Paper Edition | Page: 3
A thought-provoking article called “Why Women Can’t Have It All?” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, spoke candidly on why “very few women reach leadership positions”.
Similarly, a recent survey on female leaders in Indonesia conducted by McKinsey & Company and noted female magazine, Femina, found that out of the 49 percent female bachelor’s degree holders, only 6 percent sat in a board of directors, while 5 percent of those became CEOs.
Anne and the survey uniformly concluded that women face multiple hurdles in reaching the top, and dismantling these hurdles will not only require social and working practice reforms, but more female role models are required, whose professional achievements act as blueprints for other career women.
As far as role models in Indonesia’s 5 percent go, Dian Siswarini is pretty typical. She majored in telecommunications and she’s now technology, content and new business chief officer at mobile phone operator XL Axiata.
Before landing this job, Dian led the network services department.
According to Dian, the lack of female heads in technical positions is largely due to the “conical effect”, or the paucity of women with technical degrees.
“If the supply at the base is already scant, the supply at the top will be whittled down even more,” she said, naming the “social perception that technical work was for men” as a factor in the low number of female graduates is technical fields.
Parwati Surjaudaja, president director of Bank OCBC NISP, points to a larger impediment than just social constructs that make this work zone “a man’s world”.
“Often, women limit themselves,” says Parwati, who, like some other female CEOs, calls on her mother as her main inspiration. She is being a career woman herself.
Parwati observes that, living in a culture which denies female ambition, women usually end up “sacrificing their career potential” on behalf of their family.
“They [women] do not want to use guilt to grow, especially if the family lends less support,” she said.
The guilt that Parwati, and a myriad of other high flying women speak of, is the guilt of spending “less” time with their children to fulfill the hefty demands of their profession.
After all, the McKinsey & Company and Femina survey showed that 72 percent of women quit work for family-related reasons, and 69 percent of respondents identified their dual role as career woman and homemaker as the primary obstacle in chasing their careers.
Dian added that “the sense of guilt has not gone away even after having worked for 21 years”, although she found juggling work and family easier as her children grew older and more independent.
“The key is to remain focused on what we are doing,” she said on the “intense” effort of having to simultaneously think of work and home.
Mira Amahorseya, president director of department store PT Sarinah, said that the sacrifices career women made along the way were why work had to be “of meaning”.
“We have left our families, who have great meaning to us. So, our work must give meaning as much as our families bring meaning to us,” she said, adding that having a supportive husband was essential too.
She believes that the additional challenges women faced gave them the mental grit to assume leadership positions.
Dian said that women make capable managers as they were “naturally expected” to multitask between her roles and deal with the pressures each role brought.
Parwati added that women made better listeners, allowing them to see people in a holistic light. This was the trait shared among lady bankers, whom she was in good contact with.
“One thing about lady bankers is that we don’t share the competitive atmosphere men do. This group is about womanhood,” she told The Jakarta Post.
Mira added that in a time when male colleagues increasingly lent support to their female peers, conditions at the work place, from the provision of nursery rooms to the implementation of flexible work hours, needed to evolve too to meet the changes.
State-owned Enterprise Minister Dahlan Iskan has endorsed the appointment of Mira and her all-female team of directors at the state-owned company, saying that having more female leaders in state-owned enterprises would advance the sector.
“And that’s why I want to have nursery rooms and day care in the company,” Mira said.