Mira Tayyiba, Secretary-General, Indonesian Ministry of Communications and Informatics
I have worked for the Indonesian government for about 24 years. I worked at the Ministry of National Development Planning for 17 years, then spent five years at the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy. I joined the Ministry of Communications and Informatics (Kominfo) in 2020.
Kominfo basically aims to become the foundation for the country’s digital transformation. We do this by providing digital infrastructure, including human resources. As Secretary-General, I coordinate all programs, including budgets and HR for all the Technical Directorates-General. That way, the Ministry functions as one unit.
Digital literacy for women
Since I joined Kominfo, we have seen that our programs, particularly the digital literacy and digital skills programs, have opened up many opportunities for women.
We are doing several digital development programs for women. These programs have enabled women to acquire new skills that will benefit them in the long run.
Indonesia’s national digital literacy program provides training for women, children, and families, plus tools to help people spot hoaxes and deal with online harassment. Second, a digital entrepreneurship academy facilitates a training program to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
At the global level, discussion of the digital gender gap was brought to the table at the G20 digital economy working group, which Kominfo had the honor of chairing.
Women, especially those from under-developed countries, face continued challenges in accessing and making use of digital technologies. For that reason, it is important to strategize and initiate ways to support the participation of women in the digital economy by equipping them with digital skills. This is done through a combination of capacity-building, and the development of women's digital entrepreneurship and trade.
“It’s because you didn’t try”
I come from a small family: father, mother, older sister and me. My parents had two girls, and they taught us not to look at gender.
My mother worked for 40 years as a judge. She used to move around outside Java for the sake of promotions until she became the deputy chief justice of the Supreme Court for Judicial Affairs. She was also appointed Ambassador to Romania and Moldova. My mother was a career woman who reached the peak of her career, but did not leave her family. I really respect and feel inspired by her role in our upbringing.
My father also moved around when he was working, including as Ambassador to Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. We were taught to be independent, to do everything based on our abilities, not based on gender.
It started early. In elementary school, we did daily chores: making our own beds, bringing dirty dishes to the kitchen after eating, and so on.
I also saw my parents complementing each other's roles. So when my mother was outside Java, it was my father who looked at my sister’s and my report card. Usually, it’s mothers who do that, right? But father did it, and it was not a problem for him.
My sister and I were always taught that if you can't do something, it’s because you didn’t try, not because you are a woman.
I've always been in an environment where I learned to be competent. And I also happened to work in a job that, in my view, was gender-neutral. It could be done by men and women, and there's no reason why women can't do it, or why men could do it better.
In my current position in government, I use the approach my parents taught me. When selecting high-ranking officials, I consider competence above all else. Before I joined, out of eight Echelon-II positions under me, there were only two women. After I joined, there were two more.
So now, half of Echelon-2 positions under the scope of the Secretary General are women.
A leader doesn’t always have to be in front
Women often hesitate to embrace digital. They think it might be some sort of high technology that might be complicated.
But there is one interesting piece of data collected by the UN, together with Pulse Lab Jakarta. It turns out that more women use digital for business: 54%, compared to men at just 39%. This suggests that, given a proper understanding of digital utilization, they can carry it out.
Through programs run by Kominfo and other ministries, we help women unlock their potential. As a result, our economy can be resilient. With two engines working together – men and women – economic growth can be stronger and faster. So, we must unlock the potential of women through digital technology.
For me, a leader doesn't always have to be in front. She can push from behind, she can accompany on the side, or she can lead the way.
When I first started working, I was on a one-person team; I worked alone. Eventually we made a team and I got used to leading a project. After 20 years, I started to get a real staff of 15 or 20 people. I noticed that, coincidentally, the number of women and men was equal.
They were all young and inexperienced. They were enthusiastic but needed guidance. So I mentored them. I noticed that some only needed hints or pointers, while others needed to have their hands held. This is where I learned that leadership can take many forms; there’s no one right way to do it.
Whether a goal can be achieved or not, I like to see effort. Girls are usually, from what I observe, embarrassed to be called ambitious. A girl often doesn’t want to show too much effort, because she will look too ambitious, and that will embarrass her.
Wanted: Ambitious women
But I look at, “To what extent do you want to improve your skills, do you want to chip in, to contribute to a team?” I assess those things because I'm like that, too. I don't want to be in an environment where I don't have anything to contribute. For me, that's not satisfying. What's satisfying for me is if I work hard, try hard, and the results are good.
So to young women, I want to say, “Having ambition is not wrong.”
We do have to work. But in the past, we only had to work hard. Now, we also have to work smart. We don't want to lose our personal lives.
There are people who work all the time, but they don't play, they don't rest. We don’t want to live like that. There must be work, but there must also be entertainment and rest. Life balance helps us maintain our sanity.
Take, for example, Indonesia managing the digital economy working group of the G20. As far as the work is concerned, maybe the visible activities extend from March to September. But the work itself has actually been going on since last year. It’s intense: we work, and work, and work.
But we managed not to lose the element of fun. It was like, “This is the G20, let's embrace it! We will have to wait another 20 years to have the same opportunity.”
So work seriously, but also don't forget to enjoy the process.
Other advice would include, “Do the right thing, even when nobody is looking.” That's what I always hold onto. If it's the right thing to do, that's enough reason for me to do it.
The second thing is to develop resilience. How? During the pandemic, we saw firsthand how businesses that lacked resilience would collapse. We must be like a spring: the more it is pressed the more it jumps. Resilience is important.
And maybe the third bit of advice is easy to say, but maybe difficult to do. Once we have done all we can do, we must accept the result, whatever it is. I believe we always get the best from God, whether things go according to our wishes or not. Things work out for the best, and we must sincerely accept them and carry on.
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