Maria Ivena Amanda – Chief of Human Resources at Design for Dream

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Maria Ivena Amanda, but you can call me Vena. Currently I’m working at a startup called Design for Dream, which aims to empower members of the disabled community through technology and partnerships. I am in charge of the human resources department, managing all of our workforce so that we can work more efficiently and building up a stronger team.

I grew up in a Javanese family, and you know, the stigma towards a family with disabled children is quite strong. There are a lot of people who can’t really accept that their children are disabled, so they tend to hide their children. The worst I’ve heard is that there are people who hit their disabled children in their homes. They’re caged away. It’s because they tend to feel  shame from society, since according to traditional views we are considered cursed or diseased. I’ve been mocked as a child because I was different. So it’s quite hard to socialize, especially with people who have that mindset.

My parents sent me to an inclusive school because they didn’t want me to feel depressed. I came back from Pekan Olahraga Pelajar Disabel Nasional  (National Sports Week for the Disabled) with a gold medal. And that’s the first time I could see myself more clearly. Back then, I honestly felt ashamed of being disabled and tended to hide my disability. Living that kind of life is not what I want. You know, I don’t want to hide myself. But I’m afraid of being rejected by society. And that is the first time I felt empowered by myself, despite my disability.

In university, I wasn’t really involved in the disabled community because as you can see there are still only few communities. Even within the community, most of the members are not disabled but care a lot about disability issues. And fewer still are organizations built by disabled people themselves or disabled figures in the spotlight.

For a few years after, I joined the feminist organization JAS Associates. They needed translators to evaluate their organization in Indonesia. From this experience, I also learned something about acknowledging my power as a woman. After all, being disabled is difficult enough — being a woman who is disabled is even more difficult. Luckily over the past few years, the expectations are changing. There are a lot more career women out there versus stay-home ones. I don’t know the reality, but in my opinion there are still very few opportunities for us to be able to join a company because our government has the regulation of 1% of the population in their company should be disabled. But the reality isn’t like that, in one company only one or two disabled people can enter. So that there is still a lot of disabled people that can’t even sustained themselves.

Another turning point for me was when I participated in a camp event for disabled people held by the Ministry of Communications, meant to train disabled people on technology use. We were trained for three days to develop skills on things like graphic design and Microsoft Office. So there were a lot of people with physical disabilities. We were grouped together, with one group consisting of different people with different disabilities. One of my teammates suffered from vision impairment. When I asked for his number, he edited his name as “pijet,” or massage therapist. People who have vision impairment tend to become therapists. It’s a stereotype. You can be anything you want, but unfortunately because people have an image of the visually impaired being therapists, they exclude and limit themselves with that belief. With that experience, I came to realize that sometimes disability is created in our own minds. We limit ourselves because we think that we can’t, even though we haven’t tried it yet. But we already think that we cannot.

These realizations made me feel like I had to do something. And as psychology student, I have to use my knowledge to fix this situation.

What challenges do you face as a woman who is disabled?

I mentioned before that in Indonesia is difficult enough, but being a woman who is disabled is even harder. The first challenge is self acceptance. As a Javanese woman, I am told to lower myself towards men. But as a woman who is disabled, I was already lowering my pride; being disabled just adds to it. It connected to my self esteem as a woman, and I feel like it’s quite difficult to socialize. I mentioned earlier that the stigma of disability is still negative in our society.

Another challenge is education. I think there are a lot of women out there – especially women with disabilities – who have limited access to education. Like when their family is ashamed of their children they tend to hide themselves so they can’t have access to education.

How did you personally overcome those challenges?

It’s quite a terrifying process; I constantly have internal battles with myself. It’s like an endless doubt, like, “You can’t do this, you can’t do this, you can’t do this,” but at the same time, “I have to, I have to, I have to.” And then I realized that I didn’t want to live this way. I don’t want to seek social acceptance from external sources.

I am also watching some of motivational videos in youtube on Helen Keller or Frida Kahlo. They’re women, they may have their own difficulty but they won’t give up on their dream. So I want to be like that in my best version of course.

For those disabled women who struggle with challenges such as education and opportunity, what does society need to do to support them?

Well first of all, it’s educational access. In Indonesia, there are still very few inclusive educational institutions. Maybe in the most urban areas like Jakarta and Yogyakarta, there are fewer problems in terms of facilities and access. But in rural areas, there are many. So I think that it is better for the government or people concerned about this issue to create more inclusive and accessible educational environments. Access is important because I cannot ride a motorcycle or car. And when we ask for a driver’s license, the procedure is quite long for us. Thankfully today we have GO-JEK, so it makes our lives easier. But if we depend on government transportation, it’s quite hard for us to mobilize.

What are some ways the disabled community is breaking glass ceilings and shattering boundaries?

As I mentioned earlier, we need more disabled people who are successful at exceeding their own limitations. With the growth of social media (like Instagram and Facebook), we’re seeing more of these. In Indonesia, there is a huge growth of influencer; I’m quite happy with that because there are new faces. For instance, the disabled model Angky Yudistia. She’s a model  with a hearing impairment. On Youtube, there is Surya Satehapi. He is also an activist for hearing impairment. Some people with vision impairment, they tend to have a podcast. But there are still not as many figures who have physical impairments, like myself, in the spotlight. So I’m dedicating myself to be one in the future.

In Design for Dream, I am learning to become a model for our product. I remember back then when I felt afraid or ashamed of my body. Now I have to embrace it as a model of Design for Dream. I think that in the future I can share this with my fellow friends with disability: That you can be anything. You don’t have to be a masseuse or a tailor or a beggar. You can do something or create something while sustaining yourself. You can even make social impact.

There’re aren’t many in the disabled community that are entrepreneurs yet. In many ways, you’re one of the pioneers. How is that like?

It’s an amazing feeling. I guess this is my chance to tell other women that, “I was able to do entrepreneurial things, so maybe you can do it, too.”

What’s something exciting that your startup is doing now?

My startup is initiating our first project to empower a disabled organization, Binasiwi. They make batik and we help them not only sell their product but also how to advertise and create a good brand image. We increase the social recognition of their product, their community, and their activities, as well as the people in the community and their artworks. They can draw very well, so I want them to believe that their art is something that can be appreciated by spreading their artwork.

What’s your goal five to ten years down the line?

I want to make my startup company more successful and have a great social impact. I want to help as many disabled as I can, and possibly do a TED talk. That’s one of my dreams: to share my story and tell people that, “You are loved and appreciated enough, so get your ass up and do something!”

Do you have any message to tell other girls that want to be in the startup or entrepreneur’s space?

Of course. First of all, I’m so proud of you girls. I’m so proud of you. With your story, we have to spread more to our sisters who may still be being locked away by their minds or by society. We have to tell them that, “We can do something,” like, “We can create something and we can become something,” even when society tells us we cannot, but we can.

I think it’s a great move to make our society more inclusive, because being a disabled person does not lessen you as a person. Our disability shouldn’t limit our ability to succeed, because “normal” people tend to underestimate our abilities due to our disabilities. But I want to break that stereotype to show myself that I can become great and continuously develop as a person. And I want to encourage my sisters to do the same and to love yourselves and spread that love to everyone else.

Merlina Li: Founding Member of Indonesia Blockchain Network & Head of Partnerships at Triv

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Merlina Li and I’m a founding member of the Indonesia Blockchain Network. The reason why we founded Indonesian Blockchain Network is because we want to educate Indonesia on what blockchain is, and to eliminate scam projects from this industry, making it as positive as possible. I am also the Head of Partnership at Triv, the second-biggest cryptocurrency exchange in Indonesia.

How did you get to where you are today?

Actually, that’s a bit of a wild ride. I’ve been interested in technology since college. I majored in computer science because I wanted to play games (laughs). That’s the only reason why I got to technology, but then like I fell in love with it. It isn’t just about playing games; it’s about believing in the system, running the system, making the system more efficient without having to depend on a single identity. From there, I worked as a business analyst for Asia Pulp & Paper for five years. It was quite a good journey because I learned a lot of things about the industry, especially how the manufacturing and supply chain industries works. It really enhanced my current experience in blockchain.

Afterwards I worked for GO-JEK as the IT project manager for the core background team. In GO-JEK, they wanted to develop more females in the engineering side, because when I joined them, there were no female developers or female project managers in the core background team. So GO-JEK wanted to give more chances for women to perform in the engineering side.

GO-JEK was a pretty nice experience, but after awhile I felt that I should go deeper into blockchain. Because if I only stayed on one side, then I wouldn’t be able to see the whole side of the blockchain industry. I saw how blockchain is able to make people’s lives better, making things much more positive. That’s how I got into this industry.

