the level of inclusivity within their organisation and the extent to which their company guarantees equitable access to opportunities across the talent lifecycle. Despite some progress in increasing the number of women on corporate boards in developed and emerging markets, the percentage of women in board positions remains notably lower than the percentage of women in the overall workforce. This indicates that women continue to be inadequately represented in boardrooms.

In an exclusive interview with ET Insights, Parineeta Cecil Lakra, Country People & Culture Manager at IKEA India, discussed, among other topics, gender equality, how organisations view an inclusive workforce, and the future of work.

Edited excerpts

How can organisations achieve gender equality in the workplace when all individuals, regardless of gender, have access to equal rewards, resources, and opportunities?
As organisations, we need to change our mindsets and level the ‘playing field’ for all, irrespective of their gender. In regard to IKEA’s presence in India, it is worth noting that 60% of the country’s management team is comprised of women. Additionally, among the 2500 co-workers employed across all our stores, 46% are women. Finally, 43% of our leadership positions are held by women. The reason for sharing this is to convey that it is indeed achievable. Gender equality is good for business and has a positive impact on talent recruitment and retention, as well as brand trust and customer loyalty.

We came to the realisation that to establish a workplace that is inclusive and gender-balanced, we needed to eliminate the challenges and apprehensions that we were encountering. This meant ensuring that everyone, regardless of gender, had an equal opportunity to succeed in their work.

We offer a parental leave of six months for both men and women, as well as for parents of the same gender and single parents. Regardless of your identity, as long as the playing field is level, the identity of the person I hire is not a concern. Our stores provide daycare facilities for our employees. We provide transportation for our co-workers for early morning shifts, including pick-up and drop-off services. Although the law may specify that it is intended for women, we believe that it applies equally to both genders.

What are the advantages of a diverse workplace?
There are numerous advantages, and I would like to begin by stating that it is no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity for conducting business. Let’s consider the example of a workplace that strives for gender balance. In India, nearly 50% of the population is comprised of women. This means that when it comes to purchasing decisions, whether it be for household items or vehicles, women are either making the investment or heavily influencing the decision. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to accurately represent the needs of women, rather than assuming what their needs may be. They are involved in every stage of production, including design, creation, and solution. As women continue to make strides in the economic sphere, it is no longer just a desirable outcome, but rather a necessary one. Businesses must ensure diversity across all spectrums, including underrepresented communities and individuals with disabilities. It is important to reflect this diversity in the products and services offered to customers.

What role does organisational culture play in fostering an equitable and inclusive work environment?
The culture of an organisation is where it all begins. At IKEA, our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. At the core of our actions lies the values of equality and inclusion. During our business discussions, we always consider the question, “What actions have we taken to improve the lives of our many customers?”

Culture is not solely imparted through a training programme. Onboarding and induction are crucial, but it also begins with the hiring process. It is essential to consider who you are bringing into the organisation and whether they will contribute to your culture. Ultimately, living your culture and values every day is key. Therefore, not limiting learning to the classroom or training session, but engaging in daily actions large and small.

How can organisation address gender pay gap?
I believe that regardless of gender, individuals should receive equal pay for performing work of equal value, It begins with recruitment; organisations that are committed to creating a gender-balanced workplace should not merely focus on numbers; rather, they should invest in the creation of a gender-equal pay structure and measure it continuously.

How do you analyse workforce diversity of India?
The world looks to India for a variety of reasons, and I believe we are moving in the correct direction in terms of workforce diversity. The mere fact that we are discussing it and analysing the pros and cons in depth indicates to me that it has ceased to be a nice-to-have and has become a necessity.

In future, inequality will no longer be a viable option. In order to ensure that our workplace remains relevant for the upcoming workforce, it is imperative that we make these modifications. Some organisations are taking proactive steps, while others will eventually catch up. The way forward for India, in my opinion, is through this path. We need to prioritise the creation of inclusive workplaces.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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