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Jakarta Post

Breaking the glass ceiling

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, July 2, 2018   /   08:10 am
Breaking the glass ceiling To break the glass ceiling in corporations, bureaucracy and the workplace, women need meritocracy as well as affirmative action. (Shutterstock/File)

Nowadays, the most challenging part of women’s struggle to the top is no longer blatant discrimination and sexism, but the uneven playing field that requires not only harder work but also help from men and society. As today’s report shows, to break the glass ceiling in corporations, bureaucracy and the workplace, women need meritocracy as well as affirmative action. Women must fight alongside other disadvantaged groups, including people with disabilities, ethnic and religious minorities and minorities regarding sexual and gender identities.

Perhaps men feel some modern companies and organizations are unfair in giving “more” attention to women. Some companies have a policy to ensure candidates for promotion should include women. Others have made training tailored specifically for women as well.

The female quota in Indonesia’s legislature, special funds for women and facilities for working mothers might look like “privileges”. But they actually are necessary prerequisites to give women an even playing field in the race to the top.

We have good news from East Java’s regional elections, where quick counts show seven women took the top jobs, out of 19 regions where elections took place on June 27. The women include Khofifah Indar Parawansa, who will likely become East Java governor, according to quick counts.

However, data from 34 ministries shows that while women in the recruitment phase comprise a similar proportion to men, the number dropped significantly at the top levels. Research group Cakra Wikara Indonesia (CWI) found that from 2014 to 2016, women in upper echelon positions in the 34 ministries were respectively 22.59 percent, 22.06 percent and 25.79 percent.

CWI researchers said meritocracy alone could not help women reach the top, mainly because they are forced to balance careers with at least one domestic and nurturing role: as a good wife, a good mother or a good daughter, if not all three. For men, these roles are optional.

Clear examples are women diplomats. Many women may consider it normal, though disappointing, to hold back their careers to accompany their families in foreign diplomatic posts. For men, it’s a big problem.

Indonesia’s first female foreign minister, Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi, said she had broken the glass ceiling in the male-dominated diplomacy world partly thanks to her supportive family, in particular her husband.

CWI’s research also found that more women in bureaucracy would make the organization better because international studies show that the more bureaucracy mirrors society, the more responsive it would be.

In 2015 and 2018, McKinsey & Company released two seminal works about diversity, including gender, in companies. The results found that “companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians”.

The extra effort companies and organizations must put forth to allow women to hold more decision-making jobs benefits not only women or other disadvantaged groups, but also the organizations themselves. Instead of perks, all the extra facilities, supportive policies or even budget allocations are investments for a better Indonesia, though decades too late.