“My goal for the future of women in business is for the term ‘women in business’ to be no more,” entrepreneur Dian Wulandari said.
Dian is the founder of Instellar, a tech incubator that focuses on empowering women to run business and social enterprise. Before she started her consultancy and tech incubator start-ups, she would take unpaid leave every year for a couple of months. She would go to regional areas of Indonesia to help small businesses who were trying to make an impact on their community. “I met a lot of inspiring businesses.”
She found that her life “was more meaningful” when she was working with these small businesses. Unfortunately, she still had bills to pay then. At Instellar now she spends her time helping women grow their business and helping social enterprises make a profit so they can continue to help solve problems.
Women have a seat at the table, but societies perceptions and women’s confidence can hold them back from developing their businesses. Some of the problems that women face are not obvious physical barriers and therefore not easy to observe or fix – some are often rooted in beliefs about themselves.
Credit Suisse Research Institute released a 2019 study about women in business that finds over the last decade gender diversity in boardrooms has increased from 10 per cent to 20 percent. While things might have looked better than two decades ago, the number of women in executive management is not rapidly improving, and research still shows that having children places a negative effect on a women’s carer.
Through her work at Instellar Dian observers that most businesses face the same problems: they are searching for funding and working towards managing a bigger workforce. But women business leaders sometimes face barriers that might be unique to them, including access to knowledge and confidence.
“Access to knowledge can be hard to fathom, because generally women can go to school and get a good education here,” said Dian.
But training, events and conferences particularly ones away from their places are not easy to get to. If they live outside of the city and have a family, many women may not be able to drop everything and go.
“There are deeper social and cultural barriers and perceptions of the role of women from society. These negative perceptions hinder women’s efforts to scale up their business.”
The second barrier is confidence, including confidence in their product, their achievements and their ability to deliver to their investors and customers.
Meilisa Sanjaya is one of the co-founders and head of product and user experience at Shooper. The app allows you to make a shopping list for your groceries and then recommends the supermarkets that have that item at the lowest price. She is responsible for matching product plans and business goals for the app
Meilisa is softly spoken but she leads the tech team at Shooper to create an experience and journey for their users. At first, she was nervous, confused and scared of the business world, where women are still underestimated.
“The CEO Pak Oka fully trusts me to make the product work. This is how I gained confidence in the product. I believe our product can be useful for many people,” she said.
It is her trust in the product along with a supportive team that has allowed her to feel comfortable in her workplace.
Meilisa admitted that she still has to cope with this challenge. “I also need to continue to learn,” she said. Public speaking has “not yet become a good habit. I don’t know what the people think of me.”
Dian said through her seminars, she found that some women struggle to list their achievements. She often has to remind them that “it’s not bragging if it’s a fact.” A supportive network and family is important, she said.
“I don’t feel super confident, but I was lucky to come from a family that supported me and my education.”
She admitted there are certain perception against women in business: “Women are always asked how do you do it? How do you work and look after our family? No one asks men how they balance work and life. Why not? Balance is important for everyone.”
But while there are certainly personal biases, investors don’t necessary look at gender when choosing to invest, she said. Rather it is profit and the products that would appeal to an investor, so confidence in the product is also important.
In fact, investors sometimes “love investing in women, as they are proven to be more reliable and achieve their targets,” Dian said.
Despite the challenges, Meilisa believes that women in business can be leaders and change-makers,
Sometimes you must “try and if you fail, you learn first and then improve,” she added.