Sara Dhewanto, Founder of duithape

ANGIN Women’s Spotlight series seeks to showcase a diverse array of inspiring women leaders and their stories and experiences in order to shed light on the unique experiences of women in business. We hope that both men and women can gain from these shared experiences, that these stories can inspire change, and that other young girls are motivated to become leaders as well.
Tell me anything you want about your venture:
Basically, it is virtual banking for the unbanked. In Indonesia, 80% of Indonesians don’t have bank accounts which makes it extremely difficult for funds to flow freely. I found that to be a big issue in my previous jobs. It is completely necessary for Indonesians to be able to make remittances easily, to have cashless payments, to have access to basic financial services. So that’s why we’re doing it.
In your view, are there ways in which women could maybe benefit more from this service? How are women specifically affected by a lack of access to financial capital?
Basically, this app we have – the app is just the technology, but it’s based on communities. There’s the distribution side, where we have to work with a lot of agents. Anybody who has our app basically has a minutes (pulsa) store in their hand – without needing to own a physical store. This actually  fits really well with women who stay at home. They would be able to not only provide a service but also obtain sources of additional income. This would enable, for example, women who are looking for a part-time job to have additional income without having to leave home. So actually it is very much fitting for women.
Can you speak of any challenges that you yourself faced as a woman entrepreneur?
Actually, I never looked at it that way. Until one of my investors said, “You’re a woman entrepreneur. Actually, there are a lot of investors specifically targeting women entrepreneurs. You should emphasize that”. So actually I didn’t even realize that there was anything different. For me, I didn’t even realize and I found out it is actually helpful.
I think one of the things that are more difficult in terms of being a woman is that sometimes when you’re being firm, people take that differently coming from a female versus a male. A male comes off as strong whereas if you’re a woman, you’re bitchy. I’ve been very fortunate actually to have my team. It’s a very good team, and I hope they don’t look at me that way. But I do get a sense that if a woman is firm, it is perceived more negatively rather than positive. And it’s very different for males, it is perceived more positively rather than negative.
In the past, you’ve managed to go quite far in ExxonMobil and the Millennium Challenge Account-Indonesia (MCA-I). Did you face any challenges in the corporate world? How did you deal with more patriarchal workplace environments?
I do think finance is more traditionally a women’s role in Indonesia. But you’re right, for CFO level there are a lot of males. I don’t know, I guess I didn’t really acknowledge it. Even in MCA-I, I had a 62 year old American & 61 year old Canadian reporting to me. And it wasn’t an issue. Maybe if it were a 62 year old Indonesian male, it would be more of an issue.
I think that in Indonesia it’s been — I hope it’s not just my case, but I think it’s been pretty good.  I don’t really feel that much of a difference. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t realized it. A lot of the women I know chose to stop working because they wanted to do something else. With regards to pay equality, there is some truth to it. But in general, even though Indonesia is very patriarchal in terms of culture, I think here it’s pretty good [for women]. You get a lot of the same chances. For example at MCA-I, everyone who interviewed for CFO was interviewed at the same time, so I knew exactly who I was up against. And it was three males way older than me. One was a CEO at a bank, two were CFOs of big companies, and then there was, me. I wasn’t really expecting much, but I actually got the position. So hopefully it’s not just my line of thinking but that there are actually a lot of opportunities for women. For example in MCA-I, the previous CEO was male but he was replaced by a female.
Do you have any advice to give to young women who are aspiring to be entrepreneurs?
Look for the right husband. Seriously. Because for women, I never believed that you have to make a choice. That you have to either choose family or you choose your career. No, you can actually have both. But there’s one huge caveat: you’ve got to have the right spouse. And that’s very important because only the right spouse who has the right mindset will be able to support you along the way. My biggest cheerleader is my husband, so I’m very fortunate. If you don’t want to get married, though, don’t even worry. But if you do want to get married, that’s the key.
Number two, it is a very different kind of skillset that is necessary for working as an entrepreneur versus as an employee; I always did very well as an employee. But the complexities of being an entrepreneur are a lot harder. It’s not just about doing work. As an employee, you do your work and you do it well. And that’s enough. But as an entrepreneur, it’s a lot more complex. You’re suddenly in charge of feeding the families of your employees. If you don’t do well, they don’t eat. It includes them and their five kids (Yes, I actually have an employee that has five kids, and he’s the breadwinner, so I have them in the back of my mind).
You’re always looking at the big picture and looking at it to make sure you can survive. This is my passion and I really believe in what I’m doing, but it is super hard compared to just being an employee. So if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, make sure you have your finances set. Get some savings. Make sure you have something to live by, so you can survive. Just expect pain, because it’ll happen. But learn to be more lighthearted. Take it lightly. And remember why you’re doing it in the first place. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, make sure it’s something you really believe in. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.
Do you have any tips with dealing with workplace discrimination, toxic masculinity, etc.?
Early in my career, yes. Later on, not so much. But early on, I was always perceived as a little girl, and some treated me more dismissively. Or, on the other hand I feel like there are some that think they can be handsy. You have to stand your ground as a woman.
But I think because I didn’t even think of it much, it really helps. I didn’t realize that because I am a woman, things should be different. I just acted professionally; how you perceive yourself and how you act tend to get the same reaction from other people. So I think it paid off that I didn’t realize I was supposed to be a woman with differences. I never really felt it. And at the end of the day, I think that’s one of the reasons why people never treated me that way. They just looked at me as a colleague. The one who was handsy was flirty the first two months; but after he got to know me, he never even tried. He was still really handsy with the other girls, but never with me. And I think that’s really the thing. It’s really important how you conduct and perceive yourself. You keep it professional and you make sure that is the way things are. And if that’s the way you conduct and see yourself, people will respond accordingly.

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