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Time to Act: Promoting Women and Youth Leadership for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth
by Erick Thohir and Sharon Florencia*, 10/13/2021 - COVID-19 has had a significant impact on people's lives, how businesses and economies operate, and the global sustainability agenda. Nevertheless, the current conditions will provide an unprecedented opportunity to build a better world by implementing more sustainable policies and actions. In addressing these, the G20 heads of state and government will convene at the Rome Summit this month to discuss various development agendas, from health and education to the economy, emphasizing trade, investments, and the digital economy.

The Rome Summit is not the only significant event happening in the world in October. In the same month, International Day of the Girl (IDG) is being celebrated annually on 11 October, and this event, which intends to campaign on gender equalities, has become an important moment for us. It is a reminder for gender equality, to amplify girls' voices meaningfully, and to support their presence and leadership.

Women's effective participation and leadership have been recognized by UN Women reports to improve productivity, enhance ecosystem conservation, and create more sustainable systems. The participation has been progressing in the last decade: an increasing number of women serving in parliament, gender budgeting policy, and equal school attendance. Despite these gains, many challenges remain at the country, region, and global level. Globally, of the 500 world-class companies, only around 5.8% (just 29 women) became CEOs in 2019, and 5.3 percent of women became board members in 2018 (Catalyst 2020). The Global Gender Gap Report in 2021 by the World Economic Forum shows that across the 156 countries covered by the index, women's representation is only at 26.1% of some 35,500 parliament seats and just 22.6% of over 3,400 ministers worldwide.

Women's participation in Indonesia is not far behind when compared to the global levels. The McKinsey Global Institute in 2018 revealed that Indonesia could add $135 billion to its annual gross domestic product by 2025 if it can improve gender equality, the Asia-Pacific Girls Report 2021, published by Plan International, revealed that Indonesia is ranked 10th of 19 countries in the Girls Leadership Index based on six domains: education, health, economic opportunities, protection, political voice and representation, and laws and policies in the Asia Pacific. In this index, Indonesia's position is ranked 12th in vote representation and representation of young women in politics. The progress achieved before the outburst of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened gender equality's situation during the pandemic. Women, mainly in the informal sector, is amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic. According to the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection, women bear more burden in doing domestic chores and spend more time caring for the family than men. This potentially affects their productivity, mental health, and participation in economic and leadership positions.

Responding to the situation, increasing the role of women in the Indonesian State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) has been a key development agenda of the Ministry of SOEs since 2019. The Ministry of SoEs has been recognized as one of the agents of change in promoting women's empowerment. The Ministry has set a high target of at least 15 percent of SOEs leaders being women in aggregate by the end of 2021, which is in line with the Asia average.

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