7 May 2021 | News/Stories

Women Lead Forum: Women’s leadership at work


Magdalene Indonesia and the Indonesia Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (IBCWE), with the support of Investing in Women, recently hosted the 2021 Women Lead Forum, a videoconference bringing together government officials, academics, media, corporate executives, social entrepreneurs, development workers, and urban millennials to advocate for a gender-equal workplace and future.



In Indonesia, 56% of working-age women compared to 84.1% of working-age men participate in the workforce—of those employed, more women (42.24% ) than men (26.14%) are part-time workers based on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021. The same report notes that women hold only 29.8% of senior management and legislative positions. Moreover, Indonesian women earn 23% less than the men according to the International Labour Organization. The two-day event demonstrated that there needs to be a concerted effort from all stakeholders to ensure that women have the same opportunities as men to thrive in their workplaces.

Challenges to achieving gender equality
Speakers took part in live interviews and panel discussions moderated by journalist Puri Anindita, interspersed with standup comedic performances by Sakdiyah Ma’ruf and Ligwinan Hananto, for a balanced treatment of women’s issues.

First day speakers included: Diahhadi Setyonaluri, Researcher at the Lembaga Demografi of the University of Indonesia; Muhammad Ihsan, Deputy Assistant for Policy Formulation at the Indonesian Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection; Wulan Tilaar, Vice-Chair at the Martha Tilaar Group; Ida Swasti, Entrepreneur; Suzy Hutomo, Executive Chair and Owner of The Body Shop Indonesia; Batara Sianturi, CEO at Citibank Indonesia; and Maya Juwita, Executive Director at IBCWE.

Final day speakers included: Astiti Sukatrilaksana, Head of Human Resources at UNDP Indonesia; Uni Lubis, Editor-in-chief at IDNTimes; Usman Kansong, News Director at Media Indonesia; and Devi Asmarani, Editor-in-chief at Magdalene.co.

Many actionable insights surfaced during the discussion.

Speakers recognised that women carry the majority of unpaid care work within families and called on men of influence to perform domestic duties and to talk about the value of sharing. Workplaces can help with flexible work schemes that enable women to balance multiple roles, but they should also encourage men to work flexibly and share in domestic responsibilities, including childcare.

The private sector benefits from greater gender equality at work and can play an important role in opening economic opportunities for women. To do this, businesses should ensure that they increase women’s representation in decision-making roles and create a respectful work environment free from harassment or discrimination. It is very important for leaders to communicate their commitment to gender equality top-down and company-wide including by setting measurable targets for diversity, inclusion and gender equality as key performance indicators for all managers. Family-friendly policies such as parental leave and flexible work should be available to women and men, without discrimination. Job segregation due to gender stereotyping is very common, but studies show this reduces productivity. Companies should remove gender labelling in work roles for recruitment, training and performance appraisals. Finally, companies should consider undertaking a gender equality assessment of their workplaces to better understand their strengths and weaknesses and base further action on good data.

Speakers also recognised the crucial role the media can play in breaking down stereotypes. They called on media practitioners to be more critical of how women are depicted in media and advertising and not to reinforce gender stereotypes or norms that limit women’s roles. Using images and stories of women and men in non-traditional roles can be very powerful.

Of course, government policies play a critical role in supporting women’s leadership. Speakers called on public figures to avoid sexist comments on social media and to remove regulations that might hinder women’s participation in the workforce or encourage women to limit their work to education and the domestic sphere. Regulation such as standardised wage in employment agreements, and legal protection against gender-based discrimination, harassment and violence can be very important for women in the workforce. Other areas that were discussed included the role of the pending Gender Equality Bill in addressing the structural obstacles that women experience and the adoption of gender equality indicators in reporting systems for the business and the investment sectors.

Raising awareness, encouraging solutions
The 2021 Women Lead Forum became a trending topic on the Twitter platform, driven by commentary from the 1,000-strong audience across the two days. It became apparent that the lived experience of women, whether discussed by a panel of speakers or through a comedic performance, resonated with the public.

Such open discussion, said Mr. Alaster Cox, Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, is crucial to changing the way that society sees the role of women, getting support for women’s endeavors, and finding ways to move forward—particularly as women’s leadership and participation are key to a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery from COVID-19.

Keynote speaker Dr. Ida Fauziyah, Indonesian Labour Minister, reiterated the Indonesian government’s commitment to promoting non-discrimination in all workplaces and strengthening efforts to achieve gender equality—including narrowing the wage gap and improving working conditions for both women and men.

The forum also served as a platform for rewarding the winners of the Kantor Dukung Perempuan (English translation: “Workplaces Supporting Women”) video competition, which attracted nearly 100 entries from millennial employees shining a light on current workplace practices that support women. The four winners of the Kantor Dukung Perempuan video competition not only brought their workplaces recognition but also won cash prizes amounting to a total of IDR 2 million.

The 2021 Women Lead Forum is the biggest event in Magdalene’s campaign to support women’s leadership and careers. Since September 2020, Magdalene has produced various content related to the lives of working women and supportive of women’s leadership through the Women Lead microsite, the How Women Lead and FTW Media podcasts, and various social media platforms.

Interested parties may view the videoconference in the original Bahasa Indonesian language via these links: Women Lead Forum (Day 1) and Women Lead Froum (Day 2).

Articles on the forum may also be found at the Magdalene Indonesia website.

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