A Faculty Head creates internship opportunities for female students


Dr Vu Thi Thanh Thuy second from left received a Certificate of Participation from the Australia Awards Short Course Women in Leadership Journey
Dr Vu Thi Thanh Thuy (second from left) received a Certificate of Participation from the Australia Awards Short Course – Women in Leadership Journey

Education & Times Newspaper – In the middle of 2017, Dr Vu Thi Thanh Thuy, Head of Natural Resources Management Faculty, Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry (TUAF), was selected to participate in an Australia Awards Short Course – Women in Leadership Journey.

At first, she thought: “There are no gender inequality issues in our university and faculty, why should we learn about it?” However, after her study in Vietnam and Australia, Thuy’s thinking has changed fundamentally. Upon her return, she acted with a new mindset.

Changing tactics to create more opportunities for female students

With support from Australian experts, Dr Vu Thi Thanh Thuy developed a project on raising awareness and knowledge of gender equality for TUAF’s students. At the beginning, the project would conduct survey of male and female students on their awareness of gender equality. Then, reputable experts would be invited to discuss gender equality with students. In addition, during her exposure to gender equality studies, she recognized that talking about gender equality was not effective, some actions should be done.

As the Natural Resources Management Faculty relates closely to technical activities, one duty of Dr Thuy and her colleagues is to connect students and enterprises through internships and job opportunities. However, all companies they contacted wanted to receive only male students using such excuses as: the job requires long distance travel, arranging accommodation for female workers is more difficult than for their male counterparts, women’s health is not as good as men’s health, etc.

Previously, Dr Thuy would answer directly to female students: “I think you should find jobs which are near your house, or at your district. We tried to connect with some companies but it’s impossible.” However, after the course she recognized that she unwittingly ignored equal opportunities for female students. All students are educated equally, but female students are unable to get access to internship opportunities as their male classmates.

Dr Thuy then persuaded companies to arrange some internship position for her female students. If some companies were reluctant, she would say: “If female students are not accepted, then we will reconsider whether our male students should to be sent to your company”. As a result, some companies provided appropriate jobs for her female students, who showed strong ability and determination to contribute to the company.

Gradually, enterprises were willing to provide internship opportunities for more female students. Some were offered a job right after graduation and succeeded in their positions. For example, one female student, Ms Tuyet actively took responsibility for undertaking the whole process for issuing land use certificates for a whole commune – a massive workload. Her boss told Dr Thuy: “Your female students take the initiative and lead activities to their completion, they are braver than male students!”

“A leader should create and use networks effectively. In my role to support female students, I opened my network of enterprises and companies in the industry. I shared my thoughts and ideas with the university leaders, faculty colleagues and received enthusiastic support. They introduced me to other companies in the real estate sector to open the network, bringing more internship opportunities and giving me more “advantage” during negotiations with employers about giving equal opportunities to female students,” said Dr Thuy about the impact of her course in Australia.

Dr Vu Thi Thanh Thuy
Dr Vu Thi Thanh Thuy

Success requires a lot of commitment and dedication

She has heard many meaningful stories in Australia. For example, there was a factory recruiting both male and female workers. However, the factory was located in an unsafe area, thus female workers might be harassed at night time. If this situation continued, many female workers would have to sacrifice their jobs for their own safety. However, if we installed more lights, and established a bus route to this area, female workers could work night shift without any concern.

During a visit to the Australian House of Representatives, the instructor told them story of a woman who went through a lengthy struggle to gain the right to vote for women. She wore a raincoat and held a banner at demonstrations although many threw rotten tomatoes and eggs at her. More extremely, she chained herself to a chair in the Australian House of Representatives to promote women’s right to vote.

That night, Dr Thuy read more about the case and was impressed by the saying of an advocate for gender equality: ‘Women and men are treated equally when they commit a crime. Why a decent, respectable mother or wife does not have right to vote as a drunk man does? This experience made her recognize that talking about gender equality is not enough, it requires a lot of commitment and dedication.

To Dr Thuy, the most difficult gender equality issue relating to women’s awareness in her faculty and university is the thinking: ‘The situation is good enough, it is not necessary to strive further.’ Previously, she used to have the same thinking, such as: ‘I don’t need to be a leader, being a lecturer is good enough.’ After receiving a lot of encouragement from her friends and family, she gradually believes that she can do everything as a male colleague can if she changes her mindset. The terrible thing is that women do not change their own thinking but wait for others’ encouragement.

Dr Thuy hopes to spread awareness about gender equality to more people. If possible, she hopes young male colleagues in her faculty will be sent to courses on gender equality and amplify gender equality messages to a wider community.

“I think that if we approach gender equality by only talking about awareness raising it is not effective. If we think and work together, change our tactics in negotiating with enterprises, gender equality will be improved. At this moment, about 50% of our female students are in internships or working at reputable companies” said Dr. Vu Thi Thanh Thuy.

Source: Translation of an article on Education and Times Newspaper

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