IKEA Founder Finds Lack of Female Managers ‘Strange’

Discussion
Jan 05, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, is not happy about his own company’s lack of females in top management positions and he’s looking to change that.

“We ought to have more women in various management positions, because women are the ones who decide almost everything in the home,” he said in a documentary aired on Sweden’s
TV4.

“It’s very strange that we don’t have more women decision-makers and women in positions of power,” he said.

Charlotte Lindgren, a spokesperson for IKEA, said 30 percent of the company’s store managers and 20 percent of top management are women. Two of the 11 members of the company’s
board of directors are female.

According to a report on the English-language Swedish news site The Local, “The issue of gender equality in the boardroom has been a topic of recent debate in Scandinavia,
with many companies vowing to increase their female representation.”

Under a new Norwegian law, “500 or so public limited companies are scrambling to appoint at least 40 percent women to their boards within the next two years or face dismantling,”
according to the report. 

Moderator’s Comment: Do you agree with the sentiment of Ingvar Kamprad that, “It’s very strange that we don’t have more women decision-makers and women
in positions of power.”? How long will it be in the U.S. before women make up the same percentage of top management positions as their male counterparts? Can equality in the board
room be achieved without government intervention?

George Anderson – Moderator

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18 Comments on "IKEA Founder Finds Lack of Female Managers ‘Strange’"


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Franklin Benson
Guest
Franklin Benson
15 years 1 month ago

I suspect he finds it “strange” because his system strives to be gender-blind in its promotions and advancement programs. It may be that the strange thing is that some women self-select to not advance because of choices they make putting a higher priority on family than career, and that a larger proportion of “strange” men tend to make choices that put a higher priority on career than family.

To overcome this, it would seem that quotas or some sort of affirmative action is going to be implemented. At the risk of sounding like a sexist dinosaur, I think that is a bad idea. IKEA’s original plan – to hire and advance in a gender-blind manner, and to put the best people and the most qualified in the decision-making positions is the best competitive advantage. That plan is one of IKEA’s reasons for being a successful company and everything it is today. Keep it up, and let the chips fall where they may.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 1 month ago

Gee, Ryan is pointing out the right fact, about IKEA.

Secondly, there are many qualified women who need just to break through the male insecurity, or bad thinking.

Just look at some Industries that lack women in management, and have a few great examples of female executives and middle mangers.

Shall we ask the two food industries the same question?

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

As long as men continue to be conditioned to compete, they will always dominate top management positions. Men in management are no different than 13 year old boys with raging hormones showing off for the cute girl at school. Competing for top management jobs is just another way of showing off for women. And as long as women continue to worship men as success objects, men will continue to act out in this manner. Men and women are just wired differently so there really is no need to mess with nature. We can’t force women to take top management jobs if down deep they really don’t want them. Women also will continue to be at a disadvantage as long as they continue to long for being worshiped as a sex object over being admired for being a success object.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

When organizations focus on measuring performance objectively, this discussion can become more constructive. Even though retailing is often numbers-driven, isn’t it surprising how many retail organizations don’t measure performance objectively? Can a retailing company make an internal rule that prohibits any position from being established without a job description and a predetermined set of objective performance measures? Then coach everyone appropriately on how to maximize each person’s performance. If everyone within the organization understands the measures, sees they are objective, and gets coached appropriately, how significant would gender imbalance worries be? Why not include coaching success as a key management measure? Great organizations are built on teamwork, not hazing and obliviousness to high turnover and low morale. What proportion of retail firms are known for the former versus the latter?

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 1 month ago
I let my wife drive all the time, but I don’t think 50/50 in the executive suite is an important goal. I agree with Bernice. Be gender-neutral in the workplace and promote the best, most qualified people who want the job. Make sure you are not stacking the deck so women can’t be qualified. Make sure you’re giving everyone the opportunity to have a balance between home and work to the extent the position allows it. But… as long as men and women are different, physically, psychologically, emotionally, they are going to see the world differently and have different goals and desires in life. Unless there is a major shift in Western culture and the structure of our institutions, life choices will play a role in the numbers. Our culture and institutions were built on the premise that women had children and cared for them and men provided for the family. We can be as gender-neutral as we want but the institutions are designed to force women to make choices that men, generally, do not… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 1 month ago

Why is it necessary for women to occupy the same percentage of management positions as the percentage of the population they comprise? The reasoning here seems to be a better understanding of female customers. Great idea, which should be extended to legislative bodies, law enforcement agencies, brain surgeons, and athletic teams. Here are some additional groups which need representative balancing in these important areas: Left-handers vs. right-handers; chucklers vs. snorters; innies vs. outies; and boxers vs. briefs.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Before everyone jumps too high on this issue, keep in mind that statistically the percent of female managers will never be equal to men, i.e. 50%/50%. There are more working men than women. The problem is too many companies are men managed and they perpetuate their own. In the Russian chain I am affiliated with the majority of store managers and, for that matter, associates are female. Why? They relate to and understand the customer better than men. Additionally, they are more committed to the company as we have never had a bias. The solution is not quotas or special treatment as minorities may demand, it is equal opportunity for all. That means in all areas including education, training, etc.

