This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #breakthebias. It invites us all to imagine a gender equal world: one free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. One that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.
We all know that there’s some way to go in achieving this, particularly here in Vietnam. Indeed, it was very pleasing to see the government adopt a National Strategy on Gender Equality last year, as part of its efforts to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The policy aims to increase the participation of women in the workplace and encourage more female entrepreneurship. The government wants to increase the ratio of female directors, or business owners, to at least 27% by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
This should be a very achievable goal given that women are estimated to own about one fifth of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the country. THP is playing a leading role given that both my sister and I are directors of the company, plus we’re very happy that our mother recently decided to return to a frontline role.
My mother, Madam Nu, has inspired me for my whole life. And my understanding of her great people skills gets stronger with every passing year.
As I get older, I increasingly appreciate how kindness is a sign of strength, not a weakness. And not just in life, but when it comes to running a business too.
Mother Teresa once said: “let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” This perfectly describes my mother’s management style.
She has an incredible strength of character and steely determination. But she does not express this by bossing people around, bulldozing them in meetings, or expressing irritation.
She is firm, fair, but always gentle in her approach. Smiling comes naturally to her.
Because of this, THP’s staff members are happy to follow her lead and don’t get defensive when she offers constructive feedback. This means they are far more likely to take advice onboard and feel inspired to push forwards.
This is a highly effective way to manage people and my mother has been doing it all her life.
One story I love to tell is how she first made her start in business. This was as a sugar vendor at a wet market in Saigon.
There were plenty of other people plying the same trade. But my mother stood out because she remembered all of her customers’ names and tried to forge a personal connection with them.
People consequently liked to come and buy from her stall. She cemented this by setting up a proto-loyalty programme, giving loyal customers a little extra sugar or a free sample.
She is as much a part of THP’s success as my father. She is sugar to his spice, renowned across the company for the small touches, which people tend to remember, long after they’ve cashed their final pay cheque. Together they have always made a perfect team.
It’s often said that true empowerment comes from valuing your own worth. My mother radiates inner confidence. She is teaching me how to follow in her admirable footsteps #breakthebias #bekindtooneanother