Cultural And Gender Issues Cultural Studies Essay

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Introduction

The Asian economy is gaining presence in the world market as many of its countries are showing strong economic growth and prosperity even in the times when their western counterparts are facing a hard time due to recession. Still a major problem in these countries is the under-representation of women in the corporate world. A lot of work still needs to be done to develop more women leaders and train them to lead corporations.

The proportion of women sitting on corporate boards and executive committees in Asian companies is strikingly low compared with Europe and the United States, even though women remain under-represented in those regions too. On average, women account for 6% of seats on corporate boards in the ten markets we studied, and 8% of those on executive committees. The comparative figures in Europe and the United States are 17% and 10%, and 15% and 14% respectively (McKinsey and Company 2012).

Exhibit 1

We agree with the McKinsey report findings that the problem is not only women representation on corporate hierarchy; it's about training and mentoring enough women from the beginning to bring them to top. They have to be present in the pipeline to come up to top-notch positions. The female participation rate in the labor force in western countries is quite higher than the Asian counterparts. Exhibit 2 shows the variations in female labor participation rates across Asia.

Exhibit 2

The culture and gender equality play an important role in this. The Asian society gives little opportunities to women and there are many hurdles for women to come up due to the traditions followed here. Many women are forced to give up jobs after marriage and a broad band of women who work or want to work, across multiple socio-economic classes, balancing work and family continues to be the major hurdle to ascension of the professional ladder. The work structure is still not flexible enough for women and child and elder care options are inadequate for many women throughout the Asia Pacific. In some cases, differing levels of economic development between countries, or between classes or regions within a country, have also led to a zero sum pas de deux in which some women advance only with the relative stagnation or regression of other women, as in instances where legions of women leave their homes and families to serve as domestic labor to allow their female employers to concentrate on their careers (Asia Society 2011).

Exhibit 3

It is imperative to look into the issues which affect women leadership in Asia and come out with solutions to improve it. There is no shortage of women graduates and in many Asian countries, half of the graduates are women. The overall female education is lower in some of the Asian countries like India, Thailand, etc. but this differs from country to country and in many Asian countries, adequate number of women has basic education. Fewer women in top positions cannot be explained by lack of education, but is due to various other factors as shown in Exhibit 3.

In this paper we have selected two leaders from Japan and Indonesia. We are primarily focusing on cultural set-up and gender roles that shape women leadership in these two countries. We will look at the lives of two prominent leaders from these countries - Takaka Doi, a prominent Japanese politician and Karen Agustiawan, the president and CEO of Indonesia's state oil and gas company Pertamina, to understand how the prevalent conditions shaped up their lives as good leaders. We wanted to have one leader from a developing country and one from a developed country to compare the conditions in two different economies. Also analyzing a political leader and a corporate leader gives a good understanding of women leadership from different perspectives. Karen Agustiawan ranks No 1 in Forbes Asia's most powerful women of 2012. She is the first women CEO of Pertamina. Her life in the Indonesian corporate world gives a good insight life for women leaders in Indonesia and factors necessary for women to succeed in Indonesia. Takako Doi's life presents the conditions prevailing in a developed economy like Japan for women leadership. She was from a middle class family and was able to reach out to ordinary men and women, which makes her a very interesting person to study and get a role model for a majority of middle class women in Asia.

Country Analysis - Indonesia

(An Analysis from a Leadership Standpoint and in the Context of Women as Leaders)

Indonesia, officially named Republic of Indonesia, is a country that lies in Southeast Asia and Oceania. It is an archipelago with 17,508 islands and a population of over 238 million people making it the fourth most populous nation in the world. It shares its land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Malaysia. Its nearby neighbors include Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, Palau, the Indian territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is a founding member of ASEAN and a member of the G-20 major economies (12Oc1).

Culture

Indonesia's culture has been shaped by long interaction between original indigenous customs and multiple foreign influences. It's location at the center of trading routes between the far east and the middle east resulted in many of their cultural practices being strongly influenced by a multitude of religions that include Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity. As a result, Indonesia has a complex mix of culture that is very different from the original indigenous culture (12Oc1).

*Indonesia's scores on Hofstede's cultural dimensions from Geert Hofstede National Culture website.

