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People & Culture 8 March 2020

IWD: IKEA Retail Japan CEO encourages women to do it their way

To mark International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 2020, Helene von Reis, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) at IKEA Retail Japan talks about work and family life balance in the country and women receiving respect for doing it their way. 

IKEA Retail Japan is one of 30 operating countries for Ingka Group, a strategic partner in the IKEA franchise system. There are nine stores, one distribution, and a newly opened IKEA for Business planning studio in the country. 

Ingka Group believes that everyone has the right to be treated fairly and given equal opportunities, no matter what their gender is. We’re committed to reaching true gender equality. That means ensuring equal opportunities for both women and men, and reaching 50/50 gender balance in all countries, levels and positions, including boards and committees. 

We believe that greater gender balance benefits everyone. With our 50/50 commitment, we focus on having more women in predominantly male roles, as well as more men in predominantly female roles. 

Helene has been at IKEA for over 20 years and is a mother to two children. 

How are women juggling work and family life in Japan? 
At the moment, Japan is adapting to a new reality with schools closed for a month due to coronavirus.  Working mothers of school children are juggling their work and childcare at home as we speak. 

Even though Japan is a developed country, we need to drive a paradigm shift in dramatically changing the way we see gender roles in Japan, where traditional perceptions have been segmented.

How and why should men be involved in the conversation around gender equality? 
When we talk about gender equality, it is essential to include men in the picture. For example, paternity leave in Japan is not common yet even though the benefits are great, but it has been a hot topic that Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi was acting on it earlier this year. But we need more Koizumis.

In the workspace, to achieve gender balance companies need to set goals that are connected to the employees and managers’ personal development and reward system.

What would be your message to women on IWD? 
I really wish for women to have the confidence to believe in themselves, not having to living up to all the standards and all the expectations, and to be able to say, ‘I am going to do this my way’, and to be respected for that.

What about the IKEA equality commitment in Japan?
As IKEA Japan, we still have much work in achieving the equality through our communications on Equality Starts at Home. We also need to lead by example by achieving 50/50 gender ratio for all the functions throughout IKEA Japan. By 2022, we are committed to achieve gender equality in IKEA globally, providing equal opportunities, equal pay: No more, no less.  


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