For nine years, the United Nations has designated February 11 as its International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This is a subject, which is very close to my heart and one that THP strongly supports both in terms of our internal employment and external sponsorship.
The international day promotes the full and equal access and participation of females in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). All of these subjects are integral to THP’s success both across core functions such as R&D and digital transformation and within nearly every single individual department, from procurement to accounts.
And I’m pleased to report that women fill a number of our key STEM roles. One outstanding example is last year’s benchmark IT project – overhauling our procurement operations through the implementation of SAP Ariba. The lead was Lê Thị Minh Hằng, ably assisted by a second female colleague, Đỗ Ngọc Hà, who took charge of project co-ordination.
As the female successors to THP, both my sister Bích and I are keen to promote women in STEM. This is one of the reasons why we are the sponsor of Vietnam’s Golden Globes Science Technology Award and the Vietnam Female Science and Technology Student Award.
The latter award, held in December, comes under the Ministry of Science & Technology in collaboration with the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union Central Committee. It honours 20 female students who have excelled academically and published key research in prestigious journals over the award period.
In some respects Vietnam scores quite well when it comes to women and STEM. We have some incredible role models including Phan Lương Cầm, who made her name as the first female professor at the Hanoi University of Technology and will turn 80 this March.
Both she and her husband, former prime minister, Võ Văn Kiệt, demonstrate that it is possible to combine incredible achievements in their careers – he for overseeing Vietnam’s economic re-opening during the 1990s known as Đổi Mới and she for her work in the electrochemistry and corrosion fields – and a happy home life.
This is an important point to consider for young Vietnamese women: many still get put off from extending their academic studies beyond the first-degree level because of pressures to get married and have children when they hit their late 20s. Vietnam’s former first couple show that it is possible to have both if you find a supportive partner.
This familial pressure, which has its origins in our Confucian society, explains figures compiled by the global consultancy McKinsey. These show that while females account for half of Vietnam’s bachelor degrees, the figure drops to 30% when it comes to a master’s degree and 17% for doctorates.
However, on a regional basis Vietnam scores well. World Economic Forum figures highlight that while the average female participation rate for STEM-based researchers is 23.4% across Asia Pacific, it is 44.8% in Vietnam.
It is well known that Vietnamese women have not been able to completely overcome gender stereotypes in the workforce when it comes to technical jobs. But this is changing and at THP we are determined to lead the charge.