26 May Julia Gouw Shares Why Women Lack Confidence
Julia Gouw, retired President and Chief Operating Officer of East West Bank, has worked with Wedu to establish a scholarship for Indonesian women to support their higher education and provide them with leadership and mentoring opportunities. Gouw was ranked one of the “25 Most Powerful Women in Banking” five times by American Banker magazine and has received the Los Angeles Business Journal’s “Women Making a Difference” award twice.
What inspired you to create this scholarship?
“The Indonesian society continues to be male-dominated and women do not receive equal opportunities for education or job promotion.”
I was introduced to Wedu through Clinton Global Initiative which I was involved with for many years. Born and raised in Indonesia, I wanted to give back to my community. I am a strong believer of women empowerment, especially since women do not receive the same opportunities as men in Indonesia. I believe capitalizing on opportunities is a substantial part of a person’s success, and perhaps even more influential are the people who’ve helped guide them along the way. However, there are so many challenges preventing Indonesian women to access these opportunities. The Indonesian society continues to be male-dominated and women do not receive equal opportunities for education or job promotion. I hope that working with Wedu will allow us to reach out to more Indonesian women and hopefully increase the number of recipients in the future. It would be wonderful if my scholarship can one day bring about the success of Indonesian women.
Do you have any mentors who have influenced you greatly?
“She had more confidence in me than I did in myself”
I had two mentors, a man and a woman. My first mentor was the manager of Texaco who was very kind and recognized my efforts- which in that time, men actively helping women in finance were like unicorns. He advised me to work for a big accounting firm and helped pass my resume to the managing partner of KPMG. That helped to build the foundation of my career. At KPMG, I met my second mentor who was a senior manager. She helped me gain the confidence I needed to succeed. She had more confidence in me than I did in myself at that time and with her mentorship, I was able to develop my confidence. I think that is the problem with women—they lack confidence to take on leadership positions because they do not see their own potential.
What are your thoughts on women in traditionally male-dominated fields like STEM and politics?
Again, due to a lack of confidence, many women shy away from STEM. There are great opportunities for those who are interested in programming and coding. This is especially so for Indonesia which has a high potential for consistent growth. In politics as well, we should encourage more women to enter the political field. I admire women like Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s Minister Of Finance and Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s Minster of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. They represent the generation that wants to transform the government and improve Indonesia. More than ever, Indonesia needs incorrupt leaders who sincerely want to build the country.
What advice would you give to aspiring female leaders?
“Anyone who wants to be a leader can be a leader”
Oftentimes, women do not strive for leadership positions even though they have the capabilities to be a great leader. I think this boils down to the lack of confidence again. The society expects so little of women—they are merely told to find a husband who will provide for them. They often sell themselves short because they do not believe they can be leaders. However, I strongly believe that anyone who wants to be a leader can be a leader. The qualities that I believe makes a competent leader is passion and desire to contribute to the well being of society. So to all the young women, the key is to be confident, resilient and never give up.