A webinar on gender equality and women empowerment held by the Indonesia Business Council for Sustainable Development (IBCSD) on Oct. 27, 2020. (Photo Courtesy of APRIL Group)

Encouraging Girl Power for a More Sustainable World

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

OCTOBER 30, 2020

Jakarta. Furthering gender equality can unlock a more sustainable world, according to a recent online seminar by the Indonesia Business Council for Sustainable Development, or IBCSD.

A world in which women possess equal opportunities and rights is a dream the world wishes for. Gender equality is among the sustainable development goals (SDGs), a global blueprint by the United Nations (UN) to build a better, equal, safer and greener planet.

With 2030 as the deadline for the SDGs, more concrete action should be taken. This would require the participation of all stakeholders, including the private sector.

“There are ways in which the private sector can take part in women empowerment through activities that can bring benefits both economically while helping the environmental sustainability,” IBCSD chairman Sihol Aritonang said in the online conference on Tuesday.

According to Sihol, several studies have shown how gender diversity in companies can have a positive effect on business. 

A 2019 study by McKinsey found companies with a higher gender diversity rate in the executive team has a 25% higher chance of achieving higher business profitability than its less-diverse counterparts.

Last year, the Harvard Business Review also covered a study by Zenger and Folkman which revealed that in comparison to men, women are better at taking initiatives, developing both themselves and others, and pushing forward change.

With this in mind, Sihol urged companies to stray away from business-as-usual scenarios.

“Womens’ expertise are also needed to protect the Earth especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic along with the business world’s commitment to recover and build back better,” Sihol said.

Former Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti called for women to overcome their inferiority complex. 

Indonesia’s history has shown women are capable of taking the position of power. This includes the first female president Megawati Soekarnoputri as well as the large female representation in President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo’s cabinet.

“For young women out there, the most important thing is to liberate our mind. Never feel restrained because we are women. The first step going forward is to break free from our limitations as women,” Susi said.

Riau-based pulp and paper producer APRIL Group also shared the same value of how women should be on an equal footing as men. 

“Women tend to have unequal access. Crises are never gender-neutral in which women tend to suffer more. This is why it is important to increase the awareness for women empowerment and how they can help save the planet,” APRIL group corporate communications deputy director Anita Bernadus said.

“Because if a crisis occurs, it is the women who suffer more,” she added.

To this end, the company has rolled out several programs to empower the local women while also ensuring an inclusive workplace that align with UN agenda. APRIL is a well-known company that prioritizes SDGs aspect not only in operational and business process, but also for inclusive growth to society.

Among them was the establishment of a batik production house named Rumah Batik Andalan. More than 70 local women are trained to make batik from scratch as a way to earn extra income. With this, they can become more financially independent.

APRIL Group also has launched the One Village, One Commodity program, a program aimed to improve the living standards of local communities. The company encourages communities around the operational areas to select a commodity they specialize in. They will later receive training on sustainable farming practices and assistance on marketing.

Many of the farmers involved in the program were females. An example of the commodity is pineapple which they would later turn into food products such as roll-cakes and jams for higher profit, Anita said.

While within the company itself, APRIL Group also ensures that women are equally represented in all levels across the supply chain, she added.

Besides Susi Pudjiastuti and Anita, there were also Ayu Kartika Dewi, Special Staff for the President for Social Affairs who is also the Managing Director of the Indika Foundation; and Risya Kori, UNFPA Gender Specialist, Ignatius Praptorahardjo, UNFPA Researcher as well as Laksmi Pravita, Head of Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainability Bayer Indonesia.

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