Empowering Women in the Energy Sector: A conversation with Monika Merdekawati

Monika Merdekawati
Monika Merdekawati, a Researcher at ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) with focus on Energy Policy, Renewable Energy Technology, Climate Change Mitigation, and Energy Economics, provides inspiration for Southeast Asia women to advance career in energy sector

International Women’s Day (8 March) is a day of activism for, and celebration of, women and girls around the world. Since 1911, we have used this day to honour women’s achievements, raise awareness of discrimination, and take action to drive gender parity. 

Women make up more than half of Southeast Asia’s population. The region has made significant progress in enhancing women and girls’ access to education and quality healthcare, labour force participation, and space to express their voices and exercise agency. To support this year’s International Women’s Day theme, ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’, Partnerships for Infrastructure (P4I) invites incredible Southeast Asian women to share their journey in advancing their career in infrastructure and energy sectors.  

As Australia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrate 50 years of partnership with a Commemorative Summit in Melbourne this week, P4I shines the spotlight on Monika Merdekawati, a Research Analyst in the ASEAN Centre for Energy’s (ACE) Sustainable and Renewable Energy Department.

Across Southeast Asia’s energy and infrastructure sectors, women like Monika are breaking barriers and driving positive change. 

Monika’s career began with a degree in mechanical engineering. While most of her friends worked for oil and gas or utility companies after graduation, Monika’s curiosity about renewable energy led her to become a project developer with the independent power producer that built Indonesia’s first utility scale wind farm, Sidrap. After this success, she became a researcher with ACE to deepen her understanding of energy policymaking in the region.

Today, Monika oversees renewable energy-related projects with ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, including Australia, and with international organisations. A focus of her work is driving implementation of the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation, which Australia is also supporting through P4I and a new Energy Cooperation Package under the Aus4ASEAN Futures Initiative.

One of the aspects Monika enjoys most about working in the ASEAN energy sector is witnessing the region's rapid evolution towards tackling climate change. 

“Over the span of the past decade, I have observed the paradigm shift of member countries in addressing the global warming challenges – from the leadership of developed countries and waiting and seeing to the eagerness to be part of the solution”, says Monika. “The ambition keeps increasing and more renewable energy projects are being realised.”

Despite her sense of fulfilment and success, Monika knows the challenges she faces as a woman in her role. 

“Being a woman (still a minority group in the energy sector) requires patience. You are expected to go the extra mile to show the importance of your contribution”, she says. “Though awareness towards gender equity is being embraced, you still need to break the bias and prejudice.”

Gender biases and stereotypes still prevail across the world and women are often pigeonholed into certain roles within the office. 

“The primary challenge is bias that a woman has a certain role to fulfil in the office, such as being a secretary or personal assistant (though I also respect the jobs); and a woman could not do a leadership role because a woman has a housewife duty to prioritise”, says Monika.

To navigate this, Monika keeps a cool head and focuses on her work on research and policy advocacy. She emphasises the importance of a support system, both at home and in the office; and credits her supportive family and ACE's commitment to gender equity for helping her balance her responsibilities effectively.

As Monika reflects on her career, she offers guidance to other women aspiring to work in the energy sector. 

“My advice is to focus on enhancing your knowledge and skills, to be confident, and to be generous in empowering fellow women”, she says. 

On International Women's Day, Monika Merdekawati's story reminds us of the importance of gender diversity and inclusivity in driving progress and innovation in the energy sector. Today, P4I is proud to be part of the global community celebrating the achievements of women like Monika and continuing to work to open more space for women to thrive and contribute to a more sustainable, prosperous future for us all.

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