Opportunity or Challenge? Promoting greater participation of Indonesian women in STEM

Women are at risk of being replaced by technology, including automation and robotics, at the as they are employed predominantly in jobs requiring low science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills. Michiko Miyamoto, Country Director of the ILO in Indonesia, explained about the importance of promoting greater participation of women in STEM in Indonesia and the support given by the ILO on this issue.

Analysis | Jakarta, Indonesia | 17 February 2020
Michiko Miyamoto, ILO Country Director for Indonesia and Timor-Leste

What is ILO’s projection on the global and Indonesia’s condition of labour market in the next 5 years?

Reflecting a sustained economic growth, global employment recorded a sustained growth over the past decade. In fact, the World has added almost 310 million employment (2,985 million employment in 2010 -> 3,295 million in 2019).

The ILO forecasts that this trend continues over the next 2 years. Indonesia’s employment paints a similar picture – a sustained job growth and a decline in unemployment rate. While economic slowdown in China may affect the Indonesia’s economy and labour market, overall positive trends in employment are likely to be maintained in the coming years.

What is ILO’s projection on the global and Indonesia’s condition of female labour market in the next 5 years?

Generally, women are still overlooked and women’s representation in the decision-making positions is still low, however, it is worth noting that there has been some efforts made in ensuring equal opportunity for men and women to contribute into economic development. Especially, technology plays a key role in achieving decent work and gender equality and today we all have an opportunity to meet a number of women game changers who are bringing diversity, creativity and innovation in the role of women in the world of work.

For STEM area, it is a global phenomenon as well as apparent in Indonesia that women employment in STEM industries are mostly concentrated in low-skilled jobs. Based on ILO’s research on the Future of Work, approximately 56 percent of all employment in the 5 biggest ASEAN nations, including Indonesia, is at high risk of displacement due to technology over the next decade or two, and most of these jobs are done by women. Women are 20 percent more likely than men to losing their job as a consequence of automation.

The ILO has a vision for a human-centered agenda that is based on investing in people’s capabilities, institution of work and in decent and sustainable work. The ILO is committed in the development and delivery of the ‘human-centered economic agenda’ in the international system and calls on the organization to give urgent attention to the implementation of the report’s recommendations. The ILO through Women in STEM Programme supported by J.P Morgan Chase Foundation aims to improve women acquisition and adoption of critical soft and technical STEM-related skills for selected STEM sectors including ICT and automotive, and in this way, contribute to reduce the skills mismatches that are affecting workers’ productivity and enterprises’ competitiveness in this rapidly changing context.

What is ILO’s response to the 70/212 of the United Nations’ General Assembly (International Day of Women and Girls in Science), specifically from point 2 until 5?

The existence of Women in STEM Programme in the ILO shows that the ILO is promoting actively the full and equal participation of women and girls in education, training, employment and decision-making processes. Women in STEM Programme collaborates with a public technical and vocational education training (TVET) named Balai Besar Pengambangan Latihan Kerja (BBPLK) Bekasi, a central technical implementation unit of the Ministry of Manpower of the Republic of Indonesia, to improve their access to employment opportunities in ICT through skills training in BBPLK Bekasi. ILO also addresses the issue through its core conventions no. 100 on equal renumeration and no. C11 on discrimination (employment and occupation) that promote equal employment opportunity. These conventions have been ratified by Indonesia.

One of the challenges on the low participation rate of women working in general or in STEM area is the embedded cultural perspective that the responsibilities at home fall into women’s domain. How does ILO convince its stakeholders, including employers and the government, that technology advancement these days is making a lot of work possible virtually and could be done from home? How can this view be mainstreamed?

The ILO is working closely with stakeholders, including the government, employers, trade unions, and other social partner institutions, in providing access and promoting women in the world of work. It is crucial for women to have access to education, training, and employment to ensure that their potentials are developed and can be tapped to contribute actively and positively to economic empowerment. And most importantly, we are promoting the value that women brings into world of work.

It has been proven that a workplace with diverse workforce, provides equal opportunity, and upholds gender equality has a higher productivity and is able to nurture creativity that contribute to higher profitability. According to the report on Women in Business and Management: The business case for change , surveyed almost 13,000 enterprises in 70 countries, more than 57 percent of respondents agreed that gender diversity initiatives improved business outcomes. Almost three-quarters of those companies that tracked gender diversity in their management reported profit increases of between 5 and 20 percent, with the majority seeing increases of between 10 and 15 percent.

How does the ILO can work with different stakeholders to acknowledge the importance of women’s role and participation in each stage of technology development to ensure the design thinking that can address women’s needs through that technology?

The ILO’s Women in STEM Programme is promoting women’s participation in trainings and workplace related to STEM in Indonesia, to increase capabilities and access for women in ICT sector. By doing this, we believe it will have a ripple effect where these women can be involved in a number of stages of ICT development in Indonesia, which in the end, will contribute to a design thinking catering for women’s needs.