IKEA Canada’s leader of equality, diversity and inclusion discusses the company’s equality plan, diversity in leadership and herbal medicine.

Q: What top challenges do you face in your role?

A: IKEA is — and always will be — a humanistic and values-driven company first. Part of the humanistic piece is understanding who our co-workers are. Setting goals and tracking diversity, equity and inclusion progress through metrics is part of it, but inclusion and an environment where all people feel respected, supported and valued is equally important.

Q: What new programs or initiatives are you looking to implement?

A: Globally, we’ve committed to increase ethnic, racial and national diversity at all levels of leadership in 30 countries by 2024 as a part of our larger equality plan. This commitment includes reflecting the multicultural diversity of the communities and countries where we operate, advancing underrepresented groups through equitable business practices and enhancing inclusion for all co-workers. One of our focuses over the last year is the creation of an Indigenous reconciliation action plan.

Read: How IKEA Canada is celebrating stories of Black Canadians this Black History Month and beyond

Q: How do you judge the success of a program or initiative?

A: Our IKEA co-workers’ feedback is the most useful data source we have for measuring any program or initiative’s success. The challenge with any survey, however, is in first asking the right questions. We’re also proud of the work our employee resource groups have begun. They serve as a pulse to connect us to our co-workers so we can better understand how to support and encourage the many.

Career crib sheet

2021 — Present
Equality, diversity and inclusion leader, IKEA Canada

2019 — Present
Director, the Youth Movement

2019 — 2020
Strategic director of programs and partnerships, Warrior Park Athletics, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory

Q: What programs do you consider the most successful or that you’re most proud of?

A: I’m extremely proud of the way we’re stepping up to support our LGBTQ2S+ co-workers and leaders. Last year, the proceeds from the sale of IKEA’s rainbow shopping bags went to local external partners and non-governmental organizations doing work toward creating inclusion for LGBTQ2S+ communities. In addition, we launched our global resources for trans inclusion, inclusive language and a gender transition planning tool, all to better support our co-workers and communities. Additionally, I’m really excited about our Indigenous reconciliation strategy and the work we’ve begun doing to support Black and racialized communities.

Q: What key human resources issues do you expect in the coming year? 

A: Special attention will be given to representation in management. We have long since moved past this idea of diversity being a binary term. Diversity is intersectional. We also understand visibility breeds diversity and companies with greater diversity at the leadership level are more likely to be successful. It’s far more feasible for young talent to visualize themselves in positions of leadership if they can physically see someone like them in that same role.

Read: IKEA Canada continually building on DEI initiatives to support employees

Q: What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?

A: During the pandemic, I began studying herbal medicine. Friends of mine run an herbal medicine school called Seed, Soil and Spirit School. It focuses on plant medicine from Indigenous, diasporic and decolonial perspectives. I also enjoy helping friends run a youth-led agriculture project in Six Nations of the Grand River Territory called Revitalizing Our Sustenance. Outside of that I enjoy reading, working out and practicing breath work.

Q: What’s your favourite employee benefit and why?

A: Our health-care spending account. It’s incredible because it allows us to choose from so many different options. We were able to purchase some great workout equipment which was a blessing to have during the pandemic.

Sadie Janes is an associate editor at Benefits Canada.