What was it like being one of the first female project managers on the core team at GO-JEK?

Some of the guys really appreciated me, but some didn’t give appreciative looks because they thought females did not belong in the engineering side and aren’t able to work as developers. People really underestimate females in the technology industry. For example, if they know that you’re female, they say it’s not your field and it’s not what you should do. According to them, a female’s role is to be a housewife – cooking, cleaning the laundry, going to the salon, and putting makeup on. While there are some male counterparts that really appreciate females in this industry, some only think of females as the sidekick. That’s the bias we want to eliminate.

What advantages do females have in engineering?

Females tend to have more empathy, so we think more about the user side. We have empathy and also conscience, so we think more about how people are using our applications, how they navigate, how they run it, and whether its smooth or not. And the cost — I think females are more cost-efficient than our male counterparts. Therefore, I think both genders have to work side by side instead of mocking or putting down each other.

How did you overcome the stereotypes and expectations you encountered as a female in the technology industry?

In the blockchain industry, which is quite new, sometimes we try to keep our identity hidden. We want to know what people’s true opinions are, without gender bias. 80% of people in Telegram groups still call me a bro; I tell them that I’m a female, I’m not a bro! I think that blockchain is female-dominated right now. But some of the identities are anonymous, so some of the guys who work in blockchain are giving females a chance to prove themselves – wittingly or unwittingly. Most of the “blockchain bros” are much more appreciative of females in the industry compared to other technology “bros” — that’s what I feel in this industry. They’re more willing to give females a chance to perform.

What I’m trying to do is prove that I’m able to perform. Actually some of the “bros” still perpetuate the stereotype that females are not worthy to be in technology, but we are able to prove otherwise. That’s how we gain respect in this industry.

How conducive is the Indonesian market for blockchain?

I think Indonesia is a good place for blockchain to thrive. We are a big island country where not everything is connected yet, so there are a lot of things that could be interconnected in the future compared to other mature countries. Actually, some Indonesian people are more open-minded to receive new technology, so I think blockchain could develop in a way that will help them more.

Do you have any role models that you look up to?

My role model, I would say, would be my mom. Every woman is like a wonder woman — they can have a job, they can be entrepreneurs, and also have a family and kids. I think every woman in every stage deserves respect, whether they are a housewife or a career woman. I think every woman deserves respect.

How can we make sure more women are being more pulled into the blockchain community? How do we encourage more women to take that risk, take that jump, and go forward?

They could start through cryptocurrency trading — that’s the easiest way right now. Through this, they can see how the technology works and see which part of blockchain they want to contribute to. In cryptocurrency, females can jump in right away, and then start to learn step-by-step about the technology, about how the fundamentals work. I think what they need to be in the blockchain industry is open-mindedness. Because if they’re not open-minded, then it’s going to be hard to start in any industry.

The best tip I can give is keep trying to be persistent in this industry, keep their determination strong, and just keep going forward. If this is what you really want, you need to believe in yourself, and find people in the right tune with you. If people criticize you, just leave them behind and move forward with the positive ones. If you really believe that blockchain will be able to change people’s lives in the long term and not only in the short term, then that’s how you’re going to survive. Because you’re becoming persistent in what you believe in.

 

Claristy: Operations & Growth Lead at Luno

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Claristy and I am the Operations and Growth Lead for Luno. Luno is a global digital currency platform that operates in 40 countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe. We aim to help people to buy, store, and learn Bitcoin and digital assets easily and securely. In Indonesia, I manage the day-to-day activities and operations to ensure that the business is growing smoothly. I joined Luno around two years ago. Initially I never thought I’d be in this industry – digital assets, digital currency, cryptocurrency, and blockchain – they are all really new to me. You wouldn’t see a lot of people in these industries yet, but I’m really happy to be one of them.

How did you get to where you are today?

So when I was in college, I was learning about public relations, communications – working in that field was my absolute goal. I wanted to work as PR at big, global companies: representing them, speaking for them, talking to media, et cetera. But when I interned at a PR agency, I learned that a lot of things that I thought what PR was about is not what they were. Maybe I was just being really innocent, but I thought PR was something really pure – like you’re representing the company, connecting with the community & the people so they will understand your vision. That is, until I heard of this motto in the PR industry: “We are not lying, we are just telling the truth that we want to tell.”  Yes, You’re not actually lying, but I feel like that means you’re not actually being honest with what you’re doing either. I believe not every PR or company works like that, but after seeing more cases around me realize that this is not what I wanted anymore.

So I decided to look for the other industry or division that I might have interest in. It was close my graduation so I had that pressure of ‘finding the right job that pays well’ ASAP. I was really ambitious before so I felt like it was a race with my fellow colleagues. Typical fresh grad. I found out that startups were beginning to build momentum so I tried searching for a job in one. I was actually offered a role in a local fintech company as a Digital Communication Specialist until a senior of mine, who worked with me together when I interned at GEPI, introduced me to Luno. He was trying to find somebody to work as a country analyst. I was like, “I have no idea what Bitcoin or digital currency is, much less what being a country analyst actually means.” But he told me that I can do a lot of things in Luno. I can work on operations, marketing, advertising, community engagement, and I can also speak to customers, interact with media – a lot of things. I’d be basically assisting the country head to make sure things run smoothly in Indonesia.

But I was still unsure. At the time, everyone thought Bitcoin was all about buying narcotics on the black market, funding terrorism, and money laundering. And I had nobody to ask about these things because not a lot of people were knowledgeable about the topic. So I spoke to the CEO of Luno, Marcus, who explained what Bitcoin was to me. He made me confident that I would grow a lot in Luno, and I love how humble he was (and still is). I was a fresh grad after all, but there was never a moment he underestimated me and that to know that somebody believed in my ability to give value to the company – I decided to go with this offer. So that’s how I jumped into this industry and got the chance. And now I’m really glad that I’m one of the people who knew about it before others did.

Can you explain a bit more about what Bitcoin is exactly? What’s so special about it?

Basically, Bitcoin is a technology that allows a cheaper, more efficient, and more effective money transfer between two parties. People call it a currency because it works like money, but it’s actually a new technology that facilitates the exchange of money. And it affects money just like the Internet affected information back in the 90s. But the difference is that back in the 90s when you knew that the Internet was going to change information systems, you could not actually invest in that technology – even if you believed that it would revolutionize something big. But for Bitcoin – you can actually invest in the technology. That’s why people are buying Bitcoin and other tokens. Currently, we see people using Bitcoin as investment vehicle rather than a currency. People don’t use it to pay things yet, but that will happen in the future.

What’s are some challenges currently faced in the Bitcoin industry?

I think the huge challenge is that you have to educate a lot of people about what exactly Bitcoin is. Of course there will be people who will misuse the technology, but there will be a lot of positive things that will happen because of Bitcoin as well.

And it’s not just about educating current Bitcoin users, but also people who want to do something with the industry – people who want to work on Blockchain or in the Bitcoin industry but haven’t yet. I really appreciate the people who educate themselves on Bitcoin and dive into the industry. But a lot of people will choose the safer route rather than this new industry.

What are some interesting use cases that you’re excited about in the Bitcoin and Blockchain industries?

An interesting use case of Blockchain is for elections, or say, voting – storing data or information of voters before they vote, and storing the vote that they give. This will diminish the possibility of a third party intervention making the data unreliable. It’s something that people are trying to encourage governments or even companies to implement.

The other intriguing use case is that I can create a contract between you and me without having a notary or third party helping us. We can store all information in the Blockchain and the contract will run automatically. It will read whether you give me the payment when I give you the service, and whether I really give you the service or not. This will make it more efficient and effective for two people to do something without a third party. Less cost, more efficiency.

For Bitcoin, it would be international money transfer. For example, if I need South African Rand I would have to buy US dollars first here, because Rand isn’t available in any money changer in Indonesia. I will then need to bring this USD to South Africa to exchange it. Hence, there will be double rates differences and fees I need to pay – not to mention the hassle of going through this whole process.  If I do it by bank or internet banking, the bank will charge me fees.But with Bitcoin, I can send money instantly after exchanging it to Bitcoin, so it will be cheaper and faster. So Bitcoin actually allows for a cheaper and more efficient cross-border money transfer.

How is the Bitcoin industry like for women?

Actually, I only know three or four Indonesian women in this industry outside of my company, as there are not many companies in Bitcoin. At Luno, 40% of our company members are women. Everyone is equal here.

Sometimes I feel like I’m even a bit better because naturally women are better at details, right? For example when we have event, women will be looking at the details to ensure nothing is missed and that things will run smoothly. And as our industry involves people’s money, we need to build trust and relationships with customers. So if a Bitcoin company has women working on this, I believe it may work better. Women have a way with communicating with empathy and feeling more, that the social skills will help us in speaking to customers.So I think all companies should have women, especially those in the fintech space.

