“I want to encourage women, because we are not less capable than men.”
Destry Damayanti, 54, is a rare woman who has reached the upper heights of the financial services industry. She is so highly respected that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo handpicked her to be the chairwoman of the selection committee for the Corruption Eradication Committee (KPK) in May 2015, leading a group of eight women who chose the new leaders of the KPK.
After finishing her KPK role in December 2015, she moved on to become a commissioner at the Indonesian Deposit Insurance (LPS), an independent state institution set up to encourage stability in the national finance sector. She is also recently been appointed as an independent commissioner at Bank Mandiri.
She hopes she can be a role model. “I want to encourage women, because we are not less capable than men. As long as we are fully committed and ready to accept the consequences, we should have the same chance to be successful in our careers,” she says.
Destry has blazed a trail as a female economist in Indonesia. After earning her master degree from Cornell University, Destry was in charge of fiscal and monetary analysis at the Finance Ministry for five years, before becoming an economist at Citibank in 1997. As the only economist in the Indonesian office at the time, during the financial crisis, she had a high workload, which she said was not easy as she also had three children at home.
Eventually she had to make a personal choice, so she took a less stressful job as an economic advisor to the British Embassy in Jakarta in 2000. After three years, she took a sabbatical, and stopped working altogether for 1.5 years to help one of her children go on tour and play in competitive tennis matches, a stepping-stone to becoming a professional tennis player. As Destry was also a serious tennis player in her youth, she wanted to give her child the same opportunity.
However, when her child’s tennis ambitions ended, she started to teach and to research again and then she landed a high-profile job as chief economist at PT Mandiri Sekuritas in 2005. In 2011, she got an even higher profile job at Bank Mandiri with the same title, which gave her wide exposure and public recognition. In late 2014, she was asked to head the Economic Resilience Task Force for the State Owned Enterprises Ministry.
Right before she finished her role on the task force in May 2015, she got a call from Teten Masduki, a member of the presidential staff, who told her the president wanted her to head the KPK selection committee, an extremely high-profile and politically sensitive post. “I hesitated at first, but Teten convinced me that President Jokowi wanted me to be the chairwoman of the selection committee. Realizing that it was an honor and blessing for me to be handpicked directly by the president, I accepted the role,” she recalls.