About the project

Find out more about the STEM-POWER project's aims and how they serve a previously under-researched area of study

Funded by a British Council Going Global: Gender Equality Partnerships grant the STEM-POWER project aims to address the imbalance in women STEM researcher progression and leadership by challenging cultures of inequality and generating new ways of working that create, support, enable and secure successful career pathways for women in STEM.

The STEM-POWER project will directly address women’s inequal access and progression to STEM research leadership in Indonesia. Through generating new evidence of women’s experiences of building their STEM careers, building visibility, agency and knowledge exchange opportunities as well as formatting a STEM-Power Community of Practice, STEM-POWER will contribute to challenging and transforming perceptions and practices around women progression to STEM research leadership and establishing a more even playing field for women leaders and aspiring women leaders within the employment sector context of Higher Education.

STEM-POWER project will directly address the challenges and recommendations outlined in important body of work on women and leadership in higher education in Indonesia, particularly the ambition to produce research grounded in indigenous concept-making. STEM-POWER will achieve this by combining creative methods that centre and value local voices, academic outcomes that build on and extend the existing body of knowledge and highly practical outcomes that directly impact on the lives of women research leaders and the cultures within which they work. This combination will secure macro and meso level benefits that contribute to cultural change at institutional and department levels and micro level benefits that directly impact on the confidence, agency and capabilities of women research leaders and women who aspire to research leadership roles.


The efficacy of the pipeline supporting women’s progression to STEM research leadership in Indonesia is under-researched. Whilst the World Bank estimates that women’s participation in STEM based higher education has plateaued, in 2018 only 37.4% of graduates with STEM degrees were women representing a marginal decrease from 37.5% in 2014, the first year of data available. This is very similar to the number of women represented as post-doctoral researchers (only 36% of post-doctoral researchers are women), voids in the research literature make it difficult to understand women researcher’s experiences of points of transition in the pipeline and potential progression to leadership roles in research.

There are scant number of studies on Gender and Leadership in Higher Education (Mulya and Sakhiyya, 2021). Crucially Mulya and Sakhiyya noted that none of these local studies explored how “university leaders perceive, interpret, and enact their roles within prevailing institutional conditions, and socio-cultural discourses”. They also noted as a significant short-coming “a lack of knowledge on indigenous conceptions of leadership in non-Western-based contexts, such as Indonesia (Hallinger & Walker, 2011).”

The existing literature also notices the “importance of local culture” (Priyatna, 2013) and the significant impacts of both external barriers, such as “participation and representation in tertiary institutions” (Harahap et al 2022), and internal barriers such as “domestic affairs, psychological and emotional, ego and arrogance, and time management, playing a bigger role as impediments (Ibid).” Other researchers in the wider field of gender and leadership in Indonesia note similar intersections between structural relations and women leaders’ identity-making. McClaren et al’s 2019 rapid review of Indonesian women in public service noted “barriers frequently outweigh opportunities for career advancement; these including entrenched homo-sociability asserting that men make better leaders. Consequently, the blocking of women’s opportunities invoked personal disappointments, resulting in women’s public denial of their leadership ambitions”.