Yet I think a lot of women in general are not in the industry yet because first, it’s a very new industry and people – they tend to lean to something safer like fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) or multinational corporations, etc. – something that everybody knows about. Digital assets aren’t something that everyone knows about, right? I hope that women can be brave in this industry because I think it’s just as welcoming as any other industry.

Have you faced any challenges yourself as a woman in this industry?

There’s this funny thing that happened to me when I met a bank manager for work. I think it’s because I’m young and a woman, and he didn’t expect an operations lead at Luno to be this young and to be female. When he first saw me, his facial expression translated how shocked he was. Like he looked so — I really think he was looking down on me. I was laughing in my head because his facial expression really showed it all!

So this is one tip for people who think they are too young or feel inferior in given situations. For me, I just wait until I have the chance to blurt out everything that I have prepared in my head. In this case, I just started explaining after he finished his questions, “Oh yes we do know risk scoring, API, sanction list, and this is what we do…”. And that is when I saw his facial expression started to change. He began to smile and became more welcoming. He stopped investigating me and started promoting his own product. So that’s one funny situation where I was looked down upon as a young woman in this industry.

Do you see any notable Bitcoin trends in Indonesia?

I think for Indonesians, it’s hard for us to take risk compared to other companies. We need someone to take us along the process to try new things. I think that’s how Bitcoin users in Indonesia are different from those in other countries. For example, Luno’s app is built to be intuitive and it is the same for all users around the world, but for Indonesia we have to add a special segment that actually explains the process of depositing money or sending Bitcoin or something like that. A lot of users will send us tickets or questions via social media to reach us asking us to explain step by step. That’s why in Indonesia we do community meetups to explain how we do things. We also do webinars, events, Youtube videos, step-by-step responses, and others. We don’t really do this in any other country — even if we do, it’s less than what we do here. We need to be more passionate, careful, and detailed in the Indonesian market. But to be honest, the whole process is actually more rewarding. Indonesians tend to be more thankful when they know you are there, together with them, and you have helped them going through this process of upgrading themselves to a better financial world.

 

Melina Subastian: Investment Manager at Alpha JWC Ventures

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Melina. I am an investment manager at Alpha JWC Ventures. We are a venture capital firm with a focus on Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia for early and mid-stage tech startups. We do investments with the founder-first principles, where we like to back great mindset and potential entrepreneurs.

Describe your journey. How did you get to where you are today?

My journey. My first job was in management consulting with McKinsey & Co. in the Jakarta office. I spent about three years there, and I did most of my projects in digital transformation and community development (in McKinsey, they refer to “tech” as “digital”). Some of the projects I did were things like digital banking development for conventional banking, e-commerce platform development for modern retailers, and ‘digital village’ creation where we empower offline-to-online technology transformation in rural areas in Indonesia.

Working on those projects made me very excited about tech industry. After couple of years advising corporations, I got interested in seeing the wider scope of tech in the startup landscape. I interviewed with both tech start-ups and VCs. I ended up in a VC because I felt very passionate in making a wider impact, and VC role would allow me to do it. By doing assessments and leveraging a network and wide community of companies, we can provide a wider impact and also help in community development and ecosystem building, like what ANGIN and Connector.ID do. I really think that based on my character and personal preferences, this is something that really suits me. I can also apply what I learned during my time at management consulting, especially in the assessment of companies, compatibility with founders, and portfolio management. So far, I feel very happy here.

As a VC, you’re able to see a wide variety of start-ups. From what you see, how are women entrepreneurs doing? How are the numbers? Do you see a lot in certain sectors?

This is a very interesting question. I’ve spoken at some panels and events on gender-lens investing and women’s entrepreneurship, and this question often popped up. I see that – and everybody knows this – women entrepreneurs are still very much a minority in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia. I would say that the visible ones are around 10-20% of all start-ups. If you look at our 20 portfolio companies, four companies have female founders. Four out of 20 is actually quite a good number for female VC-backed startups. We are actively trying to promote and encourage more women entrepreneurs in our investments going forward.

How does the investment landscape actually view these women entrepreneurs?

So when I said around 10-20% of all start-ups have female founders, those are the visible ones. But the VC-backed ones are even less than 10%. Yeah. And there are a few reasons for that. Which are actually due to how the landscape views women as entrepreneurs.

This goes without saying, but there’s a nonverbal stereotype within the VC community that I have actually observed and is also something backed by data. Recently, Alpha JWC had a female-led event called Alpha Female on women’s entrepreneurship and gender-lens investing. We featured some female leaders and practitioners that we see have great impact in female entrepreneurship. Some of them included: Sonia Barquin, a partner in digital banking, Dayu Dara, Head of GO-LIFE at GO-JEK, Alyssa Maharani of Google Accelerator and Grace Natalia, one of our female co-founders. We were talking about one very interesting data point from a Google research project indicating that there is a big discrepancy in terms of the proportion of males that got investments after pitching compared to females who got investment after pitching. Females are less likely to get investment, even though the content of the pitching was the same. The research was conducted across VCs, accelerator programs, and pitching competitions. To me, that is quite ironic. This is a data-backed research.

Even without data, I can see this in practice. For example, I was once in a chat with some other VCs and they were saying something like, “Oh the business idea is great, the market is big, but she’s the only founder and she’s female.” That to me is sad. Why? One, the community still holds females to unrealistically high social expectations. They ask, “What if she gives birth? What if she gets married? What about our investment?” That’s very sad, right? Second, they also don’t believe that females can scale themselves up or push themselves to be great tech leaders. Third, these people take it as a casual chat. They chat about it in front of me – who is also female – and they think of it as something that is very normal. To me, this is something that is deeply rooted in gender bias stereotypes. It is something that we – starting from us – really need to take action about, and a sign that we must encourage entrepreneurship from females. Create more chances for them, give more opportunities.

What are some tangible ways we can move forwards as a start-up ecosystem? Is it having more gender-focused events? Showcasing more stories? Or targeting a quota for women in portfolios?

Stories like these are definitely important. But what is equally, if not most important is actually how we take action. I like action-oriented initiatives such as gender-lens investing – really targeting female entrepreneurs and backing them to give them support. Second, we should not forget other female communities in the ecosystem who are non-founders. These are people like female tech enthusiasts, professionals, and leaders like C-levels, Head levels. They also need support. We should create support groups. Even small things like WhatsApp groups or small mini-networking events once a month, those are very helpful. I’m personally involved in some communities like this. One is SheVC, a community driven by female VC leaders and associates in Jakarta. Another is Fintech Female, a community driven by female fintech leaders in Singapore, including fintech founders, enthusiasts, and active investors like us in Southeast Asia.

How do we drive more female talents to the VC scene?

Similar to tech companies, tech VCs are also a male-dominated industry. Many times I found myself at a table or room full of men. In fact, in many pitchings I’m the only female. That is a fact. And so one solution is definitely role-modeling. Role-modeling is about two things. One is in terms of communication, the second is in terms of number. In terms of communication, initiatives like this – ANGIN Women’s Spotlight – is very helpful. Because you spotlight women in the ecosystem and that triggers other women to join and contribute in the VC landscape. In term of numbers, we should look into eliminating gender bias in recruiting. By hiring more women, we increase the number of role models.

I found very few female VC role models in Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia. When I started my career as a consultant, one piece of advice that the HR told me was to look up to female role models at the firm in order to boost my development quickly. The firm at that time consisted of 30-40% female, with few of them in partner level. The female proportion is considered minority, but that is more doable compared to this industry. As a female VC – especially ones starting out in the first 1-2 years – it’s important to see how to succeed as a female. Even simple tips like how to self-brand, how to build presence, how to bring yourself in a meeting by asking right and targeted questions – those are the things we should get with more role models in the tech industry.

Men also carry responsibility for getting more females in the room and encouraging female role models. What are some tangible steps we can take to hold our male counterparts accountable?

I like this question! We’re talking about what men can do, right? One is eliminating gender bias in recruiting. If the quality of the candidate is the same, think about how to also balance gender in recruiting. Another is definitely during meetings, in pitching, or in discussions with other VCs, to try to really involve female counterparts by giving them a chance to speak or asking them questions, or even as simple as introducing them in the beginning. That helps in terms of confidence. Of course, we would expect a proactive approach from female VCs as well, but sometimes in a room dominated by men, that might be a challenge that is not really visible.

How do you go forward in your day-to-day being the only female in the room? Where do you get your confidence from?

