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Vietnam: Women Aspire to Lead at Work and at Home

March 7, 2014

Four women leaders joined a live chat to discuss challenges and ways forward in promoting women in leadership in Vietnam. From left to right: TalentPool CEO Do Thuy Duong, Vietnam Women’s Union President Nguyen Thi Thanh Hoa, Country Representative for UN Women in Vietnam Shoko Ishikawa, and World Bank Country Director for Vietnam Victoria Kwakwa.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Vietnamese women are trying to balance professional work and personal life.
  • All sectors of society should encourage and create favorable conditions for women to advance in their careers.
  • Women should work on sharing responsibilities to balance their professional work and personal life.

Hanoi, March 7, 2013 – Despite the country’s improvements in gender equality, Vietnamese women are lagging behind their male counterparts when it comes to political and economic leadership in Vietnam. Only one fourth of the members of the National Assembly are women and women are underrepresented in the leading bodies of the Party. And although women are very active in the economy, the businesses they head usually have fewer employees and make less revenue than those headed by men.

International experience shows that gender equality is a win-win for development and for business and that it is possible to change things and to get more women into leadership positions. On March 6, two days before the International Women’s Day, four women leaders joined a live chat organized by the World Bank in Vietnam to discuss challenges and ways forward in promoting women in leadership.

Vietnam Women’s Union President Nguyen Thi Thanh Hoa, Country Representative for UN Women in Vietnam Shoko Ishikawa, World Bank Country Director for Vietnam Victoria Kwakwa, and TalentPool CEO Do Thuy Duong, responded to dozens of questions from readers.

Housework: A shared responsibility


The most common question from readers was how to balance professional work and personal life, breaking down prejudice that put most housework responsibilities on women’s shoulders.

As the head of the largest organization in Vietnam working toward women’s advancement, Ms. Hoa said the government should develop favorable policies for women, and women should actively manage their life as well.

“Everyone must be aware that housework is a shared responsibility among all family members, not just women,” Ms. Hoa said. “Women should mobilize their husbands and children to share housework.”

Ms. Ishikawa thinks that expectation has focused too much on women’s roles at home and their responsibilities in taking care of the families. “We need to change this expectation and promote women’s leadership potential in politics, business and society,” said Ms. Ishikawa.

She also added that we should look at how this issue has been reflected in school and through the media: “We need to highlight role models and positive images of female leaders, and highlight women’s roles in non-traditional jobs such as business leaders, scientists, architects so that we can change perceptions on tasks that women can take on.”

Open Quotes

We need to highlight role models and positive images of female leaders, and highlight women’s roles in non-traditional jobs such as business leaders, scientists, architects so that we can change perceptions on tasks that women can take on. Close Quotes

Shoko Ishikawa
Country Representative for UN Women

Inspire and collaborate with male employees

As the only business leader in the live chat and a mother of three, Ms. Duong reflected on her personal experience in leading a private company. For her, the biggest challenge was harmonizing her business goals with the work environment.

“It’s a bit challenging when you have strong and talented male employees,”
said Ms. Duong. “I need to inspire them and appeal to their sense of collaboration.”

She also noted that her clients are primarily those who share the same goals and viewpoints about life.

Last but not least, she arranged her family work by spending weekends to go grocery shopping and play with her kids.

“My kids are quite independent. The oldest one can cook and wash dishes and the smallest one can take showers by himself,” said Ms. Duong. “So we can spend most of our time to talking and sharing stories about daily life.”

More and equal opportunities for women

In response to question about setting up women advancement programs in private companies, Ms. Ishikawa said that companies should have dialogues with female workers to understand their challenges. Women need supports such as childcare services close to the workplace, safe transportation from home to work, and regular health check-up.

Resonating viewpoints in her recent blog, Ms. Kwakwa said that parents and teachers play a key role in encouraging students, boys and girls alike, to become potential leaders. In the workplace, women should be given equal opportunities as men. In Vietnam, the lower retirement age for women (55 compared to 60 for men) compresses the period of time women have to gain experience and qualifications necessary to advance to senior positions.

“Businesses, the government and the public sector should take practical actions,” said Ms. Kwakwa. “We need policies and regulations that empower women and create more opportunities for them.”

She noted that promoting women’s leadership roles should start at the grassroots level, such as at schools, companies and the community and can be nurtured to the national level.

“Women can be a good wife, a good mother and a good leader at the same time,”
said Ms. Kwakwa in response to a question on message for readers on the International Women’s Day. “We need to recognize our potential and grasp opportunities. We need to create more opportunities for other women to be successful. Men also play a critical role. They should share more housework, cook more and take care of the children more so that their wives can have more opportunities to work.”