Investing in women to help them liberate their inner strength is a smart move as empowered women not only create added value for society but also contribute to a prosperous economy.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, this morning, VIR organised an online talk show featuring several renowned Vietnamese female entrepreneurs. The talk show was livestreamed on vir.com.vn, baodautu.vn, and on VIR's Facebook page.
The four female influencers from various groups and associations shared their personal stories and insights into how women can be the change they wish to see.
WeLead founder Le Thi Tuyet Minh said, “In previous decades, women had to spend almost all their time with their families and children. Therefore, they did not have much time to develop their careers. Some women, who focussed on their career, were limited to some simple sectors. Women were to be satisfied with what they had, had to be self-deprecating about their capacity, and couldn't dare to dream about becoming a leader.”
“However, in modern society, the younger female generation has changed. They dare to start their businesses with passion. They are backed up by their families and the community. Society also has a more positive view of the role of women. I see that the younger generation can have a business career without dealing with labels of whether they are male or female. Female entrepreneurs are very confident and are willing to hold senior positions,” Minh said.
Nowadays, expectations about the contribution of women have also changed. Notably, Vietnam expects to see women make up 27 per cent of entrepreneurs by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030, meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals on gender equality and economic growth.
The Vietnamese government has made it a priority to increase the participation of women in the workplace. The Law on Support for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) from 2017 outlines preferential measures for women-owned businesses. Specifically, in cases where they are eligible for state support, priority should be given to female-led SMEs and those employing more women.
Minh said, “Nowadays, the younger generation is trained methodically. And they want to be evaluated fairly. If they deserve to become a leader, they need to be recognised. Investing in women is an intelligent decision, which will not only create added value for society, but also create a prosperous economy.”
Minh’s feelings matched with the answers of AI chatbot, ChatGPT, during a segment when VIR quizzed the AI about women in the workforce.
ChatGPT gave quite a detailed answer to the question, “What do modern women pay attention to?” Its answer was the expectation to be treated fairly and have the freedom and right to develop their career. They expect to have empathy and support from their family and society, and simultaneously have the right to choose and be recognised by society.
VIR then asked ChatGPT, “What are female entrepreneurs paying attention to ?”. The answer included how to manage a business, new business methods, brand building, establishing connections, and environmental protection and sustainable development.
|Le Thi Hoai Thuong - Senior corporate affairs manager, Nestlé Vietnam |
Every business has its core values and its achievements are derived from these.
Nestlé's core value is respect. We respect the planet, sustainable development, diversity, and inclusion. Diversity in business is reflected in many ways, including women's empowerment and gender equality.
Nestlé Vietnam has been honoured to receive the UN Women award several times for its contribution to gender equality in the workplace and in the community.
The Nestlé Group has just been recorded in Bloomberg's Gender-Equality Index 2023 (GEI). This is the fifth consecutive year that Nestlé has been included.
Bloomberg's GEI includes more than 70 criteria, which are divided into five groups. One of the most important is the percentage of female leaders. At Nestlé, the group set up a target to increase the percentage of senior female leaders from 21 per cent in 2021 to 30 per cent in 2022.
If you compare this percentage with the general percentage in the domestic market, this target is not too challenging. However, based on a global scale, it took great effort to hit this percentage. Nestlé expects that the percentage of middle managers will reach 45 per cent. At Nestlé Vietnam alone, I am honoured to share that the percentage of middle and senior managers are both over 50 per cent.
Regarding employee benefits, the group also builds a harmonised welfare regime for all markets, including Vietnam. I am impressed with the group’s fairness, giving equal opportunities to all genders. Accordingly, women have the right to choose a position in accordance with their ability and are paid fairly.
Corporate culture also contributes to the promotion of gender equality. At Nestlé, the group organises annual mandatory training sessions for employees on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. Employees are not only required to attend training programmes but are also bound by company policies.
Nestlé believes that businesses can only achieve long-term and sustainable development if the community is also prosperous and sustainable. The company has operated for more than 150 years, and looks forward to another 150.
The company’s contribution to gender equality goes beyond internal issues to promote women’s empowerment in the community. Nestlé is currently the leading coffee buyer in Vietnam, ultimately purchasing 20-25 per cent of the country’s total output, worth approximately $600-700 million.
Nestlé Vietnam has cooperated with the Vietnam Women’s Union to implement the Nestlé Accompanies Women programme. Launched in 2020, it will continue to expand to all provinces around the country. So far, the scheme has attracted 4,000 female members in 700 communes nationwide, creating a positive impact on their lives.
The initiative has equipped women in rural areas with skills to promote and spread nutritional education in rural areas, and also to helped them gain financial independence and security.
|Dinh Thi Thu Hoai - Executive director, Vietnam Business Coalition for Women’s Empowerment (VBCWE) |
Investing in women is not only a good thing, it is also a smart investment because it brings greater economic return.
Through my own observations while taking my children to school, I see the importances of a mother's care to ensure that students do well and reach their potential. It shows the crucial role of mothers in building a high-quality labour force for the future.
Research has shown that in the post-pandemic era, female-owned businesses have been more clearly affected. However, female leaders are more resilient, as shown by the lower rate of lay-offs in female-led enterprises, compared to the percentage in male-led enterprises. This also shows more empathy.
One example is Phu Nhuan Jewelry (PNJ). During the pandemic, the sector was heavily affected. However, the company did not lay off any staff or decrease their salaries.
At that time, only the leadership team took a pay reduction. This was unexpected as the business has 6,000-7,000 employees, so the salary payments are a burden while revenue plunges.
What is even more impressive is that when the pandemic was over, the company rebounded strongly because all the employees dutifully returned to work with enthusiasm. In addition, PNJ initiated the concept of Zero-dong Supermarket, which received the support and gratitude of the whole community.
In my opinion, if women are provided opportunities and supported to develop their careers, they will be happier and more creatively inspired, thereby contributing more value for their businesses.
As a result, when the VBCWE works with companies, we encourage the leadership team to apply a flexible working time policy, including variable start and finish times, the option to work from home, and the option to work fewer days. Because, to be honest, as many women grow into motherhood, the added flexibility will help them to balance their work and home time. Flexible working time is key to tackling the gender pay gap, but it must be embraced by everyone.
By Kim Oanh