The most important thing is definitely the mindset. If you think that because we’re female that we’re victimized, then we would act or behave as if we are the minority. Like we’re being discriminated, that we’re victims. I never felt like because I was female I had different capabilities than men. That has never been my mindset. But I see many females think that way.

A second tip is to try in every meeting, in every pitching, to give a good if not great impression. Show your credibility and capability, ask the right questions, and then give some good advice, some good feedback.

The third is to leverage our natural advantage as female. Being female, we do have one advantage in terms of character. We’re seen as more caring creatures. We are perceived as being able to understand and sympathize more with others than a man can. So leverage that. Because during pitching, entrepreneurs like to be listened to. Not just about whether they can be invested in or not, but also if we can give feedback to their challenges.

Have you yourself faced personal challenges? Any incidents of facing gender bias?

One is perhaps in terms of the jokes. I feel like some jokes are improper and can lead to sexual harrasment. Not extreme, but it’s still a form of harassment. For example, I once spoke at a tech event dominated by male audiences and they said, “Oh you should be his girlfriend, oh you might want to know me further.” It’s just improper. Building presence is very important. It can be done by not responding to those things while keeping ourselves polite.

Another challenge would be the one I mentioned before, where I saw some VC investors talking about a female founder, where they actually doubt her just because she is a female. The business is good, the market is big, but just because she’s a female – because she might get married or give birth next year, they chose not to invest. Those are the two incidents I see.

Do you have any advice for other girls who want to get into the VC industry?

One is to think about yourself as a pioneer. Because if you join now, you’ll be one of the first female VCs in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia. You’ll probably be one of the first 10% of the female VCs in Indonesia actually. While venture capital itself is a growing industry – we’re getting more mature, compared to a few years ago. Think about it as ‘we’re writing history and you’re being a part of it’.

Second, if you’re facing any challenges or any difficulties in building confidence, that is a very normal thing. But with time and through mentorship, by sharing with support groups or anyone you can trust, you can overcome it.

 

Nina Moran: Co-Founder of GoGirl!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Nina Moran and I am the co-founder of Aprilis Co. Within Aprilis Co,, we have GOGIRL! Media, a retail company called Picnic, and a B2B garment manufacturing business as well.

How do I begin? Well, I started in 2004. About a year before, my sister was a design student. For one of her projects, she was supposed to create a magazine. Although it was just a school project, we kind of got over-excited about it and it became a full business plan. Everything was done – every page, every article. Her aim was just to get an A and we kind of forgot about the project until our dad found our proposal and said, “Well actually, this is really really good.”

At the time, the scene wasn’t anything like now. Now we have angel investors, VCs, crowdfunding – all these ways to find money. Investors now are actually much more visible than when we got started. There was no way that young girls like us – I was 25 and my sisters were 22 and 17 respectively – were going to create a media company. It was insane. Nobody was ever going to believe us or fund us. I said that to my dad – because of those reasons, there is no way to start this business. At the time we needed US $150,000. We didn’t come from a wealthy family. It didn’t make any sense.

So I went to banks. The banks told us we were simply too young. There was only one type of loan we could actually apply for, called multiguna. But the interest rate was very high – 18%. Our dad said, “You’re gonna lose money before you make money, but 18% is insane. So I have some money and just use it, but if you mess up then there’s no way your sisters are going to go to college. This is it, this is what I’ve been working for for 20 years.” And we were like “There’s no way our dad has that kind of money.” Like he lives outside the city and he lives in a kost. Every time it rained it would flood up to his waist, and whenever I’m there I would help him move his furniture and whatever. “You have $100k and you don’t rent a house? WHY?” And my dad turned to me and said because I can take it, and this is my savings for you guys.

So the next 6 months we studied the market and distribution channels, got to know people. A few months after that, we launched in January 2005. After that there was a whirlwind of all kinds of things. We got cheated on for US $60,000 and all kinds of things like that, you know? But the thing is we made it through.

In the publishing market, how many others are giving young girls a voice?

Not many, I’m afraid. There used to be a lot – over 14 players. A lot of them have closed already. Now, there are only two: me and one other. We don’t really like that, actually. Lots of people say that’s good, the cake will be yours, the advertisement budget will be yours. But when the industry isn’t sexy, it isn’t fun. We compete in certain things, but we also collaborate on others. And when we don’t have people to collaborate with, it’s not cost efficient in certain ways. So I don’t like it when my competitors are closing down.

What do you think is GOGIRL!’s recipe to success?

Stories are what makes GOGIRL! alive. It’s how we talk to our audience; we evolved and most people don’t. I really hate when people say media is dying. I don’t think so. I think it’s because [media] hasn’t evolved in a long time. If you don’t evolve or innovate, it’s natural that you become irrelevant. For us, print is still giving us a lot of income. But someday if print isn’t there anymore, the stories behind it will still be there. So the question is, how do we make these stories heard and go to the right audience?

We have different strategies for different platforms. Print is something for you to play with – to write on, to cut, to paste, to share. That’s why we call it a “playzine.” We shifted October 2016. Since we did, we started to see more growth. So that’s the strategy for the print. It’s like a hobbyist thing. For our website, we craft short stories, but in the feminist point of view. It’s deep but short. Those are the kinds of things that get lots of pageviews. And the content on our YouTube channel is super fun, super light. Like how to create the perfect winged eyeliner, what’s inside your bag. Every channel has its own strategy. That’s our growth strategy.

What’s the Indonesian market’s appetite for feminism? And what’s GOGIRL!’s own take?

I think that Indonesia is very diverse. And because we are very diverse, there’s a market for everyone. There’s a market for both liberal feminism and conservative feminism. That’s the way it is in Indonesia. You just have to market it right. You can’t be everything. You can’t be accepted by every group and you have to be okay with that.

For us, feminism is respecting every female’s choice, whatever that is. But we want you to make that choice a conscious choice, whatever it is. So you’ve thought about it, this is my decision, this is what I want to do. We believe that’s power. And we might disagree with you. For example, we don’t believe in getting married at such a young age. There are those who disagree with us on our site. And that’s okay, if that’s what you think. But that’s our point of view. Why are you thinking about marriage now? Shouldn’t you be thinking about what you want, what you dream of, what you aspire to be? It’ll come to you when it comes. But why do you have to think about it now? But if that’s your choice, if you’ve thought it through – then it’s power. It’s your choice. And we like that you have a choice. So that’s what we believe in and that’s how we write the angles on our publications.

How empowered are Indonesian women today in terms of pursuing their own businesses, their own goals, their own choices?

There are still lots of challenges for women all over the world. But I think Indonesia has a slight advantage. We have Kartini. And we have a proverb: “Heaven is underneath your mother’s feet.” Meaning that women are quite respected, quite looked up to in a way. Because we have female heroes as well, we are more progressive in ways versus places like the United States. But having said that, there are so many ways we can improve – for instance, the disparities between women in rural areas or even outside of Java versus those in Jakarta. These women still have lots of challenges compared to us here in Jakarta or in other big cities in Java. There are a lot of cultural barriers, as well as barriers to opportunity due to geographical access. We don’t really see many startups in Kalimantan for instance. Then again, the population there is also not as high as that of Java’s. But I think it’s more due to cultural and geographical access. How many venture capital firms are there actually in Sulawesi or Kalimantan? Technically, entrepreneurs could always access via call because it’s the internet era. But if you don’t live in Jakarta, it’s like going back and forth, back and forth for potential investors. It’s very costly.

Can you elaborate on the term, “cultural barriers?” What exactly does that mean for our non-Indonesian readers?

Well, it’s very similar across many cultures. The expectation that females still belong in the kitchen kind of thing, or that in some cultures, having a son is more desirable than having a daughter. Things like that. Oh, and the belief that if we [females] are too smart, too dominant, too ambitious – most women think that it’ll be much harder to find a spouse, things like that. There are even some subcultures in Indonesia where the father is very dominant and doesn’t allow their daughters to pursue higher education. In a way, it’s almost like we’re second-class citizens.

How can we start combatting those stereotypes and barriers to improve access to opportunities for women?

Fintech helps a lot. I really think so. I’m so happy that there are so many fintech companies that are running now. With fintech, you can help a lot of people in rural areas or people outside of Java. It’s super easy, people can simply apply online [to gain access to funds]. I think that’s super awesome.

I also see that women themselves are the biggest barriers to themselves. A lot of self doubt, over thinking. Lots of things. Yes, there are cultural barriers, religious barriers. But I see mostly it’s ourselves that are barricading ourselves to our futures. We forgot that we have to invest in our own self-growth. Go to seminars. Read books. Meet new people. Ask questions. Indonesian people hate asking questions. Those kinds of things, we have to unlearn from the past.

