How Indonesian women leaders face the challenges of entrepreneurship
East Ventures, a pioneering and leading sector-agnostic venture capital firm in Indonesia, has again presented its signature women-centered program, “Women with Impact”, on 8 March 2023 in celebration of International Women’s Day. Partnering with Google Indonesia, this time, Women with Impact facilitated a keynote speech from Mari Elka Pangestu, the Former Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships at World Bank, as well as a panel discussion about “Tech for gender equity: Empowering women, improving livelihoods”, featuring three key women speakers from the tech ecosystem. This aligns with this year’s International Women’s Day theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for gender equality”, highlighted by the United Nations (UN).
According to studies from the World Bank, accelerating gender equality in businesses can unleash trillions of dollars in economic potential. However, women are still underrepresented in businesses today, and gender inequality in the workplace is becoming steeper, particularly as countries face various crises and developmental reversals.
The World Bank identified the main issues that are faced by women entrepreneurs, which need a holistic approach to address:financing, skills and networks, markets and technology, and an enabling environment.
Mari Elka Pangestu, Former Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships at World Bank
Investing in women is smart economics, development, and business. However, we need to address the inequalities and ecosystems they face holistically. This will require partnerships between the government, the private sector, and all the groups who care about empowering women, many of which are in the room today.
The role of technology in empowering women and improving livelihoods
The underrepresented women in the technology sector, either as consumers or technology producers, is not only a loss for the women themselves but also for society as a whole, as women bring unique perspectives and skills to the table. Raising this concern, some tech companies create programs to involve more women in technology.
For instance, the global technology company Google, which offers various products for everyone, believes that women can provide a very rich perspective in business, especially on how business operations can be more efficient and optimized.
Isabella Wibowo, Strategic Partnerships Manager – YouTube Indonesia,one of thepanelists speaking during the panel discussion,revealed that it was very hard to find women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) companies, even in the early days of Google. Therefore, the tech company created the Women@Google Community program.
“This program has a two-pronged aim: ensuring women can be educated and be equipped to enter the tech world and ensuring women strive while in the tech landscape. Most women don’t have equal playing ground when they join tech companies, so this program tries to turn that around,” said Isabella.
Meanwhile, Mapan,adigital community-based firm inspired by Indonesia’s local customs of ‘arisan’, targets their businesses to empower women communities and help them to improve their incomes.
“[We] understand that financing gaps happen mostly in women. They don’t have any income and experience difficulties building their businesses. We are creating a space where arisan can be a place for them to earn an income – as group leaders – while also becoming the champion of financial savviness to the arisan members around them,” said Ardelia Apti, Chief Executive Officer of Mapan.
Chiming in, Grace Tahir, Co-Founder of Medico & Everest Media, shared her personal experience as a woman content creator. She witnessed that technology has provided more preferences for women and the younger generation in becoming themselves without changing their personalities to a specific figure that the traditional media have portrayed for decades.
“If we didn’t have social media today, I would not have been hired by [the media industry] to be in front of the camera. Social media has given more children and younger girls better choices. They don’t have to be forced-fed with one specific image. As a content creator, I have to influence something positive, not just among my peers but for the next generation too. I think more women content creators are also doing that,” Grace said.
The lighthearted discussion wraps up with some key takeaways and insights from the panelists:
1. Today, women are becoming more confident than ever, and that is great
It does not matter what people think women can or cannot do, and there will always be an imbalance that women can balance in businesses that require more than STEM skills. Once women can identify what they can do – and be good at it – they can continue to build on that, creating a comfortable space for themselves and being confident in it.
2. Leadership without authority is still leadership
Women always have the power to solve problems without any ‘approval’ or any leadership backup. Women can always influence someone with their capabilities and reasoning or arguments. Do not let ‘titles’ stop you from taking the chance to step up, and it circles back to grasping that confidence.
3. Time is a social construct, take that leap of faith today
Sometimes, the people closest to you can doubt you, even when you think the timing is right for you to start a business. Women are bound to stigmatized roles where they should be at home and taking care of the children. Breaking that stigma is important – not only to “shut the voices of doubt down” but also to seize the opportunity to take the chance, as time is invaluable.
To further strengthen the firm’s commitment to supporting women in the tech industry, East Ventures is thrilled to launch its first Peer Mentorship program for women entrepreneurs. This program will provide access for women founders to experienced mentors who can offer guidance, support, and insights as they navigate the challenges of building successful startups.
In the first batch of the Peer Mentorship program, East Ventures engages seven mentors, such as: