IKEA is being criticized for deleting images of women from the Saudi version of its furniture catalog, a move the company says it regrets.
Comparing the Swedish and Saudi versions of the IKEA catalog, Sweden's free newspaper Metro on Monday showed that women had been airbrushed out of otherwise identical pictures showcasing the company's home furnishings.
The Metro report raised questions in Sweden about IKEA’s commitment to "gender equality." The country's trade minister Ewa Bjorling didn't criticize IKEA directly but told Metro that you can't delete women from society.
"Women cannot be retouched away in reality. If Saudi Arabia does not allow women to appear [in public] or work, they lose about half their intellectual capital," she told Metro.
"These pictures [are a] sad example that shows that there is a long way to go in terms of equality between men and women in Saudi Arabia," she added.
IKEA spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson defended the company by explaining that the catalog was designed by an "external franchise owner that operates company stores in Saudi Arabia," Times LIVE explains.
Still, IKEA released a statement expressing regret, saying "We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalogue is in conflict with the IKEA Group values."
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Front page photo source EPA.