Gender equality

Vietnamese women are increasingly well prepared for decision-making roles in businesses

A new ILO report highlights the business case of gender diversity but notes that enterprises need to reach a critical mass of women in top positions in order to reap its benefits.

Press release | 17 November 2020
HANOI – Enterprises in Viet Nam are faced with talent shortages, which could be addressed by recruiting and advancing more women into management positions, a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found.

The country brief entitled “Leading to Success: The business case for women in business and management in Viet Nam” emphasized that women are good for business. Gender diversity is a smart business strategy as it goes with higher profitability and productivity, increased ability to retain talent, and greater creativity.

“The good news is, women in Viet Nam are increasingly well-prepared for decision-making roles in businesses. The talent pool continues to expand,” said ILO Viet Nam Labour Economist, Valentina Barcucci. “Out of the total women who are active on the labour market, 10 per cent have completed tertiary education, while the share for young men is 5 per cent. The share of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is currently 37 per cent, and growing.”

However, while enterprises need to reach a critical mass of women in top positions in order to reap the benefits of gender diversity, the study showed that women’s career progression in Viet Nam, remains impacted by gender bias. Women are under-represented in management positions and the situation becomes more prevalent at the highest levels of management, which is known as “leaky pipeline”.

Of the enterprises surveyed in Viet Nam, 63 per cent indicated that women were present at the supervisory management level, 73 per cent confirmed that they had women as middle managers but only 15 per cent answered that women held top executive positions.

Gender biases in the mind-sets of managers can be barriers for women to advancing into leadership positions."

Valentina Barcucci, ILO Viet Nam Labour Economist
“The results of the study point at some degree of bias. Fifty-four per cent of respondents agreed that women with equal skills and qualifications to men face greater difficulties reaching top management positions,” said Barcucci. “Gender biases in the mind-sets of managers can be barriers for women to advancing into leadership positions.”

In addition, the fact that women on average spend twice as many hours as men per week in unpaid household work while their working hours outside the home are similar to those of men makes it difficult for them to pursue a career.

Sustainable values

The ILO report was launched in Hanoi on 17 November at the workshop on “Workplace gender equality – Enhancing sustainable values”. The event was co-organized by the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), Vietnam Business Coalition for Women’s Empowerment (VBCWE), the Investing in Women project and the ILO.

Addressing the opening, VCCI Vice President Hoang Quang Phong admitted that gender inequality remains a major challenge for the country’s sustainable development.

“Although women contribute a great deal to the society and economy, they have not been appreciated in the labour markets and have yet to benefit from the economic development equally as men,” he said.

Viet Nam is making positive changes towards reducing gender inequality of opportunity between women and men in the labour market.

The revised Labour Code, which will take effect on 1 January 2021, has marked significant steps in reducing the gender gaps in retirement age and discrimination in the workplace. The draft of Viet Nam’s Socio Economic Development Strategy for 2021-30 period also calls for gender gaps to be reduced in the political, economic, and social lives of citizens.

“In Viet Nam, as in Australia, realizing the full potential of women to participate in the economy has a huge bearing on growth, competitiveness and socioeconomic development,” said Australia’s Deputy Ambassador to Viet Nam, Andrew Barnes. “The report being launched today provides further evidence as to why we must maintain our commitment to workplace gender equality”.

While businesses are very well positioned to reduce gender gaps in their leadership, according to the ILO Viet Nam’s labour economist, they cannot do it alone.

“Leadership from the top is essential to translate the facts and findings that we read in the brief, into action,” she said.

At the event, a new business certificate for workplace gender equality was also awarded to Power Generation Corporation 3, the eighth company in Viet Nam receiving the acknowledgement. The certification is based on EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality), a global benchmarking methodology launched at the World Economic Forum in 2011 to help companies assess their work environment and build proper action plans to create an optimal workplace for women and men.