Ian Percy
Guest
15 years 1 month ago
As we all know this discussion has been going on forever. But any time you see it discussed using percentages and numerical “goals” you know someone doesn’t get it. Until we realize and deal with the fact that this is a deep, subconscious, culturally ingrained, mind-set issue little will change – even if we actually hit the numerical target of 50-50. What has to change is ‘how’ (not necessarily ‘what’) men and women think about each other. A couple get into their car – who’s going to drive? These are two people who love each other and yet the male still takes control. A couple are buying a house or car – who does the salesperson talk to mostly? There are MCPs out there, no doubt about it. But that’s not what this is all about. Fundamentally I believe it’s a spiritual thing and our deepest beliefs have to be disrupted. How will I know we actually believe in the equality of men and women in leadership (or anything else)? When you attend church and… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

A few companies do have women in all ranks of management and have been making an effort to include more women in more top management positions. They are few and far between. More women have been dropping out of corporations because of downsizing and the lack of advancement and beginning their own companies, thereby becoming part of top management. Ad Age’s analysis of consumers in the US reveals that more women than men have been getting undergraduate and graduate degrees and that fewer men are going into management positions. The change may happen just because of the numbers.

Colleen Lundin
Guest
Colleen Lundin
15 years 1 month ago

I know quite a few very well educated women who ‘stand down’ (or even drop out altogether) from high level management positions due to family commitments. You can’t have it all – either company or family suffers (not to mention the woman in question) from partial neglect if you do try. So, the numbers of available women for these positions is skewed. Hire/promote the best qualified person for the position, gender, color or creed should have no bearing on who that person is.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 1 month ago
Right, here I come, trying to keep my temper in check. My first question is WHY? WHY do you/they feel that there must be equal numbers of men and women in the boardroom? As one of the women who has consistently refused i.e. been unable to work in a corporate environment and has started up and successfully run several businesses as well as raising my family although rarely driving the car with either my husband or son as passenger, I would strongly resist any kind of quota or policy that deliberately recruits and/or favours women just for the sake of it. Too many women, I believe, are now pressured into working all of their adult lives and not enough men, I believe, are willing or able to balance career and family adequately. This whole concept of getting more women in the boardroom strikes me as sexist and patronising. Let us do what we want, when, where and how we want and not be trapped into running your companies for you now that you have discovered… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

My wife, who is far smarter than I am and has had senior level corporate positions for most of her career, is now at a CPG company that recently decided it needed more women on the board. She opposed it. She just wants the best people. I agree with her. This is a mainstream societal issue that’ll probably be fought for the next several generations, unfortunately. I applaud those who tell corporations to go stick it and then go off on their own and start their own businesses. It’s tougher for women, and will remain so for our lifetimes. As that famous Texan, Ann Richards, said,”Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards in high heels.” Ryan’s comment, BTW, was dead-on.

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Speaking as one of those guys who usually takes the wheel when out with my mate, I’d like to support the premise that more women can and should advance to positions of management power. I don’t really believe a precise 50/50 split is either a realistic or achievable goal, but I do believe a rough balance is a good rule of thumb for most companies. Most importantly, companies must, as a matter of policy and culture, conduct business in ways that encourage both genders to advance and contribute based on quality and merit. Especially in consumer-focused businesses, excluding or overlooking the female perspective in the boardroom will translate to competitive disadvantage at the customer interface.

N Norballe
Guest
N Norballe
15 years 1 month ago
Who can change the company gender issue in the future? Most likely, 98% of all answers would point to the fact that the present male top managers must change this. But, isn’t it true that the way a top manager subconsciously acts and reacts originally stems from his upbringing and education? I.e., this issue will only change when the role models are changing within the family and in the kindergarten and schools. A similar example can be presented with the “Hotel Mama” issue in Italy (Italy has the highest Western percentage of single men still living at home – even beyond 35 years of age). Who is to blame for this? The mothers. The sons are smart to stay living at home and being pampered by their mothers. So back to the corporate issue. Who can ensure that more women get into management? Only when the fundamental roles, which start in our early childhood, changes, then also this will follow through in later roles in our lives. Or as one panelist points out: a happy… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Okay, Ryan, that was hilarious… I couldn’t begin to express the obvious IKEA contradiction better! Ian, it is interesting that you mention religion. We are living in a time when preaching the “man as head of household” and “family leader” doctrine to thousands packed in stadium-sized churches is coming back into fundamentalist fashion.

As an executive woman, I agree with one of the previous posts that women are fleeing corporate America to start their own businesses (as I did). Women may not be at the top of the corporate ranks, however, they are leading the way in small business. I can’t honestly say that this explains the dearth of female executives, particularly in retail (always a head-scratcher!)

Zel Bianco
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Sounds like a PR stunt to soften the facts. Ryan’s comments are correct. The buck stops with the him, and if he really wanted to he could change it.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Far be from me to point out the obvious or the paradoxical or, in this case, both but I find it “strange” that Kamprad finds IKEA’s gender imbalance “strange.” He FOUNDED the company over 60 years ago and he and his family retain total control to this day. So…if this isn’t the result of the system he created, and therefore should be fully aware of, then who’s responsible — little diabolical male chauvinist Swedish forest gnomes?

Gregg Garner
Guest
Gregg Garner
15 years 1 month ago

What has happened to appointing “the most qualified individual for the job” regardless of sex? I agree, within the world of retail, females have much to offer which is currently an untapped resource.

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