How the Vietnam War Made Female CEOs Better than Men

Vinamilk CEO Mai Kieu Lien (3rd, L) takes a group of government officials on a tour of a Vinamilk factory.

Vingroup JSC’s Le Thi Thu Thuy says she brought a mother’s perspective to Vietnam’s largest mall, adding an indoor water park and ice rink to make it a weekend destination for Hanoi’s 6.8 million residents.
“There was nowhere for the whole family to go,” said Thuy, 39, who has two children and oversaw the opening of Vincom Mega Mall Royal City as chief executive officer of Vingroup before stepping down last month to run the firm’s new online unit. Crowds of kids and young couples gathered at the rink on a recent weekend, suggesting her plan is paying off.
Women leaders like Thuy are getting rewarded by investors in Vietnam’s $58 billion stock market, the best performer in Asia this year. An index of companies currently led by female CEOs has almost tripled in the past five years, gaining about twice as much as the nation’s benchmark VN-Index, according to data compiled by Paris-based Intelligent Financial Research & Consulting and Bloomberg.
Female executives’ success in Vietnam may stem in part from skills honed during decades of war that ended with the fall of Saigon in 1975, according to Thuy. With many of the men away from home fighting, women took over running businesses and managing family finances in addition to raising children. While women control less than 7 percent of the nation’s corporate board seats, that’s still the second-highest proportion among Southeast Asian countries tracked by IFRC after the Philippines.
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Thanh Nien News. April 4, 2014.

Empowering Women in Vietnam

The recent event “Empowerment of Women in the Public Sector in the Context of International Integration” held in Hanoi, focused on furthering the dialogue on women’s leadership in Asia. The event brought together experts in the industry, business leaders and policy makers from the public and private sectors, representatives of ministries and departments, academics and government representatives from more than 20 provinces and cities in the country.

The agenda of advancement of women in the public sector took center stage. UNDP Country Director Louise Chamberlain expressed the importance of women by stating that they have half of all decision-making positions given they make up half of the world population.

Photo courtesy of Vietnam News.  

 “Promoting women’s participation in the public sector was not only a matter of justice, but also a matter of ensuring all perspectives are brought forward as men and women bring divergent experiences to the table,” she said.

Experts proposed eliminating the disparity in retirement age between men and women as a means to promote women’s leadership in the public sector and counter gender disparities. Bakhodir Burkhanov, UNDP Country deputy director, stated that the gender differential in the mandatory age of retirement, which is 55 for women and 60 for men, was the main barrier to women’s participation in the political system. The disparity also limited their chances for promotion and access to training and development given that taking women out of the pool for promotions earlier than men meant fewer women occupied senior positions.

Citing recent research from the report “Rising to the Top? Women’s Leadership in Asia,” Regional Director of Microsoft Astrid S. Tuminez expressed the need to address cultural norms and persistent prejudices against women and girls that hinder women’s advancement. The former vice dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy recommended approaches for policy makers in Vietnam in an effort to enhance the capacity of leadership for women working in State agencies. In addition, she proposed creation of a government fund focused on implementing gender equality policies and enhance gender education to change the perception of women and girls. Nguyen Phuong Nga, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, stressed the importance of the quality of human resources, particularly women’s leadership capacity in the public sector in Vietnam.

International and local experts devised strategies such as merit-based hiring systems, training for female civil servants, and promotion of men’s role in household and childcare roles in order to promote women’s advancement and strengthen women’s rights. Vietnam proposed the organized and international friends to concentrate direct support for these objectives, specific targets of the strategy, especially the national programme on gender equality between 2011-2015. The importance of women’s role was seen crucial in promoting economic growth and social development in both developing and developed nations.

For additional information on the event, please click on this link.