Based from Hofstede's cultural dimensions, Indonesia scored 78 on power distance index (PDI), 14 on individualism (IDV), 46 on masculinity (MAS) and 48 on the uncertainty avoidance index (UAI) (Hosftede, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1991, 1997, 2001). Its high score on the power distance index reflects dependence on hierarchy, unequal rights between those that hold power and those that do not, superiors are inaccessible, directive leaders, management controls and delegates. Such high PDI score also means centralized power where managers rely on obedience from the team members. Control and directing style of leadership is expected wherein subordinates expect to be clearly directed by superiors. Criticisms and negative feedbacks are also hidden or are not given directly. The wide and unequal disparity between the rich and the poor is also visible and socially acceptable.

A low score of 14 on the individualism dimension indicate a collectivist society. A collectivist society, according to Hofstede, means that the people are integrated into strong cohesive in-groups from birth onwards and throughout their lifetime, continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. This is highly true for Indonesia wherein the people exhibits preference for a structured society or a defined social framework and conform to the ideals set by that society. Placing high importance on the family is such an example. Family members' opinion on various matters such as courtship and marriage is imperative. Further, the family is closely knit and that members look out for each other. Parents take care of the children all through their growing years and the children on the other hand desire to make life easier for the parents in their latter years.

Indonesia as a collectivist society is well-matched with its score of 46 on masculinity indicating that it is a feminine society. As such, the dominant values are caring for others and quality of life. Status and visible symbols of success are important but material gains are not always the motivation. In feminine countries, managers strive for consensus; people value equality, solidarity and quality in the workplace and in their working lives. Conflicts are resolved through compromise and negotiation and effective managers are supportive ones and free time and flexibility are favored incentives.

How does Indonesia deal with the fact that the future is unknown? A score of 48 (medium-low) on the uncertainty avoidance dimension as well as the strong preference towards the Javanese culture of separating the internal from the external self provide an answer to this question. Even when upset, Indonesians will keep smiling and will never show anger or negative emotion externally. They place a great value on keeping harmony in the workplace and in relationships. No one would want to be the transmitter of negative news or feedback. Conflicts are resolved through a third party intermediary to prevent uncertainties associated with confrontations and allow parties to save face while seeking to achieve resolution. "Asal Bapak Senang" which means to keep the boss happy also attests to their score in the UAI dimension. By keeping their boss happy, they expect to be rewarded and such rewards will enable them to achieve status and thus prevent uncertainty in both economic and social terms.

Gender Equality

Asia's economy and demographic strength has been growing at breathtaking speeds. However these gains are challenged by deep inequality, endemic poverty, environmental degradation, and other threats that are inextricably intertwined with said growth. Indonesia is no exception. To meet these challenges, Asia, Indonesia included, needs to utilize all its human talent including women. Indonesia has introduced a number of reforms in an effort to further gender equality that includes legislation on violence against women. It has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1984 (SIGI, 2012), and has signed but not ratified the Optional Protocol. Indonesia has introduced a number of reforms to advance gender equality that includes legislation on violence against women. Considerable progress has been achieved for example, on women's education, being close to parity for primary, secondary, and tertiary education. Still, significant challenges remain. Although the constitution guarantees equality between genders as reflected in legislations, policies, and programs, implementation remains wanting. Contributory to the problem is that secular laws co-exist with Islamic principles that continue to discriminate against women.

Although Indonesia has made headway on accessibility of contraceptives, equality between genders in children and in education, access to resources and entitlements, civil liberties and political participation, in terms of gender equality, Indonesia needs to work on its discriminatory family code such as legal marrying age, judges' reluctance in granting divorce to women who are victims of domestic violence, and others; rape and sexual harassment; trafficking and prostitution; and the circumvention of rules regarding maternity leaves (Indonesia, Social Institutions and Gender Index National Rankings 2012).

JAPAN

(An Analysis from a Leadership Standpoint and in the Context of Women as Leaders)

Introduction

Japan is an island nation located in Eastern Asia. It is composed of a chain of islands situated between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, east of the Korean Peninsula. The characters that make up Japan's name mean "sun-origin" which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the "Land of the Rising Sun". The archipelago is composed of 6,852 islands where the four largest islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku comprise ninety-seven percent of the country's total land area.

Culture

Japanese culture is a hybrid of cultures that has evolved from the prehistoric Jomon to its current mix of influence from Asia, Europe and North America. From thriving and rich trade relations with other nations to relative isolationism as well as feudalism to its current modern form, Japan has undergone a lot of transformation that has made its culture both rich and unique.

