In a post-war Vietnam, there was a huge amount to uproot some of the most oppressive aspects of patriarchy during the middle of the 20th century. Wife beating was publicly condemned, and child marriage was outlawed. Female emancipation was enshrined in our Constitution: “Women enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life: political, economic, cultural, social, and familial.”
The need to fight for equality however, has continued. As a country, Vietnam is poised to address this as the country has a long history of having to stand up for itself, and women have played an active role in doing that. This has made Vietnamese women more emancipated than in other parts of the region. For example, two of the most famous figures in Vietnamese history are the Trưng sisters who led a peasant army against Chinese invaders during the first century AD and then proclaimed themselves as queens.
More recently, the struggle for independence did a huge amount to change women’s lives and their perceptions of the role they should play. North Vietnam built one of the largest contingents of women ever to fight in a war. They stood up to the challenge in every single way when the country needed their involvement. They ran supply lines, acted as spies, and made many of the rudimentary weapons from bamboo. But many fought and held those guns, too.
The presence of strong women throughout Vietnam’s history has been a constant, one that has built up to the moment we are in now, where more Vietnamese women are assuming leadership roles in the business world than ever before.
Most well-known may be Mai Kiều Liên, who turned state-owned dairy company Vinamilk into a foreign portfolio investor’s favorite company. In 2012, she became the first Vietnamese woman to enter the Forbes list of the fifty most powerful in Asia. Then there is engineer, Nguyễn Thị Mai Thanh, who worked her way up through the ranks to become chairwoman and CEO of home appliance, construction, and real estate company, REE Corp. In 2014, she entered the rankings of Forbes Asia’s 50 Power Businesswomen. The country also has a self-made female billionaire: Nguyễn Thị Phương Thảo, who founded Vietnam’s second largest airline, VietJet Air.
It’s a reminder – especially in an era of #MeToo and other progressive movements – that women are key contributors and valuable participants in all aspects of life from family to academia and business. However, as much as #MeToo is an empowering movement for women, we must not forget to include men in the conversation. I understand that I am the person I have become because of both my parents. My mother loves and protects me. My father supports me by challenging me to realize my potential. He believes that at THP, regardless of our gender, we all can overcome our predefined limitation to be better every day. That’s the reason why I started the #StandTaller movement, a movement that calls for women to challenge their self-imposed limits to reach beyond. But we are not excluding men from the narrative. On the contrary, we invite them to be part of the story with five simple yet powerful words “Do I have your support?” We as women can do so much and we can do even more with men who want women to be the best that we can be.