Time to Act: Promoting Women and Youth Leadership for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth

by Erick Thohir and Sharon Florencia*

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on people’s lives, how businesses and economies operate, and the global sustainability agenda. Nevertheless, the current conditions will provide an unprecedented opportunity to build a better world by implementing more sustainable policies and actions. In addressing these, the G20 heads of state and government will convene at the Rome Summit this month to discuss various development agendas, from health and education to the economy, emphasizing trade, investments, and the digital economy.

The Rome Summit is not the only significant event happening in the world in October. In the same month, International Day of the Girl (IDG) is being celebrated annually on 11 October, and this event, which intends to campaign on gender equalities, has become an important moment for us. It is a reminder for gender equality, to amplify girls’ voices meaningfully, and to support their presence and leadership.

Women’s effective participation and leadership have been recognized by UN Women reports to improve productivity, enhance ecosystem conservation, and create more sustainable systems. The participation has been progressing in the last decade: an increasing number of women serving in parliament, gender budgeting policy, and equal school attendance. Despite these gains, many challenges remain at the country, region, and global level. Globally, of the 500 world-class companies, only around 5.8% (just 29 women) became CEOs in 2019, and 5.3 percent of women became board members in 2018 (Catalyst 2020). The Global Gender Gap Report in 2021 by the World Economic Forum shows that across the 156 countries covered by the index, women’s representation is only at 26.1% of some 35,500 parliament seats and just 22.6% of over 3,400 ministers worldwide.

Women’s participation in Indonesia is not far behind when compared to the global levels. The McKinsey Global Institute in 2018 revealed that Indonesia could add $135 billion to its annual gross domestic product by 2025 if it can improve gender equality, the Asia-Pacific Girls Report 2021, published by Plan International, revealed that Indonesia is ranked 10th of 19 countries in the Girls Leadership Index based on six domains: education, health, economic opportunities, protection, political voice and representation, and laws and policies in the Asia Pacific. In this index, Indonesia’s position is ranked 12th in vote representation and representation of young women in politics. The progress achieved before the outburst of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened gender equality’s situation during the pandemic. Women, mainly in the informal sector, is amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic. According to the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, women bear more burden in doing domestic chores and spend more time caring for the family than men. This potentially affects their productivity, mental health, and participation in economic and leadership positions.

Responding to the situation, increasing the role of women in the Indonesian State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) has been a key development agenda of the Ministry of SOEs since 2019. The Ministry of SoEs has been recognized as one of the agents of change in promoting women’s empowerment. The Ministry has set a high target of at least 15 percent of SOEs leaders being women in aggregate by the end of 2021, which is in line with the Asia average. Singapore and Italy have been in front of this by having the highest female CEOs at 15 percent. With the current figure in Indonesian SOEs at 13 percent, significant progress has been made, and the target will be increased to 25 percent in 2023.

In celebrating the IDG, the Indonesian Government, through the Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises, has involved five major Indonesian SOEs in the #GirlsTakeover campaign starting this year and joined forces with the Plan International. A commitment to participate in the #GirlsTakeover campaign is being set for this year and the subsequent five years. This participation is not mere rhetoric, but it represents the genuine readiness and a long-term commitment to promote and involve women and young people in transforming SOEs and develop the best solution for more sustainable and inclusive development within the Ministry and 100 state-owned companies, including their subsidiaries throughout Indonesia.

The #GirlsTakeover program had attracted over 7000 participants, and the outcome of the program resulted in recognizing outstanding leadership skills shown by six young women. As one of the #GirlsTakeover finalists, Sharon has had first-hand experience in being part of the high level commitment of the Ministry in promoting women leaders through mentoring, coaching and education programs for women.

#GirlsTakeover is also aligned with the Ministry of SOE’s programs to develop women and youth leadership in SOEs, aiming to provide an opportunity for people under 42 to lead and transform SOEs. The target is for young leaders populating 5 percent of all SOEs’ leadership positions by 2021 and 10 percent by 2023. The Ministry facilitated the establishment of Srikandi BUMN (Women of SOEs) and BUMN Muda (Youth of SOEs) communities as strategic partners to implement measures and build support systems to meet the targets. These affirmative actions by SOEs can inspire other private companies and enterprises to support women and youth leadership for a more equal future in our nation.

With a full commitment from the Indonesian Government and the business leaders for women and youth leadership, we can contribute to achieving gender equality and pre-condition for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly goals 5 and 10. We believe that promoting women and youth leadership can significantly contribute to the development of a country.

Next year, Indonesia will be trusted to host the G20 Summit, which will focus on three pillars: promoting productivity, increasing resilience and stability, and ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth. Evidence has shown that women and men, and young people are inseparable success factors for these pillars. Indonesia cannot deliver success in those pillars by only having men and male and senior leaders. If anything, this crisis teaches us about balance, inclusiveness, and togetherness. Hence, it is important for Indonesia, as the 2022 G20 Presidency, to promote women and youth leadership for an equal world which will contribute to country development performance in gender equality and a significant improvement to global development goals and prosperity.

@ErickThohir is Indonesia’s Minister of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs)
@SharonFlorencia is a future female leader who took over the Minister of SOEs’ role in the Girls Takeover 2021 campaign organized by Plan Indonesia in collaboration with the Ministry of SOEs, Srikandi BUMN and Indonesia Human Capital Forum.

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