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Women Assert New Skills, Push Back on Work Culture Created by Men in Vietnam

Forkast News founder Angie Lau said there are certain skills typically associated with women, but they should be encouraged in men, too

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A woman works making candy in Ben Tre, Vietnam, where some say workplaces should embrace traits traditionally seen as feminine, such as humility. VOA

Be assertive. Speak out. Lean in. The world of work continues to tell women what they have to do to succeed in a hyper competitive business environment.

But some are getting tired of being told how to fit in, and in Vietnam some are now pushing back against these demands. They say the status quo is a work culture created by men, one that forces women to assimilate. In place of this, women are asserting new skills — like listening, or taking care of the group — that they think don’t get enough attention from employers.

“I want to become a leader like my mother, someone who both does well in my work, as well as takes care of my family, bringing up five children,” said Ha Thu Thanh, chairwoman of the accounting firm Deloitte Vietnam.

Male-dominant history

Forkast News founder Angie Lau said there are certain skills typically associated with women, but they should be encouraged in men, too. “The women here have the skills that are absolutely in demand for the economy that will be tomorrow — empathy, vulnerability, sensitivity, compassion, kindness, listening,” she said at a Forbes women’s conference in Ho Chi Minh City. “These are skills that we are not necessarily born with, but it’s actually encouraged and nurtured for women.”

Vulnerability and kindness are not obvious tools to get ahead in one’s career. But that could be an outdated product of history: Most office cultures were formed starting decades ago, at a time when women were shut out of many professions, leaving men to shape those cultures. Lau noted both women and men have been socialized to believe they naturally have different traits, that one gender is more authoritative, or that another is more emotional. So with men in charge for so long, it’s no surprise that offices came to favor traits considered masculine, from beating out the competition, to boasting of one’s triumphs.

Modesty, collaboration

But what if a company rewarded the modest, as well as the boastful? The competitive, as well as the collaborative? Women are challenging old ideas of what it means to succeed professionally. Instead of just changing themselves to fit the work environment, they are changing the environment to include them, to value a broader set of skills.

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Schoolchildren walk through a road in Hanoi. Advocates say feminism should be taught to any gender, such as by encouraging compassion in boys. VOA

​“Our goal is not to compare ourselves to men, our goal is not to be better or worse,” said Amanda Rasmussen, chief operating officer of ITL Corp, a logistics firm in Vietnam. “Use the things that make you unique, whether it’s being collaborative or empathetic or the ability to be real or the ability to care for those around you.”

Men’s responsibility

Advice like “lean in” or “be assertive” puts the responsibility on women to adapt to the way things already are. But Lau and others say men need to do their part, too. Murray Edwards College surveyed hundreds of women, who reported many similar challenges at work, from being interrupted at meetings, to being left out of business conducted over a round of golf. While women should speak up, men also should notice how they’re ignoring women in meetings and speak up for them, college president Barbara Stocking wrote in a Financial Times op-ed.

Vietnam has its own version of mixing business and golf. Business partners commonly strike deals at bars filled with paid escorts. To bond, colleagues “nhau” or go out for street beers. Both are activities that specifically exclude women.

“Women have to overcome more difficulties than men to become good leaders,” said Nguyen Thi Mai Thanh, president of electrical firm REE Corp. She cited the example of family limitations, not just needing to raise children, but being limited professionally if one’s husband or other family oppose “the career woman.”

Teaching boys

If power dynamics are changing, then globally this extends beyond business. In the U.S. some wonder if “win at all cost” competitiveness has made politicians polarizing and unwilling to compromise. In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern champions a politics of compassion, to replace cutthroat politics.

ALSO READ: Google Servers in US Cause Problems for Users of Snapchat, Youtube

To return to a more inclusive environment, think of what the next generation is learning, Lau said. What she’s teaching her son goes beyond old-fashioned gender paradigms.

“I, as a mother, must empower him,” she said, “make him understand the power of compassion, empathy, authenticity, vulnerability. These are the skills of the 21st century.” (VOA)

Next Story

Vietnam Comedy Channel Hits Youtube ‘Milestone’ in The Country

The Vietnamese comedy channel FAP TV has become the first YouTube account to hit the 10 million subscribers mark in the Southeast Asian country

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Youtube, Vietnamese, Milestone, 10 million, Subscribers
YouTube promoted its brand in Ho Chi Minh City with a panel with Vietnamese users. VOA

The Vietnamese comedy channel FAP TV has become the first YouTube account to hit the 10 million subscribers mark in the Southeast Asian country of nearly 100 million people, according to an announcement on Thursday from the Asia Pacific office of Google, which owns YouTube.

Vietnam has been one of the fastest growing markets for the video site, especially after Google invested in computer servers in the country, which have sped up streaming and download times. YouTube has also invested heavily in Vietnamese language content and advertising.

But the process has come with growing pains, too, most notably in the realms of taxes and censorship. The site has blocked videos with content critical of the government. While these actions are taken following requests from the state, YouTube says it follows the same protocol around the world when it gets requests from governments to take down clips. Videos have been blocked in countries from Algeria to Germany, with reasons cited ranging from hate speech to terrorism.

In its transparency report for Vietnam Google notes that it received a request from the Vietnamese government to remove 28 YouTube videos inciting violent protests during the Vietnamese Independence Day period (Vietnam’s Independence Day is September 2).  Google says it removed 12 videos for violating YouTube Community Guidelines that prohibit publishing instructions to commit violent acts. It restricted access to 4 other videos in Vietnam. The company did not remove the remaining 12 videos.

Google also appears to be complying with a new cyber security law in Vietnam, which requires foreign companies to set up representative offices inside the country. Some have speculated that one of the factors motivating the law is to ensure that multinational companies do not evade taxes.

Vietnam has been trying to collect taxes from both Google and YouTube, as well as other foreign tech companies that make profits from Vietnamese customers while declaring their profits to tax authorities in other countries with lower tax rates like Singapore. In contrast to a bricks and mortar store that sells bicycles, which are simple to tax, foreign tech companies tend to sell intangible services, like advertising attached to YouTube videos, which are harder to tax.

Youtube, Vietnamese, Milestone, 10 million, Subscribers

YouTube passed out branded cupcakes at a promotional event in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. VOA

“Aside from the matter of studying amendments to laws and regulations of tax administration, cooperation is needed between state agencies and industry,” Luu Duc Huy, head of the policy department at the Vietnamese General Department of Tax, told the government TV station, V News. “Second, cooperation is needed between the Vietnamese tax agency and other countries’ tax agencies.”

ALSO READ: Social Media Tend to Scrutinise Female Stars More Than Male Stars, Says Richa Chadha

Google has said repeatedly that it follows all laws in the countries where it operates.

It is not just Vietnam. Most countries from Thailand to France are trying to figure out how to collect taxes on YouTube and other businesses that physically operate beyond their borders but make money from citizens within the borders. As Huy noted, the solution is likely to derive from these multiple tax authorities coming together, as is now being proposed by the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (VOA)