Cover Shinta Dhanuwardoyo, CEO and Founder of Bubu.com

The Indonesian trailblazer, who founded bubu.com more than 25 years ago, tells us why technology can enable women to improve their lives and how achieving gender parity in the sector can bring benefits for all

When it comes for my love for technology, I was early in the game. After finishing my architecture studies in the US, I worked as a supervisor in the computer lab at the university where I was pursuing my MBA degree and fell madly in love with the internet. I realised that this was a force to be reckoned with—making information and knowledge accessible in just a few seconds—and that it could give power and hope to people.

My tech journey started way back in 1996 when I built bubu.com, a web development company that later evolved into a full-fledged digital agency. It was a challenging road ahead, from building one of the first e-commerce sites in Indonesia, plasa.com (now better known as blanja.com), to starting one of Indonesia's first venture capital firms, Nusantara Ventures. In some ways, I felt I went into the game too early, when we still had to educate the public about the internet, but it allowed me to witness and take part in the building of Indonesia’s ecosystem for the industry.

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One thing I have noticed during my journey of more than 25 years in the industry: women’s underrepresentation in the tech scene. Most women in Indonesia have a lack of knowledge and involvement in tech education or tech-related businesses. I think a major issue is how girls are being brought up at home, which continues in their schools and later on in workplaces where they earn their livings. Teenage girls actually use computers and the internet at rates similar to boys, but they are less likely to consider a technology-related career, perhaps because of a lack of peer support and a lack of role models.

I believe that women can play a key role in reducing poverty for themselves, their families and their countries when given the right opportunities and that technology can be the catalyst that enables women to improve their work-life balance. It will also promote more chances for women to develop themselves. What frustrates me the most is when I see a lack of interest in technology careers among young women since I believe it’s one of the best sectors for the promotion of gender equality due to its huge impact and massive adoption.

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The gender gap in STEM studies and tech means the perspectives of female consumers are underrepresented. On top of that, the fintech sector is not doing enough to give women equal access to financial products. I believe that we need a “women support women” environment, where women have access to role models and are able to be involved in tech. So last year, we initiated Supergirls in Tech, an incubation program and platform that strives to tackle educational attainment, financial inclusion, health and physical safety and career opportunities using tech-enabled solutions. 

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Our commitment to increasing the numbers of women in tech pushed us to support a hundred young, high-achieving women during their last year of university studies across Indonesia, providing them with access to mentors through peer-to-peer learning from experienced female leaders in sectors such as tech, telco and banking. Our Supergirls in Tech platform is a safe place for Indonesian women to create fresh tech-enabled solutions focused on tackling gender equality. The goal is to empower more women to have the tools, network and courage to lead. We want to see more young women take the lead in the tech space since we believe that women need technology and, on the other hand, technology needs women too.

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The response to our launch of Supergirls in Tech has been encouraging and shows the potential for women to get involved and thrive in Indonesia’s tech industry. In 2021, 500-plus applicants registered in less than a month, with 100-plus curated participants coming from prestigious universities across Indonesia. We succeeded in building partnerships with prominent organisations such as UN Women, Google and Asia Venture Philanthropy Network as well as university and community partners. As technology is at the forefront of Indonesia's economic growth, we believe a platform like Supergirls in Tech can contribute in reshaping the digital economy.

We are not stopping here. Later in 2022, we plan to launch the Superwomen in Impact Summit, discussing gender parity in the impact sector and how women can have a larger role in creating success stories in economy, business and technology. 

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As a woman in tech myself, I aspire to develop an ecosystem involving various stakeholders with no one left behind. It will bring significant benefits if women share an equal role in the tech environment, such as allowing Indonesia to seize more economic opportunities and boosting its GDP.  With the right actions taken, we believe that we can support women's inclusivity in reshaping the economy, especially in this pandemic situation.

This opinion piece is part of a collaboration between Front & Female and Asia Gender Network, the first pan-Asian network committed to mobilising capital for gender equality, whose influential members include Shinta Dhanurwardoyo


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A resource for women to be their best selves, Front & Female celebrates trailblazers, breaks taboos and tackles timely issues in Asia. Join the community by subscribing to our newsletter and following #frontandfemale

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