Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA promised Thursday to depict more women in its instruction manuals after Norway's prime minister accused it of showing only men assembling furniture.
"IKEA will now review its instructions leaflets to get a more even balance between men and women," IKEA said. The privately owned group has 208 stores in 32 countries.
IKEA said it already used pictures of women in its leaflets alongside men and cartoon figures whose sex was left unclear.
"There are more men than women," spokeswoman Camilla Lindemann said. "We don't know the exact balance."
Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik had criticized IKEA for failing to depict women and linked it to an apparent fear of upsetting some Muslims.
"This isn't good enough," he was quoted as telling the Norwegian daily Verdens Gang. "It's important to promote attitudes for sexual equality, not least in Muslim nations."
IKEA said women in its manuals were not pictured with short skirts or wearing short sleeves to avoid giving offense in some parts of the world. The statement showed an extract from a manual with two female figures assembling furniture.
"IKEA places great stress on being open for all, and equality is important in the IKEA catalog and in every other form of communication," IKEA's statement said.
IKEA stores are visited by more than 300 million people a year around the world. Many products have to be assembled by the buyer. The "flat pack" concept cuts the costs of transport, storage and sales space, which the company says helps keep prices down.