Celebrating Successful Women Entrepreneurs in Indonesia

July 21, 2021

By Ramona Ridolfi, Program Manager, BIDUK

Happy International Women’s Day!

While the world turns its attention to women and girls, reflecting on the struggle for greater gender equality, we’d like to celebrate Dian Onno Wulandari, a social innovator, COO and Co-Founder of InStellar and DKK Consulting in Indonesia. We sat down recently to talk with Dian about the best ways to address the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs:

Dian is a well-known business mentor who since 2014 has coached multiple startups in over 20 cities in Indonesia, while her incubator InStellar has supported over 100 enterprises since its establishment in 2017. As a woman entrepreneur, she cares about supporting women who are seeking to establish their own businesses. Therefore, Dian plays an active role as the Womenwill Lead of GBG Jakarta Chapter, a global community of business professionals and entrepreneurs. She is also involved in the Women Startup Weekend, Global Impactor Network, and Asian Women Social Entrepreneurs Network (AWSEN).

However, Dian’s journey to the top has not spared her from having to overcome some crucial barriers that her mentees have also faced in trying to become successful entrepreneurs. These barriers typically include limited access to finance within the existing systems, limited capacity building opportunities and limited training on how to start a business and become a successful entrepreneur. These barriers are often coupled with socio-cultural constraints. Women with families and childcare responsibilities are often discouraged by their own relatives and peers because of the perceived role of women in their societ, where being a mother and wife take priority over becoming a business person and contributor to the family’s income. 

With this background, it is also common to see women feeling discouraged and lacking the confidence to start their own businesses, or even to scale up an existing business.  

How Athena is challenging gender bias in the financial ecosystem through the BIDUK project 

Athena Global has been working in the banking sector in Indonesia and globally for over 20 years, and has learned that most financial intermediaries, because of their own risk appetites and cultures, are unable or unwilling to develop financial products that meet the financial needs of Small and Growing Businesses, especially those led by women, like those run by Dian and her mentees. Additionally, these traditional financial products requiring collateral and audited financials impose an unintentional bias against women-led SGBs (wSGBs). In conservative contexts like Indonesia, women are unlikely to own pledgeable assets or are unable to undertake financial loans without permission from male family members. For this reason, Athena Global, with support from DFAT through Frontier Brokers and Investing in Women, is implementing a proof of concept in Indonesia —BIDUK—that aims to remove barriers to equity by creating a new model of lending.

BIDUK BerInvestasi Dalam Usaha UntukKemajuan, or “Investing in Business for Progress,” is a prototype financial intermediary that aims to challenge the gender bias in the lending system in Indonesia, specifically in Jakarta. [Editor’s note: BIDUK operates in Indonesia currently but in the long term is aiming to expand to different countries and regions.]

BIDUK’s approach to gender equity goes well beyond working with women entrepreneurs. We aim to tackle the root causes of inequality: as a prototype lending institution, we are purpose-built to intentionally embed gender equity within the fabric of our model. This means that we are trying to make access to finance as free as possible from systemic and cultural gender bias and allow economic growth for both women and men entrepreneurs. The idea behind creating a new model as a gender-equitable example for financial institutions comes from our vision for women to become leaders and business decision-makers—the same vision we have for male clients. 

Within the context of the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs in Indonesia, BIDUK’s model includes removing lending requirements that discriminate against women during the application process (for example, requirements to own physical collateral or to have male signatories to undertake a loan). Additionally, our in-house underwriting process provides us with the opportunity to identify existing gender gaps within the businesses; for example, in relation to HR policies (staffing balance, salaries, hiring, retention, promotion). Once the relationship with the entrepreneurs is established, BIDUK then works with them to raise their awareness about improved equity and helps to remove existing barriers. 

Currently the project is well underway, testing its innovative lending system with four clients based in Jakarta and building a pipeline of startups and growing businesses to support through 2022. 

Thinking ahead – What we #choosetochallenge this #IWD 

BIDUK is an example of innovative thinking to address financial barriers within the formal lending ecosystem faced by women entrepreneurs in Indonesia, and if successful it could bring an important change in the sector toward greater equality. 

We are conscious, however, that other socio-cultural barriers remain. Multiple studies show in fact that the obstacles that society and family pose to women represent the biggest barriers on the path toward entrepreneurship. Women’s role in society being relegated to family and child rearing, the lack of belief in women’s ability to become successful entrepreneurs, and, ultimately, the lack of publicity about successful female figures further undermines women’s own confidence to pursue their own ambitions and interests.  While on this IWD we #choosetochallenge the stereotypes that keep women away from reaching their full potential as business owners and entrepreneurs, we also celebrate women like Dian, hoping their stories can inspire more and more young women to fulfill their potential.

For more videos in the Learn With BIDUK Series, go to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgrgdwydhU_s-1LrUOjd2JQ

Follow us on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/athena-global-alliance/

Twitter: twitter.com/athenaglobal1

Athena Global is the implementing partner of BIDUK Indonesia.

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