*Japan's scores on Hofstede's cultural dimensions from Geert Hofstede National Culture website.

The power distance dimension reflects people's attitudes towards the inequalities in a society. Japan has a score of 54 (Hosftede, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1991, 1997, 2001), indicating that is mildly hierarchical. There is an existing consciousness of social standing but it is not as evident compared to other Asian nations. On the surface, experience with Japanese businesses reveals a paradox. They are mildly hierarchical and yet they have a painstakingly slow and layered decision-making process. However, a deeper analysis would just prove that there is not one authority that has an absolute power to make decisions. The Japanese education system also displays this score and the meritocratic nature of their society wherein everyone is treated equal and has a chance to get ahead depending on their merits or achievement.

Being more reserved and private than most Asians, the Japanese may be viewed as more individualistic. However, with a score of 46 (Hosftede, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1991, 1997, 2001) on the individualism dimension, Japan displays many of the collectivist characteristic of a society. They put a high premium on the importance of "losing face" and the family. Still, a paradox remains in that Japanese display a high degree of loyalty to a company. But it is important that realize that choosing a company is an individual choice, hence, such display of loyalty is both a display individualism and collectivism.

On the masculinity dimension, Japan has a high (masculine) score of 95 (Hosftede, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1991, 1997, 2001). This makes Japan one of the most masculine societies in the world. It is an indication that it is a society driven by competition, achievement and success. But such drive is on the team or group level. Such competitiveness begins at an early age wherein students learn to compete for their team and is carried through in the corporate world. The workaholic nature of the Japanese is a display of masculinity and makes it difficult for women to climb up the corporate ladders due to the long and hard working hours.

Japan is one of the most uncertainty avoiding societies on the planet with a high score of 92 (Hosftede, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1991, 1997, 2001). As such, they went out of their way to prepare themselves for any uncertainties and any activity from cradle to grave is prescribed for maximum predictability. This is displayed in their ceremonies and reluctance to change. That is why it is difficult to realize change in Japan. This uncertainty avoidance is attributed to the constant threat of natural disasters that constantly beleaguer Japan. These disasters constantly cause anxiety on its society that made them learn to adapt or deal with them.

With a score of 80 (Hosftede, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1991, 1997, 2001) on the long term orientation dimension, Japan holds one of the highest scores. The Japanese see their life as a very short moment in a long history of mankind. People live their lives guided by the virtues and practical good examples. In business, this is displayed by their high investment in R & D, priority on steady growth market, and preference to serve the durability of the company. This is so that the company serves not individuals but society in general not on the short-term but for generations to come.

Gender Equality

Japan currently ranks 131st out of 189 (Wikigender, 2008) countries measured by the Gender Empowerment Measure. This is reflective of the challenges against gender equality in Japan. Although gender inequality has been entrenched in Japanese society, efforts towards legal and social infrastructure aimed at reversing said inequality has made some headway in the labor market. On Legislation, the Japanese government enacted the Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society that prescribes, other than the basic principles, the respective duties of the state, local governments and citizens. This was reinforced by the establishment of the Minister of State for Gender Equality and Social Affairs. Except for university (undergraduate) advancement rate, significant achievements were made in education.

Still, Japan needs more efforts in employment and political empowerment. On employment, the labour market discriminates against women as evidenced by low female employment rate, low fertility and unfriendly working condition for a balanced work and family life. Although women were given the right to vote in 1946 and the Second Basic Gender Equality Plan adopted in 2005, only 9.4% of parliament seats are occupied by women, a far cry from the targeted 30% by 2020 (12Oc2).

Karen Agustiawan

Karen Augustiawan was born in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia on October 19, 1958. Her father, Prof Dr. Sumiyatno was President of Biofarma before being nominated as the first Indonesian envoy to World Health Organization (WHO). She was the last child in her family. After graduating from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), where she majored in Engineering Physics, Ms. Augustiawan initially planned to pursue a career in academia, but changed her mind on advice of her father. Her father guided her to opt for industry and complement her husband in carrier, who was in academia, working as a scholar at BPPT (The Research and Technology Application Body). So she decided to join industry and applied for a job at private oil and gas companies and joined the Oil Indonesia Indonesia as a System Analysts and Programmer in 1984.

