Evolusi Wanita – The Changing Face of Indonesian Women

With the advent of globalization and the changing social and marketing environment in Indonesia, women have gone through rapid changes in terms of their mindsets, values, and expectations. Thus it becomes imperative to understand the trends and reasons behind the changing face of the Indonesian woman.

BDRC Asia Indonesia conducted deep-dive consumer research to get into the minds of the evolving “Wanitas” of Indonesia – a study conducted among women between 18 and 45, single and married, working and housewives. The findings point towards the gradual emancipation of women in Indonesian society and their  transformation from homemaker into family destiny shaper, having come far from being just the caregiver of the family. We will bring forward certain attitudes and values that are undergoing rapid change when it comes to the fairer sex!

Equality is the mantra among today’s Indonesian women wherever you look. More women are joining the workforce and, in some cases, we found females earning more than their male counterparts. A comment from our research: “Sometimes my husband wants to know how much I am earning; perhaps he wants to know if I am now earning more [than him], which I am!” And she laughs about the achievement. Even housewives have more control over decisions compared to their predecessors: “I value my mother’s patience and the hardship she has gone through, but I never wanted to lead her kind of life!”

Thus the woman’s involvement and decision-making have increased from kitchen and groceries to broader categories such as children’s education, banking and insurance, and household durables and electronics. They are no longer just influencers, but in many cases the money managers in the process. Women are more aware and informed about the discounts and benefits of products, and thus while purchasing, they can make more intelligent decisions.

Men seem to be changing in the eyes of today’s women, who perceive them as more casual and less ready to take on the same responsibilities as their predecessors. As one woman commented, “Today’s men don’t want to get into  the details – quite different from the previous men”. So it seems women are getting more of a free hand in areas of decision- making, which was less of a possibility during their mothers’ times.

Money management is also evolving as we see different patterns emerging among older and younger women. While the older women are still comfortable considering the men as the money handlers, the 25–35 year olds treat money management seriously and have taken quite a lot of decisions into their own hands. We even found some 18–25 year olds who were not yet married but with boyfriends managing the finances of the guys – now that’s a true power shift trend!

With increased power in hand and more disposable money, the women of Indonesia no longer  feel guilty about spending on themselves; self-pampering seems to be on the rise. One lady says, “My mother always thought of the family first. Even if she was earning, she felt that spending money on herself was a bad attitude. But I don’t believe so; I have to take care of myself physically and mentally to be successful at both home and work. If I keep myself updated and well groomed, people will respect me”.

As the woman becomes more outgoing, another evolving trend is that of having a circle of friends outside the family who act as strong influencers. This extended family (we call it a “friemily”) is not just about gossip, but also where she can discuss problems, stay updated, give and take important tips, and have productive discussions in the areas of fashion, money management, education, child development, and, last but not least, relationship issues.

Women are collective and social by nature, but they are gradually moving towards individualism. We found that while today’s women listen to friends, they are also more confident about making the final decision. This demonstrates that they are not only becoming informed decision-makers, but they are also showing an individualistic attitude towards choosing products and services.

In some cases, children are acting as the propellant and catalyst in changing the attitudes and values of women in terms of fashion, technology, and the general way of looking at life. As one mother says, “I started wearing shorts, as my daughter wanted me to. At first, the neighbours made comments [about this], but my daughter told me, ‘Mom, why worry about them!’” Children seem to be the key decision-makers for their mothers when it comes to better mobiles or better gadgets. Hence classical parenting is giving way to a more democratic parent–child relationship.

All in all, it’s quite apparent that “Wanita Indonesia” is definitely going through an evolution which might change the classical ways of marketing products and services such as financial products, education, technology, etc. As a famous saying goes, “On the left side of a strong woman, stands a strong man; he is strengthened by her character.” (Ellen J. Barrier)