Have you faced any challenges unique to being a woman in an industry where you’re positioning yourself in a feminist light?

Although the media industry seems to be female-centric, the number of female owners is very small. In the entire media scene right now there are only two female founders. Femina Group and us. Everything else is founded by men. The owners, the founders are all men. We are still very much a minority in this industry. I think the female founders are minorities in most industries, actually.

I do have one memorable anecdote. When I was putting together Resonation (a women’s empowerment conference), I was trying to find sponsors. One prospective sponsor saw our proposal and invited us to their office to have a meeting. At the office, the CEO said to me, “Oh I know about this, this is that women’s empowerment dumb s***.” I was like, “Did I hear that out loud? Was that in my head?” And I was just looking left and right to my staff, and even the staff was horrified. It means that I didn’t actually hear that in my head. “I beg your pardon?” I said. He replied, “No, no, I mean why would I want to sponsor this?”

I was just opening my laptop and beginning my presentation. So I just closed it again and said, “Because of men like you, sir. That’s why I care about this women empowerment dumb s***,” and then I just walked out. Like, what just happened, this is 2016!

And how do you get past all that negativity? How do you brush that off despite the doubt, negativity, and resistance you face?

I guess I kind of recruited my support group in a way. Before I started creating Resonation, most of my network was male. I didn’t actually know a lot of female entrepreneurs or anyone like that. I was like, “Ugh, this is too much testosterone, I need females.” So I followed a lot of people on Instagram and invited them to go on a trip with me. And I mean we all knew each other by reputation but I had this idea of taking a trip together and we actually did. It was 14 of us, all alpha females. All of us had the exact same fear; we knew we are alpha so we were scared we’d all bite each others’ heads off. But because of the commonality and similar struggles we face, we actually got along really, really well. We actually became each others support system. We ask each other for advice, we would go to each other’s events. I think before I met these women, it was hard. All my male friends are awesome but they don’t understand the struggle of being female. I’m really grateful to have these 14 females that will just tell you if you’re doing a bad job or a project and they’ll tell you in your face. Like, “Hey I don’t think that’s gonna work,” and that’s so refreshing. You know there are people on your side.

What advice do you have for people with similar aspirations?

Do your due diligence, but stop overthinking. I think it’s a plague among the 20 year olds. Seriously. What is scaring you so much? Yes, there are risks, but be prepared and then jump. Don’t jump just to jump. Of course you’ll drown. But do your research. And then start. Because once you start, there will be so many lessons you will have to go through. And you’ll learn from that and you’ll get better from that. Stop overthinking already. Enough. It’s plaguing all the youth. Even if you are prepared, there will be so many things you’ll never anticipate. You’ll know what to do when you are in the situation. And if you don’t know what to do, then you’ll find out. Learn. Ask. Do whatever. Because once you’re there, you’ll have no choice but to get better or find solutions. That’s it.

 

Farina Situmorang: Managing Partner at Catalyst Strategy

Tell me a bit about yourself.

My name is Farina Situmorang. Five years ago I moved back to Indonesia and started a services company called Catalyst Strategy. We focus a lot on marketing and digital strategy, helping companies and even political clients in creating campaigns. In the last five years of my journey, I dabbled in a lot of other companies; by dabble, I mean starting three other companies. Right now, I’m only focusing on Catalyst and am on the board of a beauty company. Catalyst provides consulting services for marketing, communications, and crisis strategy. We take on a lot of interesting projects, including those involving Blockchain technology.

How did I get here? Well, I started my career in Indonesia, and I’ve always been working for technology companies, in marketing and sales roles. I started in IBM, Microsoft. Then I went to the United States for business school. After that, I moved to a company that you might still know, Blackberry in Canada, doing their strategy at corporate headquarters in Waterloo, Canada. Then I moved to San Francisco, where I worked for a small marketing automation startup. Following that, I worked for WhatsApp (acquired by Facebook). Now I’m here.

Such a diverse journey! What made you want to get into the tech entrepreneurship scene in the first place?

Part of it is wanting to prove yourself and show that you can succeed in front of others. You kind of also believe in an idea. When I was in San Francisco, I was fired (this is before WhatsApp) and I thought to myself, “What am I going to do next?” I’ve always wanted to do entrepreneurship for some reason; I think it runs in my family, so it was kind of like, “Oh maybe it’s time to do it.” Because at that point, what’s there to lose? I was sleeping on a couch already.

The only idea I had at the time was to take a lot of the strategies, techniques, and tools that I’ve learned through my technology marketing experiences and use them in a more socially impactful project. At the time, I thought this would be the presidential election. So that was it, actually. I thought, “Okay, I’m gonna come back home and I’m gonna run the digital campaign for a presidential candidate.” I came back to do just that and convinced my two partners to leave their full-time jobs to do it, too. They’re still my partners today. We basically all came together for that particular idea, which in the end we managed to do a year later, but not without blood, sweat, and tears. We got rejected so many times and we thought we failed so many times. But fortunately for us we were rejected by the right people and we got OK’d by the right ones, too.

How do you motivate yourself to keep going in the face of rejection? What’s your strategy to cope with it?

I’m not gonna lie, it always sucks. I think most entrepreneurs, or even investors or founders, we try to kid ourselves and think that “Oh, failures are so important and being rejected is part of success, and you will only learn when you make mistakes.” But at the end of the day, it doesn’t feel good. We have this idea of romanticizing failure, but in the end we still don’t like it. And I don’t like it. But it’s reality. You get rejected all the time. I still do.

To add to that, it’s actually quite easy to be rejected by others that you don’t necessarily care so much about. But when it comes to receiving feedback from people you are closest to – say your partner or your spouse or your parents – that’s a different level of hearing your mistakes or listening to your failures, so to speak, as they’re being put in front of you by people you care so much about. And you want their approval so much.

How I deal with it is not taking it too personally and realizing that a lot of things are not under my control, understanding how I can do better next time, and asking myself, “is this for me, is this not?” Just having that self awareness, that’s how I deal with it. And how I cultivate self awareness is through meditation and self reflection. I actually do it religiously every morning – it’s how I start my day. It’s something you kind of have to build.

As a side note, my husband keeps on telling me I’m really bad at receiving feedback. But it is what it is. I said, “Well, there’s content and then there’s delivery. And your delivery sucked!” (laughs)

Have you faced any challenges as a female entrepreneur and CEO?

I get invited a lot to panels on women in technology or girls in tech or whatnot. You know, sometimes I question it. Like, this is 2018 and we’re still calling female CEOs, “female CEOs” instead of just CEOs. The term is not a “boss”, it’s a “boss lady”. Things like that.

In terms of gender-specific challenges…I realize that we tend to be very permissive. I was asked this question a while back and I was like, “Honestly I don’t feel any differences being a woman in the tech space or running my own company. I don’t think I’ve ever felt discriminated.” Until you know, there was a time last year when all these women founders came out and they named a few VCs that were treating them inappropriately. And all these stories came out. I actually had an interaction with one of those VCs. He lingered in my hotel during a business trip out of town. Yet, at the time, I didn’t think there was anything wrong about it.

You know, how permissive women can be…it’s mind-boggling. I tend to let it go, let it slide. It’s almost expected of them to do that to me or other women. As if it is okay for some men to allude to you being pretty or beautiful or whatever in a business setting. And when they do these things and you’re kind of just like, “Ugh whatever, it happens all the time, right?” So that was like a realization moment for me, to be honest. I didn’t know what to do in that situation, and I still don’t know.

Another example: I was in a restaurant for a meeting only a few days ago, actually. And the ratio of males to females…I was the only female. There were 14 other CEOs and investors, and they were all male. I was the only woman there. And the only question they asked me was, “Are you married?”

That was probably one of the very first times that I had to command a presence in a room, versus people already gravitating towards me or asking me questions. If I didn’t ask enough questions, I don’t think they would’ve seen me there. The environment was aggressive. This is just another anecdotal example.

But the truth of the matter is that 80% of the time, I don’t feel any differences. But there’s always that 20%. I don’t really like to play the victim or the woman card because I don’t feel victimized and I don’t feel like I’m not given the same chance. But maybe I should be speaking out more.

It’s a known fact that an all-female founder team doesn’t get as much investment in the VC game. There are VCs out there that blatantly would just say no to female founders. And they say it very openly. These cases are not ok. I think I probably also need to educate myself on how best to deal with that.

How do we get more girls to be CEOs, managers, partners of firms?

For one, when it comes to choices and options, anyone – regardless of gender, sexual orientation – should have options and choices. And once you have the option, the choice, people should be free to do whatever they want to do.

