Female Leaders in Indonesia’s Forestry Sector

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The company’s remote working location of Pelalawan district, Riau province has prompted APRIL to build an on-site training centre and programs to improve the locals’ skill set, as well as to encourage more local talents to work for the company.

The women’s journey at APRIL has followed similar paths, with both joining as graduate trainees with a degree in chemistry. After two years on the job and upon finishing their graduate trainee programme, they were selected to participate in a Masters Programme at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing as they each faced challenges. Itsna recalled her mother dissuading her from continuing with the company as the elder woman was worried about her daughter’s safety since she worked the overnight shifts.

Itsna Lathifah Lasmaretty

“At the start, I reported for my night shift at 11pm and left work at 7am, and this worried my mother who asked about my safety. Her concern was understandable,” said Itsna, 35. “Even though there were not many women working there at that time, I felt safe because the security guards watched out for us.”

Sri faced a different sort of challenge: cultural perception of a woman’s role. She explained: “Since my job involves a lot of coordination and giving instructions, some men were not accepting of having a woman telling them what they should do.”

Sri Rahmi Wahdini, Continuous Improvement Champion, at one of the locations she oversees.

“So, I took time to build trust,” she said, adding: “I show them that I am competent at what I do, initiate collaboration with them and am always ready to offer help.”

Similarly, Itsna said she had to work at earning the trust from her male colleagues. “In my earlier years, I even did the  minutes of meeting to show that I was dedicated and cooperative, but it was also because I really wanted to learn on the job”, she said.

The women didn’t think twice about getting their hands, or rather, boots dirty as they ventured out to the field to collect samples or check on instruments’ measurements.

Said Itsna: “I talk to the technicians to understand their constraints and show them that I am interested. This helps because, after all, it takes people to run the pulp industry, so one should build better relationships.”

Now, both are seeing more women entering their industry. “This is a good trend because women bring a different set of skills; some tend to be more detailed and thorough, and this can complement the skills of their male colleagues,” said Sri, 34.

Indeed, for Itsna and Sri, it was not only the commitment to their jobs that earned them respect and enabled them to become successful female leaders.; It was also their commitment to continuous learning and a determination to demonstrate that they are capable managers in the competitive forestry industry.

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