The Indonesia Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (IBCWE) was established in December 2016 as an initiative of the Australian Government through the Investing in Women program. Eight prominent companies agreed to join as the founding members: Sintesa Group, Bank BTPN, Unilever Indonesia, Mitra Adi Perkasa Group, Gajah Tunggal, Accenture Indonesia, Adis Dimension Footwear and Pan Brothers.
With the to improve women’s participation in the workforce and as business leaders, and to influence the private and public sectors to recognise and promote the value of gender equality the coalition has grown to 21 companies now and has attracted even some of the mining companies in the country.
Executive Director of IBCWE, Maya Juwita highlights the successes and challenges in rolling out the gender equality at workplaces programme in one of the biggest countries of South East Asia.
Can you tell us briefly about the various activities of the coalition?
We provide early assessment for workplace gender equality condition within the company, recommend the action plan to address the gap, gender bias training and sexual harassment training, consultation for gender-based talent management program, profiling, youth events, networking, and CSR program towards women empowerment.
Is there engagement of women employees in the program or is it completely employer led?
We have a networking program “IBCWE Women Talent Network” which aims to bring together women talent from across companies and industries within our membership. The themes for the network vary from learning, motivational, mentoring to sponsorship. We aim that this cross industry interaction will enable the women to learn from each other.
What is the level of awareness both among employers and employees on the subject of gender equality?
In general, there is a perception that Indonesia does not face the problem of gender equality. The usual evidences sited are that we have had a female president and that there are women leading strategic and pivotal ministries. However, the general perception is still around women’s right and emancipation while the challenge lies around inequal access of opportunities for women. Similar situation is also found in private sector where employers (and some employees) think that they have given the same opportunities to both women and men to climb the corporate ladder without making any effort to acknowledge why the women are facing difficulty to rise. What makes it worse, is the argument that acknowledging the issue and providing affirmative action is a form of discrimination to men and shows favouritism to women.
What are the key challenges towards achieving gender equality at workplaces in your market?
As I mentioned above, one of the key challenges is due to the general perception that the problem does not exist. Another challenge are the gender norms in a patriarchal society which put domestic responsibility solely on women. Majority think that it is acceptable for women to work outside of home and be economically independent, but they also expect women to manage domestic chores including caring responsibilities. The report from PROSPERA showed that during the pandemic, school closures exacerbate women’s unpaid work, as the primary carers for children. Mothers may be forced to stop work to take care of children who were previously looked after at schools. In Indonesia, 39 percent of women who work have at least one child of primary-school age at home. This represents 10 million women.
What according to you is the most significant inequality at workplace in Indonesia? Is it gender bias in hiring, unequal pay, lack of growth opportunities, board representation or anything else?
Our experience in assisting the companies shows that the gender bias in people management is the biggest hindrance for women entering the workplace and their progress. Another challenge is the distribution of domestic responsibilities that always puts women in a constraint. According to a recent study, the main drivers of low female labour force participation in Indonesia are marriage, having children under the age of two in the household, low educational attainment (below upper-secondary and tertiary levels) and a changing economic structure.
From a regulatory / compliance standpoint are there any clear guidelines for companies to work towards better gender representation in their workforce? Can you elaborate on any specific policies in this regard?
Indonesia has ratified several international conventions that ensure the women’s right, protection from gender-based violence and discrimination (for instance, ratification of CEDAW in 1984); the National Gender Mainstreaming Policy enacted in 2000 (through The Presidential Decree in) guides the National Long-term Development Plan (RPJPN) 2005- 2025 which confirms the Indonesian government’s commitment to gender equality with specific laws in place and aligning the National Development Agenda with 17 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5 Gender Equality. However, the implementation of these policies has been unclear as the implementers have limited knowledge on gender equality and a strong social gender norm that hinders the open-minded perspective on gender equality.
Is there anything / any behaviour that is unique to your market that is either helpful / impedes achieving the goal of gender equality at workplaces?
The younger generations of Indonesia exhibit a positive acceptance to the idea of gender equality. There is shifting behaviour especially in managing the household. Men in younger generation have no problem in helping their spouses at home, which will reduce the burden on women. A survey on social norms, attitudes and practice (SNAP) deployed by IW with 1,000 men and 1,000 women respondents (urban millennials) exhibited that economic independence is a high motivator for women to work especially in Vietnam and Indonesia. The internal drive within the women will provide the push for gender equality agenda in Indonesia.