How Women Climb the Leadership Ladder and Manage Conflicts?

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Women are increasingly faced various challenges while trying to reach the top of their career. One of them is the stereotype of a leader. Often when asked someone about the characteristics of a leader, they tend to answer with confidence, assertiveness, risk-taking, and other masculine traits that are naturally found in men. It is not surprising that there are prejudices about men who are more worthy of being a leader.

Mira Fitria Soetjipto, Head of Human Capital at PT Bank BTPN Tbk, also experienced this challenge as a leader during her career. "There are many demands that we have to fulfill, there are some stereotypes that we have to adjust, there are social expectations that we have to fulfill," she said at the webinar How Women Climb a Corporate Ladder and Manage Conflict (30/09/2021). And Mira was able to overcome this challenge because she was able to break through the boundaries in her mind and how she wanted to understand the situation.

Debby Alishinta, Managing Director of PT Accenture Indonesia expressed the same thing. According to her, the limit is within ourselves and to overcome it, women should have dreams because dreams are equivalent to the purpose of life, women should love and have passion for what they do, women must have the determination to try to get what they want.

The next challenge is the likeability trap, which is defined when women use feminine traits too much, they are considered incompetent, but when women use masculine traits too much, they are considered difficult to work with. Whereas the most ideal leader is one who continues to learn to develop themself and is able to combine feminine and masculine traits.

Debby noticed that when interacting with her male colleagues, they tended to think simple, and she learned to apply this when faced with conflict. "In my opinion, men are straightforward, simple and not adventurous. When I interact with male colleagues, I also learn from them to think simple," he said. 

Mira also said that the male lead can do things simply, firmly and tends not to attach emotions to conflict. Compared to women who sometimes still involve emotions even though the conflict is over.

"I think that's what we have to practice to be able to remove the over-attachment of an emotion to conflict." 

Conflict is something that is unavoidable and also not always a bad thing. With the right reaction, conflict can be a trigger for ideas, innovation, better working relationships, and even self-development. One of Debby's experiences with conflict that made her an important student was when she was working on a project. Debby is the only woman on the team. When explaining his analysis, all of his male colleagues disagreed.

“At the time, I thought there were two situations in dealing with this conflict. If I don't want to face conflict, I will lose because I don't try to fight for my opinion or if I want to move forward, the only way is to negotiate," said Debby.

Then Debby chose to come forward and re-explain her analysis slowly. Finally, all of his male colleagues understood Debby's point and began to agree. “It takes time [to negotiate] but at least I tried and didn't give up. If I chose to avoid conflict, that would be a huge loss," she added.

Meanwhile, one of Mira's conflict experiences relates to the dilemma between domestic and public roles. At that time, Mira was offered to hold a regional position in the company but on the condition that she moved abroad. This position is Mira's dream. When she conferred with her husband, there were many considerations, such as how to adapt to the food there, whether she was ready to leave her parents and family, and her husband's job in Indonesia which was impossible to leave.

"And there I felt that gender played a significant difference because if this situation were reversed, I might have left everything behind to go with my husband," she explained. 

The conflict she experienced was more to herself to be able to decide and accept her decision. "Sometimes you have to make a difficult decision but you have to live with it and have to know what decisions you won't regret later," added Mira.

However, that doesn't mean that Mira's husband doesn't support Mira's career. The blessing of her husband is one of the things that has allowed Mira to be in her current position as Head of Human Capital at PT Bank BTPN Tbk. It is important for women to coordinate with their husbands to ensure that the career and family wheels can run well.


The Role of the Support System for Women Leaders

In the world of work, we often find parties who do not like women's achievements, sometimes even from fellow women. This is certainly able to affect the work environment becomes uncomfortable. There are many ways to deal with a situation like this. Starting from proving with performance, discussing with superiors to clarifying directly to related parties.

As parties who are still vulnerable, women need to have a support system. Not only support from family, but support from relatives, partners, friends, and even coworkers can help women fulfill their best potential. For Debby, family is a support system. Her performance can be optimized until she become a leader because the support system allows Debby to work well.

“To reach this position [Managing Director] I am not alone. There are many people around me who always support me like family and community,” said Debby.

Apart from the support from her husband, Mira also said that her parents always taught her to never give up, that Mira had to fight for what she dreamed of. Of course, the support from her superiors is also important in making her continue to develop to achieve what Mira wants.

Debby and Mira also try to be a support system for female workers in their respective companies. They believe that women should help each other, not bring each other down. The number of female leaders is already small, if they bring down each other than nothing can grow. 

Therefore, at PT Accenture Indonesia, Debby collaborates with HR in creating a program for women to unleash their potential and have a longer career to reach senior level management. Meanwhile, PT Bank BTPN Tbk conducted many diversity and inclusion programs with IBCWE to support female workers.

In closing the panel discussion, Debby gave a message to all women to dare to have dreams and passion to achieve them, and don't be afraid to try.

"Never be afraid to fail. Never afraid of what people think. You must be able to explore your own passion and just be happy," Mira said to all Indonesian women.

To increase the confidence of female workers in climbing the leadership ladder and managing conflict, IBCWE in collaboration with the International Labor Organization held a webinar episode 2 series entitled How Women Climb the Leadership Ladder and Manage Conflicts, on September 30, 2021.

This activity is sponsored by United Nations Multi-Partner Trust Funds (UN MPTF) and supported by One CHRP, Info HR Indonesia. Watch the Webinar Series Eps. 2 How Women Climb the Leadership Ladder and Manage Conflicts on the IBCWE Youtube Channel.

26 November 2021

Tiara Tri Hapsari