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Gender seminar offers insight into barriers for women’s progression to leadership

 

Australia Awards alumnus Pham Viet Ha, one of the four presenters at the “Strategies for Promoting Leadership Pathways for Female Australia Awards Alumni in Vietnam - Findings and Options” seminar (Hanoi, June 20, 2015), believes that gender equality is in the interest of both men and women and dialogue for mutual understanding is the first important step.

The event was opened by Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, HE Mr. Hugh Borrowman and attended by Australian Embassy officials, who joined the alumni to discuss factors affecting women’s career progression and strategies for promoting their leadership pathways in the workplace.

HE Mr. Hugh Borrowman

Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, HE Mr. Hugh Borrowman

The focus of discussion was an Australian Embassy-commissioned study (December 2014). Among its findings, the study revealed that barriers for professional women in their progression to leadership positions in the public sector in Vietnam included women’s self-belief and esteem, cultural conceptions by both men and women of leadership being a male competency and household factors such as women’s care responsibilities’ for children, the ill and the elderly’.

On the other hand, enabling factors for women were “having a supportive spouse,” a woman’s confidence, the work place supporting women to study overseas, supervisors supportive of women’s career development and the presence of female role models in senior positions.

Four presenters at this seminar included Dr. Suzette Mitchell, a Gender Specialist of the Australian Embassy, Ms. Mia Urbano, DFAT Regional Social Development Specialist of the Australian Embassy, Dr Le Thi Thuc, Australia Awards alumnus and Deputy Director General of Department of Training Department, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and Ms. Pham Viet Ha, Director of Studies, Oxford English Academy Vietnam.

From left to right: Dr. Suzette Mitchell, Ms. Mia Urbano, Dr. Vu Xuan Nguyet Hong, Australia Awards alumnus, and Ms. Simone Corrigan, Second Secretary, Australian Embassy.

From left to right: Dr. Suzette Mitchell, Ms. Mia Urbano, Dr. Vu Xuan Nguyet Hong, Australia Awards alumnus, and Ms. Simone Corrigan, Second Secretary, Australian Embassy.

The seminar proved to be a big success with Australia Awards alumni, who gave positive feedback on the event. Altogether 93 alumni were present. One outstanding feature was that the seminar attracted more senior alumni than many previous events. Sixty percent of the alumni participants were 35 years old and above. This could be attributed to the seminar subject which is a very topical issue for professional women.

Pham Viet Ha said she thought highly of the above-mentioned study and the support from the Embassy and the Australia Awards Program in creating opportunities for alumni to further develop their skills and leadership career path.

“I am not a gender expert, only a woman interested in learning and writing about gender issues. Gender inequality has its roots in culture and history, especially shown through traditional beliefs of the roles of women. The report indicated clearly that the obstacles for female alumni existed in their families, office and social environment and I totally agreed with these points. I only would like to add that the most important obstacle for women is in their own viewpoints of gender and women’s and men’s roles in the household, at work and in the society. Only if you respect your gender, rights and interests and are capable of practicing this respect can you convince other people,” she said.

Ms Pham Viet Ha

Ms. Pham Viet Ha (left) and Ms Nadia Krivetz, Counsellor (Political) of the Australian Embassy.

Having a successful career herself, Ha offers some recommendations for both genders. “I think equality is in the interest of both men and women. Therefore dialogue for mutual understanding is the first important step to lead to adjustments in the family, at work and in the society. For example, not only men need to understand and empathize with women but women also need to understand and empathize with the expectations that men have to shoulder. From my own experience, dialogue is never easy, but it could bring about big changes in removing obstacles in the household and at work. Inequality cannot be removed overnight, neither can it be overcome by right-or-wrong arguments or one-sided words. Equality itself is not an absolute notion, it carries both emotions and commonsense, and not commonsense alone. I believe trying to have the equality at the highest level while accepting the reality is very difficult but necessary,” she said.

Group photo

Participants pose for a group photo.