I dont think it’s a question of should or should they not want to be leaders? Is being a CEO a good thing? I don’t think it’s good or bad. I think it’s just a choice. If those women want to take this choice or exercise this option, then yes I think the ecosystem and industry should be nurturing anyone – not just these girls – who wants to achieve these positions. I could say the same about people coming from outside elite universities, or people coming outside of Java island. These people also don’t have enough opportunities, for example. I think that the conversation should be a lot more broader.

Do you have any advice for first-time entrepreneurs who want to embark on their entrepreneurship journey?

I think first and foremost, you really have to understand why – why do you want to do this? Because you know, if your excuse or your reason to start a company is to make money, there are easier ways to make money. Starting your own company might be one of the riskiest ways you could possibly take. Ask yourself over and over, “Why am I doing this?”

Then, there’s what kind of entrepreneur you want to become. Our company did really well in the beginning doing services. It’s when we decided to stray from our path – what we’re supposed to do – and tried to dabble here and there… that’s when we didn’t do so well. There are going to be investors and other entrepreneurs and other founders that will ask you why you’re doing the things that you’re doing. They’ll ask, “Don’t you want to achieve bigger and better things?” and you’ll want to believe that it’s true. People will come to you if they see you as somewhat capable and they’ll want you to push your boundaries. You have to decide whether you want to be that kind of entrepreneur or not.

Nowadays, people think the only way you can do a startup is to look up to these big companies and aspire to be like them – the Grabs of the world, or Uber, GO-JEK, Facebook. You have to realize how many people actually become that, what it takes to get there, and whether or not that’s for you. I think that was a very painful learning for me over the last five years. Because your ego says you want it and you can do it, and probably you can if you persevere and go through that, but is that actually something you want? And are you willing to give up the things you need to give up to get there?

How about advice for current entrepreneurs?

Asking these really hard, truthful questions is very important. Why? For me, the elegance of the consulting process is something I love. Not everybody is so passionate about that. If that is what I love to do, then why do I want to do all these other things that comes with being the CEO of something like GO-JEK or Traveloka? There’s a lot of operations and routine, which is not what I do best. So knowing yourself is very important for entrepreneurs. Self awareness is so key, and the ability to question that all the time, to ask if that’s something that you want.

Also important is knowing that you probably won’t be great at everything. Knowing that will help you decide who to partner with, who to found the company with. If you don’t know that, you should know that. As I said, I’m much more strategic. I actually don’t really like looking into details. I would make a really terrible CFO. That’s just not me. So you need to partner with people like that and surround yourself with people who are better than you are at doing all these things that you can’t do.

When is the right moment to pivot? To scale? And when do you decide to stick your ground?

The notion of growth and scale and expansion can be tricky. Like why? Are you not happy with being very premier and boutique and just good at what you do? Or do you really need to scale up? You need to ask yourself how much money you need to make at the end of each month. And then your business decision, your business model should reflect that.

It really all comes back to business fundamentals. Will there be a market for what you’re building? Will people pay for it? How hard is it to sell to other people? If it’s so hard, you have to question whether or not you’re doing the right thing. It’s like a test. When things are moving in the right direction, it will still be hard. None of this is easy, but it’s not going to feel like you’re swimming against a current. When it comes to building something that doesn’t have a market and the business fundamentals aren’t there, you’re going to get questioned so much more. 10x, 100x more the usual amount. Swimming against the current is not fun. You’re not going to be moving anywhere. So I would question that.

What is one tangible step to achieving success?

On a lot more practical level, my advice is to seek mentorship. I think what a lot of younger people tend to take for granted are the opportunities to be mentored and coached. They tend to want to go through things on their own. They don’t seek enough advice.

I didn’t get here on my own. I have a lot of mentors and advisors and coaches that have helped me get to where I am. It’d be impossible without them. Nobody can open your perspective more than those who’ve done it before. If you want to be a CEO, then you need to start talking to CEOs. Because they’ve been there, they’ve done it. It’s very important to surround yourself with people who you aspire to become.

In my company, there’s a lot of younger employees. They tend to stick to their own classmates from university or high school. You need your peers of course, but at the same time you need to be talking to people who are older. People who have been out there in the world doing many other things. If you’re not doing that, then your perspective isn’t really open. If you’re aspiring to be a CMO or COO or founder, then you need to be talking to them. I don’t think that’s being taught enough at local universities. In business school, I was told to reach out to as many alumni as possible. That mindset is not being talked about enough here.

Do you have any mentors or role models that you constantly look up to?

Yes. And they come in different forms. You kind of realize that people are not perfect, and you take what you can from different folks. For example I look up to this one CEO and he always gives me very pragmatic feedback on my business decisions, for example. But that’s the only advice I would get from him. I wouldn’t ask him for any personal stuff.

I very much look up to a group of my girl friends. I seek advice from my friends who are investors, other CEOs, and my own husband. He’s my constant coach and mentor. I look up to my grandmother very much. She is probably one of the most successful entrepreneurs I know but has also failed multiple times. She was a widow at 28 with five children; my mom grew up without ever seeing her father. One day she started a textile factory on her own and ended up becoming worth tens of millions of dollars. Her story is fascinating and means a lot to me.

 

Namira Puspandari of Foundation for International Human Rights Reporting Standards (FIHRRST)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Namira Puspandari. I am a program coordinator at an international NGO called Foundation for International Human Rights Reporting Standards (FIHRRST), founded by some human rights celebrities in Indonesia: Marzuki Darusman, Makarim Wibisono, H.S. Dillon and James Kallman. As program coordinator, I handle human rights issues such as religious tolerance, minority rights, and the death penalty in Indonesia. I’m also in charge of the development of our work in our Brussels office.

The story of how I got this job is actually pretty funny. In Jakarta, I attended a business and human rights conference. One of the speakers was my would-be boss. I was very interested in his speech; after he was done, I went up to him and asked him some questions. I was like, “Oh yeah, your speech was amazing, I had no knowledge about business and human rights. I learned about it in school but not as in-depth as in your speech. And by the way, are you recruiting?” The next thing I knew he was like, “Oh you should come to our office!” And then a few weeks after that, I started working at FIHRRST.

So that’s how you do networking!

Yes (laughs). I’ve actually never gotten a job from a website or something. It’s never worked out for me. I always have to do it some other way. Even my previous job I got from LinkedIn. I was still in the Netherlands back then, desperately unemployed (again) after finishing my contract with an NGO in The Hague. And my would-be boss sent an InMail and told me he read my research and was interested in the possibility of working together.

What projects or initiatives have you spearheaded within your NGO?

The ones that are under my supervision right now are the prison reform project funded by the Tifa Foundation, an Open Society network and the one that I recently finished is a human rights short course for senior students at a pesantren (traditional Islamic boarding school) in Jombang, East Java, which is funded by the Canadian government through the Canadian Embassy in Jakarta.

How do you empower women through your projects?

The prison reform project implementation is in a women’s prison in Tangerang. We want to improve the psychological wellbeing of the prisoners and help reintegrate them into society. Basically, women that have just been released from prison usually face discrimination; they feel that they cannot engage even with their own families or feel like they cannot be good role models to their children. Those kinds of feelings can lead them to commit the same mistake. So we want to help them out, but at the same time we want to reduce the rate of recidivism. Women in prison fall into the category of vulnerable group. This is a way to empower them so that they will be ready when they have to reintegrate back into their communities.

And then regarding the short course – the focus is more on introducing or trying to advance the concept of freedom of religion to traditional Islamic school students. The idea is also about introducing equality and challenging them in thought. At first the women participants were a bit shy, but we always encourage them to participate in discussion and engage. At some point, they were as enthusiastic as the male participants. In the end they even showed more interest. When I was delivering my presentation, they asked me a lot of stuff: “Hey, can we do this, what do you think about women’s rights, can we voice our opinions?” It was a very remarkable experience, I would say.

What’s the situation when it comes to women in indonesia and employment opportunities?

I wouldn’t like to say that it is all equal. Because we know that it’s not yet there. Compared to our parents’ generation, though, it is so much better now. The concept of women working in Indonesia, I think it’s quite accepted and normalized. We can find more and more opportunities to develop ourselves and to work. Even if you travel to remote areas in Indonesia, women who have skills are running businesses. They run shops by themselves. When you go to a warteg (small local restaurant), you see those women, they cook by themselves and manage the store by themselves.

But there’s still a lot of homework to do.

Maybe we don’t really feel the discrimination because to us it’s slight. But it affects women from lower household incomes the most. I think the main reason why these women cannot find a proper job is due to lack of information They don’t know where to find a job or how: for instance, if I want to land a good job, where do I start?

