Compare the annual IKEA catalogs disbursed around the world and they are nearly identical, save for a slight difference.
The difference is not in the Swedish translations of the furniture or the mock layouts of the numerous living rooms in the catalog. The discrepancy lies in the people who are portrayed in the company’s catalog enjoying themselves in and around the IKEA furniture.
Saudi Arabia’s IKEA catalog does not include women in the scenes.
In Saudi Arabia, women cannot drive cars but can vote as of last year.
One of the most obvious examples is a page in the IKEA catalog, published in Sweden and disbursed around the world, where there is a women standing beside a young boy in a bathroom.
However, in the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog, the young woman has disappeared and the boy is standing alone.
“We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog is in conflict with the IKEA Group values,” the company said in a statement this morning.
On IKEA’s Saudi Arabian website, the catalog is available to be downloaded in Arabic. The catalog solely showcases men and young children. Women are completely excluded from the photos.
In the IKEA catalog downloaded on the United States website, families (including mothers, fathers and children) are depicted inside the living room and kitchen scenes.
“IKEA Saudi Arabia is run by a franchisee outside the IKEA Group,” the company said in their statement, but the catalogs themselves are produced by the IKEA Group for all their IKEA markets.
Ulrika Englesson Sandman, spokesman for Inter IKEA Systems B.V., explained that “the mistake happened during the work process occurring before presenting the draft catalogue for IKEA Saudi Arabia. We take full responsibility for the mistakes made.”
“As a producer of the catalog, we regret the current situation,” IKEA added.
Additionally, IKEA removed the image of a female designer, featured in their other catalogs, who assisted in designing a line of their home furnishings.
“It’s impossible to retouch women out of reality,” Swedish Minister of Trade Ewa Björling told Metro newspaper. ”These images are yet another regrettable example that shows we have a long road ahead when it comes to gender equality in Saudi Arabia.”
IKEA’s catalog is distributed in 41 countries.
IKEA did not immediately respond to a question asking if other catalogs beside Saudi Arabia’s had been altered.