Ms. Augustiawan's father always remained source of inspiration for her and played the role of mentor and guided her in every stage of life in coming out of dilemma. Her father has always remained source of inspiration for her and acted as a mentor whenever she was in dilemma. Her father made her understand that by working in corporate sector also you can serve your country. She learned a lot from following her father on his many postings around the world.

Ms. Augustiawan's husband, Mr. Herman Agustiawan, her senior at the institute, complemented her in professional and other interests. He is very supporting, patient and understanding and guided her to overcome of the totally different culture in Pertamina than she used to have in previous work environments. Ms. Augustiawan has three children.

After starting her carrier with Mobil Oil Indonesia as an analysts and programmer for the exploration systems, she was moved to Dallas, Texas, USA in 1989-92, as seismic processor and seismic interpreter. Then she became a business development manager 1998-2002 for Landmark Concurrent Solusi Indonesia. In 2002-2006 she worked with Halliburton Indonesia as a commercial manager for a consulting and project management. In 2006-2008, she was in the Pertamina as an advisor to Managing director for upstream business and in March 2008, she became a director for the upstream business and February 2009 she became the first women to become a CEO of Pertamina.

Ms. Augustiawan believed the Pertamina had the potential to grow to be a world-class oil and gas company, once its employees would think globally and company would be free from intervention and she show the same by strongly rejecting any intervention that would have harm either Pertamina or the country at any cost.

Oil and gas is considered as male dominated industry in the world and even more in the Indonesia. Therefore, Ms. Augustiawan's appointment as president director of the Pertamina, the youngest and first woman to become CEO, in its more than 50-year history met with waves of speculation and many questions. Despite having quarter of a century working experience in the oil and gas industry, people doubted her ability to run the company due to her being woman. However, she proved herself capable of silencing any doubts and working hard in the male dominated industry. (The Jakarta Post 2009)

Ms. Augustiawan, led the company through a transformation, pushing alternative energy development and aggressively targeting business overseas. She successfully issued a global bond in, raising extra capital to target oil blocks worldwide. She acquired a stake in Venezuelan oil and gas company Petrodelta, and had set a record high production target of 2.2 billion barrels of oil per day by 2025.

After becoming the CEO of the Pertamina, she tried to transform the working of the company. Her aim was to make the culture of the company more open, honest, courageous and professional. She wanted to get rid of negative image of the company. Ms. Augustiawan said, "I learned that everything has a positive side. That is also the way I see Pertamina. People always talk in a negative tone about Pertamina, while I personally see many positive aspects in the company and we just need to improve all these aspects to develop the company."

Ms. Augustiawan introduced a new work culture in the company called as 6C's, which is clean, competitive, confident, customer focused, commercial and capable and gave a lot of emphasized the safety procedures in the operational aspect in the company. She focused on long term planning and she was very aggressive in doing business. She always reminded her staff to leave their departmental egos behind and stressed that everybody should have a say.

Ms. Augustiawan's appointment was a landmark for women in the country's oil and gas industry. The highest position for women working in the industry was usually as spokespeople. Ms. Augustiawan became first woman to head the state company's upstream division, a job which was once seen as too macho for a woman and then the president director of Pertamnina.

Regarding important of education and job for women, Ms. Augustiawan said "Actually, there are no specific criteria but I think it's very important for us women to have a job. Even it's only running a very small warung (kiosk), women must have a job. Husbands can pass away or even leave us, so financially independence is important for women."

Ms. Agustiawan gave new students, especially women, advice to pursue their education because knowledge can make people more independent. Ms. Augustiawan also encouraged the new students to have entrepreneurial spirit because a person who has entrepreneurial spirit can help their surroundings to be live and have a prosper life.

Ms. Augustiawan is very organized and systematic and is able to organize very effectively her tasks in very limited time. She can balance her time for work and for the family.

A Brief resume of Ms. Agustiawan (12Oc3)

Name

Karen Agustiawan

Place & Date of Birth

Bandung, Indonesia, October 19 1958

Position

President & CEO PT PERTAMINA (PERSERO)

Education Background

Institute Technology of Bandung Indonesia majoring in Engineering Physic, 1978 - 1983

Career

1984-1986 

Joined Mobil Oil Indonesia - as a System Analysts and Programmer to develop Reserve Calculation, System Conversion for different Spheroid Systems and to build an interface for the Mapping Systems in the Exploration Division.  

