Inspiring Inclusion for Women’s Skills Development in Male-dominated Sectors in Indonesia

Initial vocational education and training, Upskilling and Reskilling
Through its enterprise and skills development projects, Swisscontact has been fostering more equal access to career opportunities, which plays a significant part in promoting economic growth. In Indonesia, this is being done through the Skills for Competitiveness project, which has trained 301 female students out of a total of 873 graduates studying male-associated subjects.

Welcoming more women working in male-dominated sectors is a key step towards gender equality and social inclusion. Through its enterprise and skills development projects, Swisscontact has been fostering more equal access to career opportunities, which plays a significant part in promoting economic growth. In Indonesia, this is being done through the Skills for Competitiveness (S4C) project. During its first phase (2018-2023), the project has trained 301 female students out of a total of 873 (34%) graduates studying male-associated subjects, such as electrical installation and metalworking, in its partner polytechnics. 

One of them is Besse Rani, who graduated from the Electrical Engineering and Installation Department at the Polytechnic of Metal Processing Industry in Morowali, Central Sulawesi. While now she works at the business purchasing division at a stainless-steel production and smelting company, her understanding of electrical installation has given her a competitive advantage time and again. 

Besse Rani (second from right) is demonstrating her knowledge at work.
"For example, when we were looking for lightning rod inspection test suppliers, I was able to identify the components they need to supply and what they technically need to do. That knowledge helped me in selecting suitable vendors."

Rani mostly works at the back office, proudly. While she also does site visits occasionally, once she arrived, she would usually have limited freedom of movement due to the still widely held belief that the site is ‘not the safest place for women to be.’ That said, as the youngest member of her team, she feels fully supported by her colleagues and managers.  

Moreover, her supervisor continues to trust her to contribute to large-scale projects. These include technical ones that her foremen might not be fully familiar with, or even entirely new tasks where she is challenged to learn new skills, from public speaking to preparing contracts. 

Started her first job about one year ago, Rani now has the first-hand experience of benefitting from having support systems both at home and the workplace for women to professionally thrive. Therefore, she is inspired to build upon what she has and take it further.  

“I want to encourage the women in my team so they can improve their performance and be more well-rounded,” said Rani about her vision of herself as a future leader. “I would like to provide them with trainings so they can learn new things to innovate and work smartly, expose them to the actual challenges in the sites, and make them real-life examples of the benefits for the company to hire more women,” she added. 

Support systems as the guiding light

Having similar support was also part of what inspires Miranty, Rani’s lecturer during her days studying at Morowali Polytechnic of Metal Processing Industry. Growing up in a family of educators, she felt that it is also her calling to teach, but with a little twist. “I felt that there are already too many civil engineers in the family, so I decided to branch out and study electrical engineering,” Miranty explained. 

The significant under-representation of women during her years of studying sparked her determination to educate and empower more women to make their mark in the sector. Today, she is the only woman lecturer in the Electrical and Installation Engineering study Program, as well as the Head of Control and Instrumentation Systems Laboratory.  

With her campus being one of S4C’s partner polytechnics, Miranty has been able to develop her technical knowledge and teaching competencies through various trainings supported by the project. One of which was dedicated to operating and programming new simulator machine to support the practicum courses on programmable logic controller (PLC), used for control and automation system applications. This training, that was followed up by integrating training materials into the practical module for the students, is an example of how S4C project provides equal opportunity for lecturers’ capacity building. 

Miranty (second from right) guides her students during a practicum session at the laboratory. 

Now entering the sixth year of teaching career, Miranty had overcome the challenging first years: building a new life in a new city, sharing the teaching load for an entire study program with only two other lecturers, and her growing domestic roles as a wife and mother of two.  

Many working women know what it feels to juggle professional and personal responsibilities all too well, so Miranty is grateful for the support of her colleagues and leaders. She even considers her supervisors as both my parents and friends, because her current duty calls for her to bring her young family away from her hometown. Therefore, she is determined to build a lasting impact in her line of work, highlighting the need to inspire inclusion and better female representation. 

"I want to give young women the opportunity to learn well and understand that studying electrical installation is so much fun, and that such understanding will pave the way for more women to thrive in the industry."
Electrical and Installation Engineering study Program and the Head of Control and Instrumentation Systems Laboratory, Morowali Polytechnic of Metal Processing Industry

The journey to a luminous legacy

Among the students to whom Miranty is passing the torch is Israwati. Currently studying electrical engineering and installation where Miranty teaches, Israwati was first introduced to the subject as a vocational high school student.  

For Israwati, electrical installation is a subject she enjoys learning about and aspires to share with her juniors.

“I firmly believe that electricity, an indispensable aspect of our lives, offers vast opportunities within my reach, given my skill set,” hoped Israwati, believing that women have what it takes to be as competitive as their male colleagues.  

As she makes her way to achieve her dreams in the future, being surrounded by the opposite sex in her classrooms today only encouraged her to show what she is capable of. This includes her proactively asking questions to support her learning process, while wishing to receive no special treatment for being a female student in a male-dominated setting. 

Receiving fair treatment from her lecturers contributes to her academic success, but for Israwati, the foundation of her support system starts at home. “My parents have been supportive of me, giving me the freedom to pursue my interests, including studying electrical installation since high school,” said the 21-year-old. 

Stories of women like Besse Rani, Miranty, and Israwati illustrate the S4C project's commitment to equal access to capacity building opportunities, aimed at improving the competitiveness of polytechnic graduates entering the private sector and inspiring inclusion in famously male-associated subjects and industry sectors. Furthermore, with the S4C's Phase II implementation under the Swiss Skills for Competitiveness (SS4C) Program until 2027, Swisscontact continues to support Indonesian government in its skills development initiatives. 

Initial vocational education and training, Upskilling and Reskilling
Skills for Competitiveness (S4C)
Indonesia has charted impressive economic growth since overcoming the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. It has become the largest economy in the ASEAN community with a GDP per capita of USD 3’603 in 2016. Today, Indonesia is a key player on the global stage as the world’s 4th most populous nation, the world’s 10th largest economy and...