Vietnam’s women beat other SE Asians in running companies

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VietJet Air CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao speaks behind a model of a VietJet aircraft during an interview in her office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, January 10, 2017. -- REUTERS

VIETNAM is a bright spot for gender diversity in Southeast Asia, with a recent report showing the country has a higher representation of women serving as board directors and chief executive officers than Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Some 25% of CEOs or board directors in Vietnam are women, according to September data from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Women hold 14% of CEO or board level positions in Malaysia and 10% in Singapore. Indonesia came in last among the four countries, at 6%.

“Women in Vietnam lead or own many SMEs and large enterprises which provides positive, visible and diverse role models to other women,” said Ian Grundy of Switzerland-based employment firm Adecco Group AG, the world’s largest provider of temporary workers.

More women in Vietnam, compared with Singapore and Malaysia, are also hoping to be promoted, the BCG report found based on surveying more than 2,000 employees. Malaysia has the largest proportion of female respondents who intend to stay in their current roles.

Beliefs that hinder gender diversity include the misconceptions that promoting women comes at the expense of meritocracy, and that company growth and transformation are more urgent priorities, the report said.

According to another study by Deloitte in June this year, 17.6% of board members in a survey of 50 Vietnamese companies were women. That’s more than double Asia’s average of 7.8%, with developed nations such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea ranking among the bottom in the region. Women comprised 13.7% and 10.7% of board members in Malaysia and Singapore respectively.

Emerging countries outperform developed countries in Asia in women’s representation on company boards, said Adecco’s Grundy. Vietnam’s progress in gender diversity is partly due to measures by government and businesses to retain and grow female talent, he said.

“Having said that, it is important to remember that Southeast Asia still lags behind Europe and North America,” said Grundy. “And globally we are still some way from achieving optimal gender diversity, which means there is continued effort required from all stakeholders in the region.”— Bloomberg