1987-1988 

Mobil Oil Indonesia - as a Seismic Processor and Quality Controller in several seismic projects in Rokan, North Sumatra and Madura.

   

1989-1992 

Mobil Oil Dallas USA - for the following assignment:

Seismic Processor and also as a Seismic Interpreter for several overseas projects.

System Analyst and Programmer in developing few internal Mobil Oil applications

Assist the Corporate Exploration Computing Division.

1992-1993 

Mobil Oil Indonesia - as a Project Leader in the Exploration Computing Department, managed all G & G applications and computing infrastructure.  

1993-1994 

Leave without pay to accompany my husband in finalizing his Doctoral Degree in SMU Dallas  

1994-1996 

Mobil Oil Indonesia - continued as a Project Leader in the Exploration Computing Department. During the assignment, also responsible as Team Leader for the first establishment of the Internal Data Management.  

1996-1998 

Took the Mutual Agreement Separation Package from Mobil Oil Indonesia. 

1998-1998 

Joined CGG Petro systems in Indonesia - as a Product Manager for several G&G and Data Management Applications.

Responsible for developing the business and marketing in major Oil Companies and Pertamina.

During the assignment, successfully won the Tender for the Migas Data Management using Petrovison for Plumpang, jointly with Elnusa. This application is currently still being used by Migas for "Block Acquisition" tender process.

1998-1999

Joined Landmark Concurrent Solusi Indonesia - as a Domain Specialist for developing the market of Integrated Information Management (IIM).

2000-2002 

Landmark Concurrent Solusi Indonesia - as a Business Development Manager for few major accounts such ExxonMobil, Pertamina, BP Migas, and Migas.

During the assignment:

Successfully conducted several studies in exploration activities in some Pertamina Business Units, i.e. Jambi, Cepu, Prabumulih.

Successfully in marketing the economic application for oil & gas budgeting projects in BP Migas, which is very useful tool for evaluating the economical of projects in oil & gas fields.

Fully involved in the initial phase of National Data Centre until the signing of the MOU with the Ministry of ESDM.

2002-2006 

Joined Halliburton Indonesia as a Commercial Manager for Consulting and Project Management for all Accounts in Oil and Gas companies.

During the assignment:

Succeeded in the Project Management for JOB Exspan Madura in the Tambuku well;

Conducted the Wellbore Stability Study in Kufpec;

Succeeded in managing the implementation and support for Integrated Drilling Project Management for 2 (two) Exploration Wells in Gunung Kemala, Pertamina - Prabumulih;

Succeeded in managing the implementation and support for Integrated Drilling Services in Medco and Moeco Langsa;

Also responsible as a Liaison of Halliburton Indonesia for establishing and maintaining relationship with higher level contacts in the Ministry ESDM, Pertamina, BPMigas, Migas and other government institutions.

2006 Dec - 

Joined Pertamina Persero as the Expert Staff of the CEO for Upstream.  

2009 Feb -

President Director PT. Pertamina (Persero)

2010 Feb - present

Present President Director Pertamina Persero  

Doi Takako

Confucianism has deep influence in the Japanese culture. One of the Confucian principles is that men are considered superior to women. Traditional belief is that women should stay at home and take care of the family, be a good wife to her husband and be a good mother to her children. The traditional Japanese society was dominated by men and had a history of constraining women (12Oc4).

Despite of the gender inequality in Japan, Ms. Doi arose to be a significant political figure in a male-dominated political system. She was the first woman to become a member of Japanese Socialist Party (JSP) and later on became a representative in the lower house of the Diet. Even in her childhood, Ms. Doi refuted the Japanese traditional belief about women. She played and wrestled with boys and usually beat them. In high school she was a great athlete. She was one of the two women among the 200 students who entered the Law School of Doshisha University (12Oc5).

According to Sumiko Iwao in her book titled "Japanese Woman: Traditional Image and Changing Reality" Ms. Doi demonstrated traits that are one step removed from the usual Japanese stereotype of feminism. She was a good communicator, confident, hopeful and trustworthy. Japanese female voters easily identified with Ms. Doi because of her low profile (i.e., from a middle-class family and a daughter of a physician). She was able to reach out to ordinary men and women through her flair for karaoke singing and for enjoying the working man's pastime of playing pachinko (pinball) (Iwao w.p.).

