09:56 | 19/09/2018 Society
(VEN) - True gender equality still lies some way off, but the world is edging ever closer to this goal as women’s access to educational and business opportunities rapidly improves. As one of the region’s fastest growing and most dynamic economies, Vietnam is very much part of this picture and there is no shortage of budding female businesswomen to look up to.
At the forefront of a global trend
First among the roll-call in Vietnam must be Phuong Thao, co-founder and chair of the Sovico Holdings and Vietnam’s first self-made female billionaire. Having taken her budget airline VietJet Air public last year, she is now worth an estimated US$2.6 billion and was correspondingly named #55 on Forbes “Power Women” list for 2017.
Other prominent names gaining international attention include Mai Kieu Lien, CEO of the Vietnam Dairy Products Joint Stock Company; Thai Huong, President of the TH Group; and Le Hong Thuy Tien, chairwoman of the IPP Group and a highly prominent figure in the shopping mall sector.
That Vietnamese women are making such a mark should not surprise when one considers that around a third of Vietnamese businesses are led by women today. We can expect this upwards trajectory to very much continue, since the Vietnamese government is targeting this figure to rise to 50 percent by 2020. And it should be said that such a target would be very ambitious for even the most progressive Western nations: only a fifth of small businesses in the UK are run by women currently, for instance.
Opportunities and challenges
Vietnamese women are active across the board, but they are thought strongest in launching new businesses in the agriculture and food sectors, so these are areas where support has been most visible recently. As reported by this publication, the recent Australia – Vietnam Forum (which was co-organized by the Western Sydney University, the Ho Chi Minh City Economics University and the Australia-ASEAN Council in Sydney, Australia) focused much of its discussions on helping Vietnamese business women meet international quality standards.
Adapting to the digital economy is another challenge that Vietnam’s female entrepreneurs are believed to need particular support with, as is how to balance the demands of family and business life. Both topics have been the subject of forums and seminars put on by female-specific networks, often with high-profile government support.
In fact, it seems many Western nations might envy the assistance (and inspiration) available to female entrepreneurs in Vietnam, and the mentoring opportunities they enjoy. The Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council, set up in 2001, now has over 1,000 members and a network of 40 local councils and clubs, for example.
The Vietnamese authorities are very wise to see women as a key part of national construction and development in the context of the fourth industrial revolution currently reshaping the world.
It’s great to see how, having got off to a late start economically, Vietnam is now pulling ahead on progressive initiatives as it grows. I look forward to seeing the country matching – and even surpassing – its global peers in the support offered to female entrepreneurs.
Brian Spence is Managing Partner of S&P Investments, Hanoi. He has over 35 years of experience in the UK
financial services industry as an investment manager, financial planner and M&A specialist. He is a regular contributor
to the UK and international press and has a deep understanding of the financial services community.