What’s the status of Vietnam’s women in business? The only way to answer this is to say, “it’s complicated”.
About 73 percent of women participate in Vietnam’s workforce, compared to 82 percent of men. It’s an impressive figure, by any country’s standards. However, many of these women are in low paying jobs, working in factories or running micro businesses.
In line with worldwide trends, there’s still a noticeable lack of women at the senior management or director level. Of course, there are exceptions.
We do have examples of empowered Vietnamese women who have risen to top leadership roles despite the odds. These are women like entrepreneurs Mai Kiều Liên and Nguyễn Thị Mai Thanh, and self-made female billionaire Nguyễn Thị Phương Thảo, who founded Vietnam’s second largest airline, VietJet Air.
Standing on the shoulders of giants
In my own situation, I had to study hard, then work my way up at THP. Just because I was the daughter of the boss, it didn’t mean I was given any special treatment. In fact, it was even harder and more challenging.
That’s because throughout my life, my parents actively taught us (their children) that we have to earn what we want. We are not automatically entitled to it. They also taught us the importance of giving back. I am who I am because of what they’ve taught me.
Women’s empowerment and gender equity have always been important principles in both my family and in THP. My father and mother built THP together, and I come from a long line of women who have inspired me with their strength and entrepreneurial savvy.
As THP’s Chairman and CEO, my father has never discriminated between men and women. He simply wants the “best person for the job”. His lack of discrimination has contributed greatly to our business success.
Another core value I’ve learned from my parents is “Nothing is Impossible” and to follow my dreams. As one of Vietnam’s new generation, I’m really interested in showing others how they too can ‘live their impossible’.
Partnerships dismantle sexism
One of the ways I’m trying to do this is by using my public profile to open up the conversation on gender equity. It’s a theme I look at in my new book, Competing with Giants.
What if we can dismantle sexism in the business world? How can we do that in such a way where there’s equitable representation, but both men and women benefit? What does this scenario look like?
One possibility is something I’ve coined as ‘Standing Taller’, with the hashtag #StandTaller, which is obviously inspired by the #MeToo movement (like many women in business, I’ve had some #MeToo moments, but I am not defined by them).
#StandTaller is not reverse discrimination. It’s about everyone living her or his vision and mission. It’s about seeking a positive narrative that enables us all to move towards a better future.
The name of our company, Tan Hiep Phat, means ‘together we grow’. THP believes success stems from long-term partnerships – mutually beneficial collaborations. To me, our partnership values can naturally be applied and extended to #StandTaller.
#StandTaller for a better future
To eliminate sexism out of any business arena, women have to stand up to be counted. And we need men to help do this. The five words I’d like to suggest are vital to dismantling gender discrimination in business are “Do I Have Your Support?”
These five words invite men to really hear what women want – both in the workplace and in life. Sexism is not just about women, and women cannot eliminate sexism on their own. It’s a bigger conversation.
Using #StandTaller as a launch pad, I want to encourage women to start talking more positively about their future, and support them to do their ‘Impossible’.
Naturally, businesses will benefit from having more women in influential roles. It’s widely acknowledged that women bring a more diverse perspective, a spirit of collaboration and directly contribute to better company performance!