Globally, the world is making strides towards achieving gender equality. Women in senior leadership positions has passed the critical 30% mark despite the global pandemic, a Grant Thornton report surmises. However, compared to western counterparts, the percentage of women in senior management in Asia-Pacific, including Indonesia, lags behind.

This makes Liwa Supriyanti, head of Gunung Prisma, a steel distribution company based in Indonesia, an exception. She shows the way forward by being a role model for young females. What can be done to ensure females have equal opportunities to take on managerial roles in corporations? In this blog we provide a review of the gender landscape in Indonesia and list some ways the gaps can be closed.

Women in leadership positions in Indonesia

Indonesia is ranked 10th in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index. This means that it is far behind other developing countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand in gender equality. Indonesia has some way to go before it can be considered a progressive society that values, celebrates and appoints a significant number of women to positions of leadership. The local culture continues to strongly emphasise hierarchical structures and patriarchy, and the belief that men should hold leadership roles as they are perceived to be more competent.

What makes it difficult for women to climb the career ladder here? While some top reasons that hinder career progression highlighted include motherhood and family responsibilities, a concerning 24% have revealed that one of the culprits is gender discrimination.

Why is it important that women take on more leadership roles?

An egalitarian society provides each individual with fair opportunities regardless of gender. Other than its inherent benefits, having more women in the workforce and its positions of power can spur positive development within organisations.

Women bring to the table a unique set of skills and perspectives. Alternative viewpoints spur discussion, spark creativity and innovation and boosts performance. Evidence has shown that team collaboration is greatly enhanced with the presence of women in the group.

With a more diverse work culture, a company is also more aligned with ESG principles, strengthening it’s brand as an inclusive company that stands against discrimination. 86% of female millennials said that employer policy on diversity and workforce inclusion was important. This makes it more viable in the eyes of investors and new recruits.

Companies that are more diverse are therefore more successful. According to a McKinsey & Company report, enterprises in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

What needs to be done to achieve gender equality in the workplace?

First, create a supportive social environment that allows women to excel. Improve work-life balance to take into consideration the pivotal role women play in the household. Consider also implementing a system where women mentor men. It helps employees progress in their careers and allows both genders to learn from each other in the workplace.

Risa Rustam, Director of Finance and Human Resources, Indonesia Stock Exchange, further encouraged the business sector in Indonesia to work together in realising gender equality, “More than 42% of Indonesia’s population are women. Therefore, investing in gender equality and women’s empowerment is the right and smart thing to do. Not only will it lead to a safer community, gender equality will also bring profits for businesses and faster economic growth.”

Liwa Supriyanti’s role in Gunung Prisma

Why are female role models important? It gives confidence to girls and teenagers that taking on powerful positions in society is achievable and within their reach. As director of Gunung Prisma, Liwa Supriyanti is a trailblazer in this regard, and is a role model to young females in Indonesia. She has gained mastery in the field of chemical and steel trading, developing the business acumen to make strategic decisions. This has allowed her to recognise the business opportunities within the steel market, capitalise on them and take Gunung Prisma to great heights. Liwa is also exemplary in her drive to deliver sustainable solutions that are gentle on the planet, such as by encouraging the use of renewable green steel. Find out more about Liwa.