How Businesses Can Empower Women & Mentoring Future Leaders

By: Hanny Widjaja, Vice President, Leading Global TIC Company | Friday, 19 April 2024

Hanny Widjaja is a dedicated advocate for women's empowerment and mentorship, a passion she has nurtured throughout her life. She brings over 20 years of expertise in operational risks, supply chain management, merger & acquisition transactions, and strategic commercial & business development. She is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of her professional and personal life.

In a conversation with team GWL, Hanny sheds light on her views about women in leadership. She also talks about mentorship and networking being effective tools for catalysing women’s professional growth. Read all of this and much more in the following conversation.

In a business context, how have women leaders effectively demonstrated their leadership skills, particularly when it comes to empowering women in the workplace?

Over my extensive 20+ year career, I've had the privilege of encountering numerous successful women leaders. Some exuded intensity, ambition, and competitiveness, while others approached leadership with a softer touch. A select few fell somewhere in between these extremes. However, what unified them all were their distinctive strengths and characters, ultimately leading to their success through their authenticity.

One commonality though, women leaders in my experience, are not afraid to show their passions and are excellent at building relationships with their people. I think women also have a natural ability to empathize with other people and connect on a personal level.

In recent years, women leaders have played an immense role in shaping a workforce that supports gender equality and nurtures and empowers other women to grow. I’ve seen this through intentional actions and policies, these women set the organizational standard for inclusivity, mentorship, and equal opportunities.

In my view, mentorship is one of the key elements to empowering women in the workplace.  It gives them support and help in building their skills, such as problem-solving, while allowing them to navigate the challenges they are faced with. To me personally, this is crucial to personal and professional development.

As a woman leader, how have you effectively managed margins and improved profitability while maintaining fairness and equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of gender? How do you envision using managerial experience to contribute to a positive impact on overall business performance?

When it comes to driving growth and improving margins, it's clear that these tasks require more than just individual effort. I naturally lean towards people-centric approaches, emphasizing collaboration and the sharing of power and information to foster growth.

Flexibility and adaptability are essential. I believe in a blend of transformational, participative, and democratic leadership styles. My focus lies in strengthening our team, expanding their skill sets, and motivating them to continuously strive for excellence. By inspiring and empowering our colleagues and team members, we increase their likelihood of achieving personal and organizational goals.

Successful leaders understand the value of teamwork in maximizing individual and organizational potential. The promotion of participative leadership contributes significantly to achieving gender equality in the workplace. For me, this inclusive approach represents the most effective path toward meeting growth and margin expectations across all operations.

What strategies would you implement to promote women's empowerment within the organization and specifically support the growth and development of women in the workplace?

Empowering women in the workplace means that women can have more control over their lives and their careers. This means giving them the freedom to make their programs, gain new skills, and gain autonomy in the workplace. Women empowerment is created when the strengths that individuals bring to the table are accepted, nurtured, and utilized.

We need to encourage women to take more risks and opportunities as one way of building self-confidence and inspiring innovation. Promoting women into leadership positions helps to ensure that the career ladder is equal for all employees.

Providing professional development options is a great way for women to develop themselves and grow their careers. Organizations should promote a fair and robust parental leave policy, flexible working hours, and job security. This is crucial to ensure that all employees feel respected and can maintain a healthy balance between their work life and home life without having to sacrifice their personal choices.

Equal pay for equal work, roles, and experience, regardless of gender is still an area that needs to be of focus for many organizations around the world. Lastly, we must encourage female voices and celebrate their successes, achievements, and strengths.

How would you actively promote mentorship and networking opportunities for women within the organization?

Today more companies are starting to understand the importance of developing well-rounded and diverse team leaders, helping to close the gap between the number of female and male leaders in positions of influence.

Mentorship is a powerful tool for advancing women's careers, especially in male-dominated fields.  Organizations can promote mentorship programs that have defined clear goals, aimed at increasing gender diversity, career advancement, leadership skills, or addressing specific challenges faced by the employees in the specific organization.  A good mentorship program should also have senior leadership support to secure resources and promote participation.

How would you create a work culture that simultaneously promotes women's empowerment, gender diversity, and financial objectives, while upholding operational standards?

In my opinion, it is impossible to separate gender and culture.  Culture affects gender-related behaviors between individuals within a group or organization, creating a work culture that embraces these differences can strengthen any organization.

Empowering women in the workplace is crucial because it not only promotes gender equality and social justice, but also drives organizational success by harnessing diverse perspectives, talents, and skills.  By breaking down barriers, offering equal growth opportunities, and fostering inclusive environments, we unlock the full potential of all our employees, resulting in enhanced innovation, improved workplace culture, and sustainable economic growth that benefits both businesses and society at large.

One practice that I believe could be expanded throughout many organizations is encouraging the formation of employee resource groups focused on women in leadership roles as a space to provide a supportive network and foster discussions on challenges and solutions.

Partnering with external networks and organizations that empower women in business and sharing success stories of women employees through various channels can also promote successful role models and inspire future generations of female leaders.

What is your long-term vision for fostering women's empowerment in the workplace, and how do you ensure its seamless integration to support sustained professional growth and development of employees?

By fostering inclusion, flexibility, knowledge sharing, and continuous development, we can empower women, driving equality, at the same promoting innovation and success of the individuals and the organization.

I’d like to also believe that through empowering women, they will be better equipped with the ability to effectively nurture the leaders of tomorrow, both in their personal and professional lives. Creating a ripple effect, giving us a more prosperous and stable society that benefits everyone.