Ms. Doi's political career started when one day she came across a report in the local newspaper that said she was running for a seat in the Lower House. When she clarified the error with the Mayor's office, she was angered by the sexist remark, "Well of course. You would be stupid to run in a race that you have no chance of winning!" As such, she promised to get herself elected which she did for seven consecutive terms (12Oc6).

Below is an excerpt of Ms. Doi's favorite poem. In this regard, the message of the poem came into reality when Ms. Doi gave a powerful push in the empowerment of women in Japan.

The Day the Mountains Move

"The day the mountains move has come

I speak, but no one believes me

For a time the mountains have been asleep

But long ago they all danced with fire

It doesn't matter if you believe this

My friend, as long as you believe:

All the sleeping women are now awake and moving"

-Yosano Akiko (Japan, 1911 (12Oc7))

When asked what had motivated her to become the chairperson of the JSP, she answered: "Well, it was because I'm a woman. To run away from this challenge, I felt, would be a loss of face for me as a woman. That was my real reason..." (Japanese Woman: Traditional Image and Changing Reality, p. 230). Being aware of her feminity helped her advance policies for women and supported other women candidates running for a position in the government. During her term, the importance of women's votes and participation in politics were highlighted. Further, ordinary women were motivated to come out of their comfort zone and started to put into practice their leadership abilities.

3-Step Framework

After analyzing the two Asian leaders, we have decided to use the above 3-Step framework approach to explain the commonalities between them as well as traits and values that we believe the female leaders in Asia should have.

The lowest bar we call the BASE explains what is critical for a female leader in Asia in order to succeed in her chosen career. Family support is essential as they also tend to be a source of inspiration as well as members of the family becomes your mentors in life. Another critical aspect is how independent as a person the leader is. Independence plays an important role as in a positive way it defines the person you are.

The second or the middle bar, we call the SELF, expounds the importance of traits you need to inculcate or must have to succeed. Self-motivation plays a critical role as without it there will be no focus or determination to attain your goal. When there is motivation from within only then can you also use the external sources to motivate you further.

The final and third bar termed as LEARNED, enlightens what traits and values a leader can learn in her journey to attaining a pre-determined goal or an ever-changing one. Self-motivation can lead to confidence however this is also something a leader can learn in her course of life. A good mentorship can result in high confidence in her being a women as well as a leader. Similarly hard work is again another trait that can be learnt to achieve your goals. The two leaders we have analyzed have worked hard in their respective careers to prove their colleagues and other wrong about them being just a woman in a man's world. Family being central to Asians is very vital and hence to strike a balance between work and family is the key for the success of the woman not necessarily as a leader. We believe if this is achieved, it would help women leaders to get to the top. Another key trait we believe aspiring women leader should have it trust and honesty in their dealings with life in general and people around them. This will lead them to be better leaders and be successful.

We suggest the 3 step approach to any female aspiring leaders to inculcate in them so as to make their journey to success an enjoyable journey.

Conclusion

Gender inequality has been entrenched in Japanese society for so long. The meritocratic culture of Japanese society per se heartens ascension to power through achievements, regardless of gender. However, its high scores on masculinity and uncertainty avoidance create a very significant challenge to Japanese women rising to the top or emerging as leaders. Indeed, being able to rise to the top is quite a superlative achievement.

On the other hand, just as Indonesia's efforts towards a more gender-friendly and equal society is met with rough waters along the way, so do women in getting to that level of equality in a society that favors men. Indonesia has come a long way in addressing the challenges of gender equality but a lot more is warranted. On economic standing, people are not born equal so society must be the equalizer and should be able to provide the opportunities for the less privileged, man or woman. Access to education, health services, a voice that can be heard, and the opportunity to lead are just some of the rights where women should be shoulder to shoulder with the opposite sex.

