I’ve previously discussed the increasing influence of women in the business world and even in Vietnam’s business environment. The inclusion of women within the highest roles of government, business and cultural organizations is both important and extremely beneficial. Across the world, more and more women are gaining the opportunity to pursue their dreams, whether as a career woman, a stay-at-home mother, or someone who tries to juggle both. And it comes from having women leaders as role models. Companies that want to be successful need to understand what makes women tick, as we are an equal part of the country’s workforce in terms of numbers, if not yet in terms of pay or prestige.
When I consider the position my sister and I are in, I know how very privileged we are to be stewards for the second generation of the Trần family at THP. We are emblematic of a shift that is taking place at family-owned businesses across Asia – and the world. These days it is often not just a generational transition, but a gendered one as well. I spent much of my book discussing how local companies can stand up to multinationals, but perhaps we also now need to find a new female name to replace David in the parable of the battle against Goliath.
Who we’ve become can undoubtedly be attributed to the teachings and guidance of our father; however, the example of our mother has made an indelible impact on us as women. She was a natural businesswoman with strong character. She came from a poor neighborhood and was determined to escape the fate of many of her contemporaries: getting married while still a teenager. While she was at school, my mother made money by writing articles and publishing them in a weekly bulletin that she distributed to other classes. She also rejected the advances of one smitten young man from a wealthy family, because she valued her independence so much.
My mother continued her studies, and after she completed high school, she entered university to study law. Sadly, her family’s financial circumstances meant she had to leave before she could complete her degree. At that point, she started her sugar stall instead, which would prepare her for the work she started with our father.
After she married my father, it was she who did the heavy lifting. He would produce the sugar, and she would be the one who carted it to market. Every day she had to carry more than a ton of sugar on her shoulders. Working has always been second nature to my mother. I was almost born en route to the hospital, as she had refused to take any time off work until she was actually in labor. One week after being released from the hospital, she was back at work again. The same thing happened with both my sister and brother.
My mother’s example of work ethic, optimism, and humility is what I strive to model myself for those around me. It is role models like her, and so many other amazing women, that strengthen organizations and entire societies.