Maybe it is also about education – it’s so important, the level of education. I think for people like us, we are quite privileged, right? If we wanted to get the same benefit or same salary as a man, we can always fight for it. But it’s not the same for women of lower household income. They don’t know how to do it, that’s the thing. And in most cases they don’t have the same access to information of how to find a good, proper job. There’s also women in the informal sector; a lot of women feel like they’re not workers. Because they’re not registered. Probably your housemaid at home doesn’t have an official labor contract. I’m pretty sure because mine doesn’t have one either. And as a result, they are prone to have their rights violated because they aren’t legally protected. It’s simply because they don’t know how to voice their rights, and that what they do is still regarded as part of the informal sector.

So how do we empower women from going beyond opening a small warteg to opening a chain of them? How do we unlock the leadership potential of women?

We need a greater number of facilities to develop potential so that more women can hold those strategic positions. Employers should also acknowledge that we have the same capabilities as our male counterparts, that’s the most important thing. But we should also acknowledge that we have different needs.

In most cases that I’ve seen, when you are married and you have a kid, you feel like you have to choose between your family and your career. Currently, the perception is that if I hire this woman and she is recently married, then she will leave this office soon because she is on maternity leave. That will probably reduce the chance of that woman getting hired. A possible solution is applying the approach of Scandinavian countries and other European countries by giving paternity leave. This would be more fair. Employers would realize that not only women take leave upon having children, but also men. And it would also give women the chance to get back to work faster because the male partner would share in child-rearing responsibilities. This would also break the belief that only women who should have the main responsibility to take care of their children – it’s clearly a shared responsibility.

In the case of empowering former women convicts: How did they fall into that position in the first place? What made them resort to crime? What challenges do they face integrating back into society?

The biggest reason is financial. These women want to provide for their families. And that’s the the amazing thing about women: they would do anything, anything at all – even risking their lives – for their families. And that’s how they end up in prison. It’s not because they want to be a drug trafficker or something in the first place. It’s just the only way they know how to provide for their family. Again, it’s the lack of information on how to find proper job opportunities. They don’t know where to find the proper job and how.

And once these women try to get back to society, it is difficult for them to find a job due to the stigma against them. If you know this person is a former prisoner, there’s probably something in your mind, like a stigma that you cannot help. Of course you don’t want to discriminate against that person, but there’s something in your mind that says, “Oh she committed a crime against the law.”

So that’s difficult for them, even if they want to find a proper job. Even before they start working, if their prospective employee finds out they’re ex-prisoners, it’s over for them.

It’s a whole cycle.

Have you yourself faced any challenges being a working woman?

At work, I don’t really find any significant challenges based on my gender. I mean, it’s a human rights NGO, so we should all respect each other or there’s something wrong there (laughs). But from society, I do find challenges…some resistance, like from relatives who don’t understand the nature of my work. They think what I do is trying to implement a western agenda, trying to alter our culture while it’s not the case at all. When you talk about morality or religion, those two concepts already recognize human rights – they acknowledge other people’s’ rights. It’s basically respecting each other and not hurting each other and being a good citizen.

The challenge I’ve found the most is trying to explain the nature of my work. Whenever I mention I work at an NGO, people ask, “What are you doing?” Even some say that women’s rights is part of a western agenda trying to destroy Indonesian women. That it is trying to alter the morals of women in our culture.

Do you have any advice for girls who want to assume leadership roles?

If you’re sure this is what you want to do, just do it. For me, I’m still exploring my approach, too. I don’t know the best formula of how to succeed. But I’m pretty sure this is what I want to do, so I keep on going. If you asked me for the magic formula on how to be the best in this field, I don’t really have the answer. But because this is what I want to do and I want to deliver the best – I’m doing it.

In terms of taking leadership – don’t you want to prove to yourself that you’re capable of taking bigger responsibility? I always want to challenge myself. I don’t want to prove something to everyone; I just want to prove to myself that I can always push my limit. If, in the end, it leads you to a leadership position, that’s a plus from you being fearless.

 

[UPCOMING] Shinta Kamdani to speak at the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards

We are proud to announce that our very own Shinta Kamdani will be a speaker at the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards Ceremony due to take place on April 26 at Capella, in Singapore.
Founded in 2006 with INSEAD business school and McKinsey & Company, the Cartier Awards select each year six talented women entrepreneurs, one from every region of the world. The competition aims to support creative, financially sustainable and responsible women-led businesses in all countries and across all industries. Here is a presentation video to give you a glimpse of who they are and what they do.
This year, for the first time, Cartier is partnering with TED to celebrate women and bold ideas.
We have no doubt that Shinta’s business achievements and personal journey will help inspire a new community of women entrepreneurs. ANGIN continues to support empowering women in their entrepreneurial and career journeys, and hopes that this event will help catalyze more women to exhibit qualities of leadership, strength, and resilience.

Fany Okthalia of Wonderlabs Academy

Tell me a bit about yourselves.

My name is Okthalia. I’m a business major student. Aside from being a student, I’m also involved with female empowerment. I inspire to be a changemaker, no matter what others say. I’m really concerned about women’s rights and how women are usually misjudged in society. Maybe that’s what inspired me to do something and be the voice for women to be heard.

My name is Isthofany Irfana Azkiya (or Fany for short) and I am a female software engineer. I always wonder why people hold the stereotype that women cannot be skilled in tech? Why they can’t be prominent in the tech industry? Actually, women can make it as programmers. My goal is to change the perception of women in the tech industry, to show that women can be programmers, too.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the inequalities you’ve noticed in the tech industry and society in general? What stories out there have inspire you to do this?

Okthalia: Actually if you ask it like that, I’m afraid it will be out of scope of our concern in Wonderlabs Academy. but I’m just going to say what I feel. In Indonesia, some people  – whether we like it or not – some people think women still belong in the kitchen, or are born to be housewives, cooking and taking care of kids. And when a woman has a higher status than a man, nobody wants to approach her because men certainly want to be higher in status than women, right?

There’s something that really bothers me a lot — how religion is mistakenly correlated with culture. For instance – I’m a Muslim, and Islamic tradition does not promote disrespecting women. But somehow in [Indonesia] we still believe that women are not capable of leading. It’s,  you know, the belief that women just belong in the kitchen and need to have kids and everything. It is true that women have emotions and might be more empathetic than men, but that doesn’t mean that the degree of a woman is worth less than that of a man.

So in starting Wonderlabs Academy, what challenges have you faced? How do you make yourselves keep going?

Fany: We just started the pilot project, so this is the first batch, the first cohort. The enthusiasm is good. We got 78 applicants, but we could only accept 8 due to limited resources. We luckily have had no hate comments or objections or anything like that.

Okthalia: The challenges we face are actually general challenges. It’s a challenge people face in running a school, such as how to convince the participants that what they’re learning matters, and teaching the participants effectively. Another challenge is in finding resources to teach them.

What’s your vision? Your long-term goal for Wonderlabs Academy?

Fany: I hope there will be more women in technology. Women are good – we are better than men in some ways (laughs). Just kidding. But we have to be confident. We can do it.

Okthalia: Actually, the tech sector is really interesting and it really brings benefits to women. We understand that women want to take care of their children. Actually, you can do that in the tech industry – you can work from home.

What are some tech trends or news that excite you?

Fany: We want to support our government program – 1000 Startup Digital. 1000 Startup Digital is a government program in which the government wants to support and create 1000 startups. It’s something that is new for Indonesia, but startups are rapidly growing here. For example, GO-JEK, Grab, Kitabisa, Bukalapak, Traveloka, etc.

What is one thing you want to tell girls out there who want to be developers but are unsure about themselves?

Fany: We have to be brave and believe that we can do it. If we are really patient and really want to learn, we can be good programmers.

Okthalia: For me, for the developer, it’s that yeah, I think it’s pretty much like Steve Job’s message: If you want to succeed in a goal, you have to be curious and dig deep to find the insights you need to get there.

 

Crystal Widjaja: GO-JEK SVP Business Intelligence

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Crystal Widjaja and I work at GO-JEK Indonesia. I am purely a data person; what that means is I’m constantly look at trends, metrics, KPIs, and creating new KPIs so that the business can grow and evolve in its strategy and decision-making process.

What inspired you onto this data science path in the first place?

A lot of people would look at my history and say, “Hey that’s not very data science. That’s not very ‘data’ at all.” I actually graduated in political science – in empirical methods – but secretly I’ve always been very data-driven. The reason why I majored in political science was because I wanted to do polling statistics: understanding the correlations between different types of demographics, how they vote, and how, say, a three-party system creates different results from a  two party system. These are the kinds of things I was really interested in from the data side.

