Sari Brody (Leadership & Diversity Manager, IKEA Group) has opened the panel debate on gender equality “Equality Works Better” with her presentment. In short terms, she informed us about the company’s policy regarding gender equality, presented the results they have achieved and, by giving the examples from different cultures, convinced us of how much this issue means to them.

More then 20 years of her career Sari has dedicated to executing diversity and inclusion inside the IKEA group, so we used this opportunity to ask her about equality in the world and in Serbia, about the importance of the inclusion and about the influence that big companies can have on society.

AFA: Before being appointed as a Global Leadership and Diversity Manager at the IKEA Group, you were on a position of Leadership and Diversity Manager at the IKEA US. What were the biggest issues and challenges in executing diversity in the US and what are the issues in Serbia and the rest of Eastern Europe?

SARI BRODY: When it comes to diversity and inclusion, I think the common issue for the world is inclusion. When people come together and they are different from each other, how do we actually make them feel at home, how we can make them feel like that they can be yourself, instead of trying to fit in. If you are a woman, if you are from the different culture, etc. So the bigger umbrella is inclusion. And then I would say that in the US big issue is with race and nationality, so I would say that the biggest gap there is along those lines, although there is still gender equality issue, especially in a high leadership positions. Then it’s the same in Serbia regarding the gender equality. In Serbia we now focus on gender, and will gradually introduce other elements of inclusion as well.

AFA: You stated earlier that the goal for the IKEA Company is to reach 50/50 relation between men and women by 2020 and in your opinion how far are the other companies from Serbia from similar goal?

SARI BRODY: Well, we looked at some of the research and we realize that the average is in twenties percent wise. So I think they have a longer way to go, and our ambition, if we want to make an impact to the society, is to collaborate with other companies and NGOs and try to push together. Learning from our experiences and sharing our experiences, but also learning from them, what are the barriers.

AFA: IKEA is present on a Serbian market for a less than a year and you are already taking interest and actions regarding socially important issues. Given the fact that IKEA originally intended to open shopping centre here in Belgrade 25 years ago, but the war stopped them from doing that. How would that long presence of such socially responsible company change the face of Serbian working environment?

SARI BRODY: I would like to think that we would make a big impact on society, because our ambition was, as soon as we opened here last year, we said we will be a good example. So from the very get go, we said let’s go for the equality, let’s go for the humanitarian and culture and really bring our values to show who we are as an organization. I do believe that companies have a huge impact on society. And us being so big, we could impact quite positively.

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