Twelve years ago Adriana Gascoigne started Girls In Tech in San Fransisco to promote and improve gender equality within the tech and startup industries. Prompted by her own personal experience working as the only woman in a startup of 30 workers, Gascoigne has exponentially grown the non-profit beyond the US, with a total of 43 chapters in 32 countries and over 62,000 members today.
Suffice to say, Gascoigne has inspired a lot of people all over the world, including in Indonesia.
In 2011, less than 20% of participants in the Indonesian tech industry was women. Troubled by this fact, Aulia Halimatussadiah and Anantya van Bronckhorst, both longtime industry professionals, took their lead from Girls In Tech to set up its Indonesian chapter that same year.
For more than 12 years, Bronckhorst has led Think.Web, an end-to-end creative digital agency whose list of clients include Huawei and Acer. Halimatussadiah, meanwhile, began her career as a blogger before co-founding Storial.co and NulisBuku.com, both online writing platforms for aspiring writers.
Girls In Tech (GIT) Indonesia actively arranges meet-ups, workshops and mentoring sessions led by women leaders in the tech and startup fields. The mentors are selected according to the specialties needed for the workshop and have included names such as Fri Rasyidi of Somia CX, Artanto Ishaam of HappyFresh, Dian Soraya of Traveloka, Firly Savitri of Tanihood, Dondi Hananto of Patamar Capital, Arif Fajar Saputra of iBunda & SVARA, and Ken Ratri Iswari of GeekHunter.
All have supported GIT Indonesia on a pro-bono basis since all of its activities are free to take part in. The participants' ages range from 18 to 45.
Through newsletters, WhatsApp
For the co-founders, running GIT Indonesia has been driven by personal experience and passion.
Halimatussadiah says: “I simply wanted to have more female colleagues around me. The [local] technology industry was overwhelmingly male dominated back in 2011. It felt good to have more female friends in the industry.”
GIT Indonesia's first campaign was #WomenWin in 2015. It was followed by an ongoing campaign called #WhyNot. Halimatussadiah describes these campaigns as “a movement to help grow girls' mindset to accept challenges and try their best to try new things in tech.”
The #WhyNot campaign, which aimed at encouraging women to say “Why Not” when faced with the prospect of trying something new. won Halimatussadiah the “Woman Marketeer of The Year” award at the Asia YWN Marketing Award 2019.
Though GIT Indonesia has been at it for a few years, it continues to grow. The organization, which does not keep an official membership count, has over 2,000 members in its newsletter and WhatsApp subscription groups, plus 12,000-plus Likes on its Facebook page.
GIT Indonesia is self-funded, though they are preparing to apply to qualify as a foundation next year, partly in order to be able to receive funding. The entity runs its local activities independently, but the so-called global activities are usually funded by partners such as Facebook and Lockheed Martin. Global partnerships are locked by GIT's headquarters in San Francisco, then passed the respective countries to be executed.
Comfortable learning environment
Lately, it sets its focus on projects that necessitate interaction between participants and its technical subjects.
“This year, we're focusing on practical workshops that allow girls to be hands on with technology, to actually try and make as many mistakes as possible to eventually create something with technology,” says Nafinia Putra, GIT Indonesia's Co-Managing Director.
Such workshops have included topics such as "How to run your own Facebook/Instagram ads," "How to create podcasts," "How to create your own app," and "How to design your own website." The activities are mostly held in Jakarta, with some in Bali, Makassar and Yogyakarta.
Women need a safe space to share their challenges with their peers
More regular activities include the monthly Arisan Digital workshop (or “digital social gathering” in Indonesian), as well as a podcast of interviews with “accomplished girls in tech." Most recently, the organization held a workshop with Kim Emerson from startup consultant House of Thor to speak at its Startup Breakthroughs Bootcamp.
The idea is to provide a comfortable environment of learning and sharing for women who are interested in the tech and startup field, but feel intimidated by the industry's male-dominated culture, or are simply overwhelmed by the process.
“Women need a safe space to share their challenges with their peers, learn from role models, get new knowledge related to technology and access to funding,” says Putra. “We overcome (those challenges) by creating a group so that they can talk to each other, inviting mentors to talk to them, create technology workshops and create bootcamp that invite investors who potentially would be interested in their products.”
Industry, media supportive
The organization is proud of the fact that a good number of its members and mentors are starting to establish their names in the Indonesian tech startup scene.
And even if there aren't any specific data to measure how much women's participation within Indonesia's tech and startup industry has grown recently, it's clear that the visibility of female names in the field are increasing. These days, it's no longer rare to hear that women are creating and heading notable startups as well as taking key roles in big tech companies.
They include Grace Natalia, co-founder of the “romance marketplace” AsmaraKu; Gojek's Senior Vice President and GO-LIFE's co-founder Dayu Dara Permata; Muslim fashion e-commerce HijUp founder Diajeng Lestari; Hanifa Ambadar, founder of the popular online portal Female Daily Network; and Google's Launchpad Accelerator Startup Success Manager, Alyssa Maharani. Both Lestari and Ambadar have participated as mentors in GIT Indonesia's workshops.
To continue to inspire the geek in every girl, make them braver to start something with technology
The increased respect and visibility is also due to the growing interest and thus coverage from the media, as well as an increasing openness in the industry itself. Both are “generally very supportive of initiatives started by women," Putra says. "There are gender-focused funds and the media also tend to want to highlight women's accomplishments.”
Such welcoming arms also makes business sense. The majority of users of e-commerce businesses in Indonesia, including unicorns such as Tokopedia, are women. A research by Female Daily Network in 2017 also states that 65% of Indonesian women are the decision-makers in the family when it comes to making purchases.
Thus “it only makes sense to have more women in their tech team to understand more of the perspective of women,” Putra notes, adding that having more females in a team “also increases a collaborative approach that is critical for the success of a project.”
For GIT Indonesia, the team takes pride in knowing they have played a big part in driving this cultural shift.
“The moment we see our members create their own startups and their own technology projects, I feel that we have made a change,” Halimatussadiah says.
Putra says that she and her colleagues have high hopes. That is, “to continue to inspire the geek in every girl, make them braver to start something with technology, work in technology, and eventually run their own technology company and hire more girls in their team.”