There’s a lot of manual data collection in political science, and in research in general. Learning how to optimize and create good data structures was just a natural evolution. And from there – given that I’m a lazy person sometimes – I learned how to write code, like Python, and SQL. That just leverages your potential so much more, right? A lot of that has been very useful to push me into data science and business intelligence.

What got you to take the initiative to write code? How do you recommend a beginner start learning?

For me, it was actually working on annoying manual problems that led me to start learning VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) on Microsoft Excel. From there, I figured that if I could tie together Python into VBA, I could be even more productive. A lot of GO-JEK is the same way in that we are very iterative. We’ll ask ourselves, “What’s the easiest thing that’ll 10x us?” and once that 10x is done, we’ll go back and ask “What’s the next thing that’ll 100x us?” So that iterative thought process of, “Okay, how do I do 80% of the work or get 80% of those gains right now?” is in our company culture and fits me very well.

What did you use to learn those programs?

I’m actually very good at Googling – I think that’s an underrated skill. (laughs) But actually there are quite a few resources on W3Schools for SQL, for example. Udemy and Coursera have great R programs. All of these free resources can actually get you about 90% of the way. That other 10% of mastery is really finding a challenging problem that you can work on and practice with.

And what was an early challenge that propelled you forward?

One of the things I was working on at the time was research on different startups. I wanted to see what people were saying about startups. I had a list of startups that I had captured from Crunchbase, and I wanted to generate the most recent news article about each one. So if I were to go into Google and press search, using time as a parameter, how could I automatically get that first result? So I actually did that on Excel VBA with a Python script as well.

Pivoting towards more startup questions, what are some key differences you found between US startups and Indonesian startups?

I think what I have seen is that people here are much more passionate and much more interested to learn. There’s a lot of active learning that happens in Indonesia, especially at GO-JEK. Here, we encourage people to seek out problems and solutions themselves, rather than waiting for someone to teach them and waiting for someone to train them directly. It’s a lot more of, “Hey, there are these problems that no one has ever worked on before. Are you interested in picking these up as challenges that you want to prove yourself with and identify best practices on your own?”

In the US, I’ve found that there’s a lot more passive learning where the best practices are all around you. You raise your hand and there’s a mentor right there next to you. That passive learning, while great (you do learn a lot), doesn’t push you as far. The challenge in Indonesia and the challenge for startups in general is that we have to pave our path by ourselves. It’s very new.

And that’s why this younger generation of students really excite me. I absolutely love having recent grads join us; they are the pioneers that don’t realize how hard it is to do something, so they will work the hardest to accomplish these things.

How do you see Indonesia and its nascent startup scene versus Silicon Valley? What kind of potential do you see? What do you find similar?

That’s a really great question. From what I see in Silicon Valley, a lot of the really meaningful things have already been done. What’s being created there are like assisted living apps for millenials. That’s not really inspiring; it’s not really impactful.

What I see here in Indonesia are people really working to solve hard, fundamental problems that improve the lives of people around them across all levels. There is that expectation that Indonesia will become that next tech hub. I think we have a lot ot live up to, but I do see there are a lot of new organizations, new startups — there’s so many meetup events that are extremely inclusive. The ones I had attended in Silicon Valley were actually less inclusive because they had that senior mentality, whereas here it seems like everyone is so willing to pull each other up that ladder rung. I actually think we will do much better because of that inclusivity and that diversity of people.

What are some obstacles you see?

Traffic, for one – like how do you get all these people to a meetup and start at the right time? That’s actually a literal and logistical fundamental challenge. Even we at GO-JEK face this. For instance, at AI Saturdays we start at either 10:00AM or 10:30AM; it really just depends on whether or not it’s raining. Hopefully as we develop that infrastructure and increase that ability to connect each other, we’ll actually enable other people to meet up more frequently and be more dependable.

A huge obstacle in the tech scene here is that it’s quite difficult to source developers for startups. How do we make Indonesia a more attractive place for quantitative talent in fields such as data science and technology, and how do we attract girls into that field?

I think there are a lot of junior developers, and so the question is: how do we create a mentorship system so that we continuously refine and polish the existing skillsets of the people here? I know there are a lot of beginner meetups and beginner events, but seeing more experts put together a more polished curriculum, that’d be interesting. I know Hacktivate is great and there are a couple of other coding schools that are developing these best practices. I think in time this will happen, it’s just that we started a bit later than Silicon Valley. But we will actually, I think, surpass them.

Yes, there aren’t that many female developers. I think that this partially has to do with the expectations that young women have as they’re growing up. They currently see a lot of male developers. There aren’t a lot of good examples of females in tech for them. I personally would like to spend a bit more time ensuring that female developers are paid attention to, are given that exposure. All female developers have this responsibility to just be present, to just stand out there. And being present inspires that younger generation. Although you may not see that impact for several years, you need to influence that generation to see that this is actually something that they can do.

Have you faced any unique challenges as a female in data science?

I work mostly in business intelligence, but I do sit with the data science teams as well. I’m actually blessed that GO-JEK has such an innovative and inclusive culture. Our company is so diverse that I’ve never felt prejudiced, actually. And that’s what makes GO-JEK great. Our attitude is about inclusivity and solving difficult problems. And that diversity of thought across gender, ethnicities, and backgrounds actually allows us to come up with more innovative solutions than other people normally would. I love the fact that we are a very distributed and culturally dispersed team because I’ve heard interesting insights that I never would have without that diversity.

How would you recommend people deal with those workplace situations if they do face that?

What I can talk about is what has been really successful at GO-JEK. For us we are very open. We have leaders who actually push feedback sessions. They actively tell us, “Hey, make sure you take an hour of your time every week with your team to do brown envelope sessions. Write feedback.” One of our 10 values is actually that criticism is a gift. Being able to give helpful feedback and tell people, “Hey that isn’t something we really value in our culture,” or, “Hey, that tone you took wasn’t really correct” — that kind of openness allows us to communicate very openly and fix any problems we might have. A lot of these situations perhaps could be handled with more transparency or with better policies in place, and I think GO-JEK has a very safe structure. You could tell people things and know they will receive feedback well.  

And for those whose companies don’t necessarily share GO-JEK’s culture?

It’s difficult for me to say that there is any universal solution, but I would say that progress has to start with yourself. Be the progress you want to see. If I see injustice, I will actually call it out. That is personally important to me. Ask yourself, “What are your virtues, what are your values,” and act on them on a daily basis. We can’t expect other people to take responsibility for the injustices we see; if you see a problem and you have the power to make a difference, then why not go and make that difference?

And I see around the world, a lot of people are picking up on that sentiment. There’s a lot of women’s marches — in Jakarta, for instance —

Yes! And it all starts from one person, right?

Yes! And so how can we keep the momentum going?

Communities are one of the most important things that I think really sets Indonesia apart from other places. The amount of community here already allows us that freedom. If someone in your community is hurting, your community here is usually small enough and know each other well enough to all stand up and fight for you as well. I would say, build a community, rally together for social causes, and ensure that people communicate well. That is probably the best way.

What do you think is the source of the gaps that exist in terms of resources and support for women entrepreneurs in Indonesia? What can be done to address them?

Interesting. I think a lot of these gaps stem from inherent bias. When people grow up seeing that all of their leaders are male, they internalize this and assume this to be the right approach to take. So they promote more men, they raise more funds for men.

For this, I appreciate that there are actual foundations that recognize the need to reverse that discrimination with women. FemaleDev is a great example of this. But beyond that, what can we do? It’s more about creating better systems for performance evaluations, right? Understanding that what a person does should be reflected in their performance reviews, rather than their gender or appearance. I think even Google does anonymous review cycles as well.

It’s a tough question, and a systematic problem. Purely I think a lot of what we can do is for that younger generation, so that when they grow up they don’t have those inherent biases as well.

What is one message you’d like to give to girls and women who are aspiring to be the next Crystal, the next GO-JEK SVP, or president even?

Aw, I’d be honored. I would tell them that they shouldn’t let anyone tell them they can’t do that, or that it’s not a role for women. Even I heard that as a kid. I had wanted to play the drums once, and some boy told me, “That’s not for girls.” I actually let that stop me. So I would say, don’t let anyone stop you. If you have a belief or a passion for something, the internet is there. You don’t need a teacher in front of you; you can learn almost anything on the internet. If you have a passion, if you have a dream, it’s actually your own discipline and motivation that’s stopping you. So why let that stop you?

If you could create any app that you wanted, what would that be?

To be honest, I would probably make a GO-DONATION service. Matching people who need help with donors. Now that we have GO-PAY, you could just donate directly. You could see – you know, this is the person’s social cause or financial cause that they’re working for. It could even display options like, “This is a place that needs two hours of volunteer services and this is where to sign up.”