Leading women’s empowerment

Gender equality is a hot topic everywhere these days. The appointment of Hillary Clinton as the first female presidential nominee of a major party in the US is a monumental step in that country’s movement toward equal opportunity.

We now have many prominent female leaders in the world, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. According to The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women released by Forbes in its June edition, our home-grown female leader, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, ranks 37th in the world. This is indeed a very proud moment for all of us in Indonesia. This is where the UN and its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number five come into play. Goal number five is specifically targeted toward ending discrimination against women and girls throughout the world. As the UN notes, “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.”

If the world succeeds in achieving this goal by the 2030 target date, women will no longer experience extreme violence, such as trafficking and sexual exploitation. Harmful practices like forced marriage and female genital mutilation would end. Women would have universal access to sexual and reproductive health, and they would have equal rights to economic resources. And technology would promote the empowerment of women everywhere.

Progress is being made in all aspects of women’s and girls’ lives – including the area of economic and business empowerment. Through initiatives such as these, women are starting to gain the most basic rights, such as access to the internet, financial inclusion and entrepreneurial empowerment.

A recent report by the World Wide Web Foundation found that women in poor urban areas of developing countries are 50 percent less likely to use the internet than men. The report also found that women are 30-50 percent less likely to use the internet to increase their income or participate in public life.

Lack of internet access is a way of keeping women systematically underserved, according to NetHope, an organization that creates collaboration between non-profit organizations and technology companies to serve populations in developing countries. NetHope and its partners created the Women and the Web Alliance, which introduced more than 600,000 women and girls in Kenya and Nigeria aged between 15 and 25 years old to the internet to advance their social and economic empowerment. In addition, thanks to this initiative, 540,000 women now have access to online e-learning and mentoring programs.

Data from the World Bank suggests that approximately 2.5 billion people do not have a formal account at a financial institution, and only 47 percent of women have a bank account versus 55 percent of men. To counteract this kind of inequality, Compartamos Banco, the largest microfinance bank in Latin America, opened its doors in 1990 to provide financing to female small business owners with low incomes.

Today, over 90 percent of the bank’s 2.8 million clients in Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru are women. With tools such as loans, savings accounts, insurance and financial education, the bank hopes to give the women it serves the ability to achieve a better quality of life. Research clearly shows that investing in women is not only the right thing to do, but also equals investing in the whole nation itself.

Quality education is evidently a first crucial step in empowering youth, including women and girls, as it is the vital key that will allow them to achieve equal opportunities in other spectrums of life and excel in the current labour market.

The founding of the first school for Indonesian girls in 1903 by the country’s national heroine for women’s rights, RA Kartini, was the foremost step toward recognizing the universal right to education for all. Since then, Indonesia has taken steps to ensure gender equality in educational enrolment and literacy levels.

Many companies, including SAP, have acted to realize this gender equality. As of 2015, SAP had 32.1 percent females in its workforce and 23.6 percent of women in management roles, which has been acknowledged by the Global Diversity and Inclusion Office.

Programs such as the Leadership Excellence Acceleration Program (LEAP) are key to the fulfilment of gender equality in the employment world. The LEAP program itself is based on a five-pillar development model covering self-awareness, career development and planning, network and branding, capability building and mentoring and sponsorship. Its mission is to expand and accelerate the pipeline of capable leaders.

As one of the female leaders within my company, I am glad to be able to have this opportunity to help females everywhere and see them become inspiring female leaders of the future, starting with the young.

We are committed, and we hope you are too.

Source: The Jakarta Post. Date: 28 September 2016