In both countries and to a lot of countries in Asia, society plays a very important role especially its basic unit, the family. The family is where it all starts. The family has the first responsibility in raising a person and providing him/her with the tools necessary to prepare the child towards the challenges that life has to offer. As we can see from our focus women leaders, both came from middle class or capable families that are able to provide them the needed support to become what they have become and achieve what they have. Their family has given them a backbone, a support system. In any society, despite what many texts and inspirational books say about poverty not being a hindrance, people that are less fortunate economically face more challenges than those with means. The challenges become multifold even, in families that are dysfunctional. Sadly, if a society leans towards men, the opportunities for women in these situations become so small. In such cases, a person should be able to turn to the family first. Society on the other hand needs to empower not only individuals but also the family and society itself. Ironically, society has the responsibility but it can also be the challenge as shown by our analysis. But steps are being taken. Strides have been made and each step just brings a society closer towards its goal of equality. In this modern time and age, women have shown that they can lead and produce results that are at par and even better than their counterpart whether it is in business, politics and government, academe, and many other sectors. They have shown a broad range of abilities that rival that of men. They can be charming, fashionable, and simply sexy on one hand and yet driven, firm and strong, highly focused, and in control on the other. These are evidenced by past women leaders, by the current breed of outstanding women in power and position, and the increasing number of emerging women leaders across borders and in all sectors of society.

Fortunately, the efforts being made towards equality indicate that we are on the right track. People are the most valuable resource of society and people are composed of men and women, not men alone. Both have capabilities. Each has ideas and knowledge. Society would definitely benefit in harnessing both these resources.

Various projects are being undertaken to empower women and to extend the awareness of the problem. One of them is the Indonesian project- Empowering women through technology. This is a partnership between Kopernik and ExxonMobil to promote the use of technologies in order to further the economic empowerment of women in Indonesia. Also the awareness is not spread through seminars but also through documentaries made to educate the women of their rights and encourage them to take up their dreams. One such documentary is the Peace Agency, which features Lian Gogali, a single mother living in poverty, unable to walk after a car accident and at the forefront of women's empowerment and change in Indonesia. While overcoming adversity, Lian is trying to change the world around her. Director Sue Useem seems to capture the true weight of the importance of women's empowerment in Indonesia. Finding courage when battling harsh regimes, destruction, poverty, and discrimination, is truly inspirational.

Another project undertaken is the Training Course on Empowering Women through Social, Economic, and Cultural Intervention. This training is a cooperation between The Government of Indonesia and The Colombo Plan Secretariat. The purpose of the Course is to provide participants from The Colombo Plan member countries with an opportunity to update and upgrade relevant approach and knowledge of women empowerment through social, economic, and cultural intervention. The training course which is organized by the National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) of Indonesia is designed to share Indonesian experience with participants from various countries in improving women status through several activities at the grass-root level, and linked with women participation in family planning and reproductive health programs.

The Asia Foundation (12Oc8) another project undertaken has been cooperating with Indonesian organizations to expand women's rights and opportunities, and enable them to participate and be effective leaders in the political and economic life of their society. While Indonesia is now the world's third largest democracy, Indonesian women are still struggling to take part in decision-making processes and gain political power at the local and national levels. Many continue to lack financial independence and personal security. The Asia Foundation partners with local Indonesian organizations to help women advocate for their rights and improve their lives. The programs support leadership training, microfinance, and community budgeting to enable women to effectively contribute to Indonesia's development as both community members and potential leaders.

The key challenges are the lack of knowledge and understanding of the community, including women's indifference to their own empowerment and gender equality concepts; as well as the lack of government support to institutionalize CEDAW and the Beijing Platform for Action in their respective policies and programs (in terms of appropriate mechanisms for implementation, policies and budget) at the national and sub-national levels.

Future actions will be to evaluate the existing policies and programs to empower women for the achievement of gender equality and the methodologies used in advocacy and facilitation. The other measure is to strengthen reporting mechanisms of the CEDAW and Beijing Platform for Action from the national to the sub-national levels and to deepen coordination among stakeholders.

A project in Japan called FEW has also helped in this endeavor. FEW, was founded in 1981 by two foreign female entrepreneurs wishing to create a professional and social network empowering women in Tokyo. FEW has evolved tremendously since then. Members include a broad cross section of professionals from marketers, journalists, entertainment specialists, attorneys and bankers to freelance photographers, translators and entrepreneurs in a variety of industries. Members also include women at the start of their careers such as students and interns. This has been an encouragement to the Japanese women and also for the men folk.

In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly decided to create UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In doing so, UN Member States took an historic step in accelerating goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women. UN Women became operational on 1 January 2011. The creation of UN Women took place as part of the UN reform agenda, bringing together resources and mandates for greater impact. It merges and builds on the important work of four previously distinct agencies of the UN system, which focused exclusively on gender equality and women's empowerment: Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI) and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

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