Global Perspective: Inspire Network Seeks To Increase Female Presence In Vietnam’s Corporate Realm

According to Voice of America, Vietnam has joined a global business network in a push to boost the number of women in its corporate boardrooms. Female executives, along with UK officials and a headhunting firm, gathered in Ho Chi Minh City in October to launch the Vietnam branch of the Inspire network. The business forum connects women across nine countries through “networking events, coaching and peer-to-peer support,” according to Inspire’s brochure.

Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf (second from left) meets REE Corporation CEO Nguyen Thi Mai Thanh, one of Vietnam's most famous business women.

Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf (second from left) meets REE Corporation CEO Nguyen Thi Mai Thanh, one of Vietnam’s most famous business women.

Vietnam’s decision to join the initiative in increasing female occupancy of the corporate realm is both exciting and expected.

The Inspire Network perfectly illuminates the atmosphere here in Ho Chi Minh City. Restaurants, food stands, market stalls, clubs, language centers, private tutor circles – most of these businesses are functioning and flourishing largely on behalf of the work and dedication of ambitious, progress-seeking women.There is an undeniable growing female prowess here; girls are choosing to study hard and make something of themselves. But as we’ve seen in the US, there is still a clear a male-topped hierarchy overwhelming the corporate level. My [all female] employers are in charge of me but 9 times out of 10 still reporting to a male superior.

Take the English Language Centers here for example. These are very lucrative businesses allowing Foreign Teachers to often make more money than any other non-executive professional. It is true that these centers are predominantly female run from Teaching Assistants to Student Care Workers to Teacher Quality/Campus Managers. But one step higher higher on the corporate stairs and this female prevalence suspiciously disappears – slowly at first and then full stop.

In other words: where the physical institution ends and the business begins, Men are still the top dogs. They have the final say, they are the “rich ones,” at least when it comes to big moneymaking industries*. But Women are there, and they are close. I believe that the Inspire Network is simply taking the natural next step towards changing this hierarchy. Women are being shown where and how to gain experience at the next level and I cannot imagine a better thing for a country already equipped with strong, natural born female leaders.

*Volunteer programs are a different story. Almost every volunteer program/nonprofit I have been involved with or introduced to here has, interestingly and unfailingly, been headed by a woman.


Slide1Katherine Bailey grew up in Winchester, Massachusetts with her two brothers, sister and mom and dad. She is 25 years old and passionate about traveling. She graduated from Winchester High School in 2007, studied at UCT in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010, and graduated from Bates College in 2011. Katherine lived in South Boston, MA and worked in Cambridge for EF Education First from 2011-2013. Katherine has been living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam since the fall of 2013. She is currently teaching English ESL with VUS in Gò Vấp District in addition to private tutoring. While in Asia she has traveled to Cambodia, Myanmar and Singapore. She is looking forward to visiting Thailand, China, Nepal and India this coming fall!
Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Read more from the author: Katherine’s WiLab Profile