Ikea boss takes female business award

Jeanette Söderberg, the new head of Ikea in Sweden, was named on Wednesday as this year's 'Ruter Dam' - an annual award for the woman considered to have achieved the highest position in the Swedish business world.

The award is designed to promote the role of women in senior corporate positions.

“It feels great – it’s important with a good mix of women and men in leadership positions,” said said Söderberg at a press conference on Wednesday.

Söderberg, who has only been running Ikea in Sweden for a month, was competing for the honour with Annika Falkengren, the new managing director of SEB, and Carina Håkansson, managing director of Stora Enso Skog and last year’s winner.

But despite the fact that the issue of female representation in companies is in the spotlight, there are even fewer women in positions of operational management than on company boards.

Only one in ten managers in Sweden’s listed companies is female and the number of female managing directors is even fewer.

Jeanette Söderberg emphasised the importance of considering the business benefits of dividing up the top jobs.

“Differences in themselves are a great force for change and regeneration,” she said.

“We want to reflect the many different people who are our customers – but we are not as far forward as we would like to be yet.”

Söderberg, who is 40, has taken the long route to the top. She began working at the checkout in Stockholm’s Kungens Kurva store in 1983.

“It was just chance that I ended up there – but no coincidence that I stayed,” she said.

Candidates for the award, which is organised by the Ruter Dam female management development foundation, are chosen from Swedish companies with an annual turnover of more than 3 billion kronor.

Ikea’s annual sales last year amounted to 9.1 billion kronor and the company employs around 4,800 people in Sweden.

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TT/The Local