Panelist of Women with Impact Forum - International Women's Day Series

Building the ecosystem of gender equality for the sustainable future

March 18, 2022

East Ventures, a pioneering and leading sector-agnostic venture capital firm in Indonesia, has again presented its signature women-centered forum: Women with Impact Forum, as part of the celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022. This virtual forum discussed “Women as Active Agents for Sustainable Development”  with five key speakers from different industries, such as venture capital, tech startups, and social enterprises; with the objective to provide real views and challenges faced by women in each industry, as well as to create the awareness of how we should act in addressing the real challenges for bringing sustainable development. 

Speaking of gender equality, each strata and each industry in the society is facing its own different challenges and struggles. It is vital to find ways in understanding these challenges, so the public, in general, can work together in solving the issues. For instance, Melisa Irene, Partner at East Ventures, shared how there is still a low representation of women partners in the venture capital industry. 

“We acknowledge this real situation in the venture capital industry, but we are working our ways towards the betterment. We firmly believe that women bring diverse perspectives to the industry, and East Ventures is committed to taking this seriously through our practices and support in the ecosystem,” said Melisa. 

Providing another perspective from the same industry, Carmen Yuen, General Partner at Vertex Ventures SE Asia and India, described the importance of the society to not confine that both men and women are only suited for a specific industry, as anyone can excel in every industry despite our gender. Case in point: the female founders that Vertex Ventures work with helm industries from manufacturing, fintech, blockchain, agritech, and the list goes on. Some of these are deemed to be male-dominated industries.   

A similar case or story was found in the time when Utari Octavianty, Co-Founder and Chief Sustainability Officer of Aruna was about to enter the fishing industry. There was a perception on how the fishing industry is suited for men, and not suitable for Utari as a woman. It didn’t only appear in society, but it was also rooted in her family. However, after her involvement in the fishing industry, she has proven that the fishing industry is for all genders, and everyone can make improvements to the betterment despite gender. 

Speaking of betterment, the pandemic has brought another level of awareness and understanding towards health. However, in terms of gender equality and involvement in the healthcare industry, Levana Sani, CEO of Nalagenetics provided views on how there is still a low involvement of women, for instance, on how the clinical trial was done traditionally that only involved the representation of the healthy white men. It has caused a higher possibility to have an adverse drug reaction to the women. 

Moving to the wider perspectives, Tamara Wu, CEO of Liberty Society shared the history of creating Liberty Society, a social enterprise that empowers women affected by violence and extreme poverty to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and hopelessness. She described how women out there are still vulnerable in society, especially on how education and economics play as big concerns in causing the issues. 

Education as the main foundation in promoting gender equality

Reflecting on how gender bias is holding us slower, it is crucial for society to work towards improvement, which can be started from access to education. Education is the key foundation in solving cross-industry issues, as a decent education can widen our perspectives and help to understand the importance of gender equality. Moreover, it will equip each individual with the ability to empower themselves in achieving their economic and social stability. 

Regardless of the formal education that we have, we also need to consider the aspect that sometimes the education system is not created for everyone, especially for those who are already adults. It is vital to provide ‘education’ that caters to their needs and situation, where it could bring actual and practical impacts to them and to society. 

For instance, Aruna created training to empower the wives of fishermen, so they were trained to be able to sort the fish based on its qualities and size. By doing that, not only have we provided a more empowering environment, Aruna has also catered to women’s empowerment in supporting their own or even family economy. 

We are getting used to how things were created, and it made us forget to look into things from different angles. A system that was created long ago, might not be the right fit considering the current development and enhancement, but sadly that we are blindly following the system without questioning its suitability now. 

We normally experienced regulations that were made without factoring in the gender aspect in it, which in most cases have brought unfortunate effects to the women. However, it is a pity that our society has not been fully aware of the role of women, especially on how they made most of the purchasing decisions in the households; as well as how women and moms take the most care of their kids and family. 

The policymakers, regardless of the institutions, industries, and sizes, should have started to factor in the women’s aspect in making the decisions. Not only do women bring more perspectives to the table, but it provides more chances for all of us to collect brilliant ideas that might simply not exist if we are blindsided by gender bias. We should encourage more involvement and provide more ease for everyone in entering the industry, workplace, or even encourage the existing person to come back after their break, despite any reasonings. 

We often neglect the fact that we are facing global issues together, there are so many possibilities that can be created, if all parties understand their own roles on how to support each other, and are willing to take the extra mile for the improvement. An example: Tamara believes in making the world a better place, the urges should come as a joint effort from both ends: customers and companies. 

The companies should also start to create a more strategic Corporate Sustainable Responsibility (CSR), which would not be a one-time thing without any lasting effect. It should provide the society with the ability, skills, knowledge to empower themselves, so everyone has the ability to break the line and create impacts by and for themselves. 

Moreover, the sustainability efforts should stick to 3P: People, Planet, and Profit. It starts from empowering People: one of them is through ensuring equality in the daily practices regardless of their gender. Planet, be responsible and mindful in our daily acts that might unconsciously bring bad impacts to the earth. Last but not least: Profit, which provides resources for all parties in bringing impactful actions to society. 

The train towards sustainable development has started, but it is a long journey that we can achieve if all parties understand the urgency, have the will to make progress even if it is slow progress, and work hand-in-hand. 

Women with Impact Forum can be re-watched here.