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Best Practice: Promoting Gender Equality and Sustainability for Entrepreneur Women in Central Vietnam

The Southeast Asian Region (ASEAN) has seen an increase in female-led businesses in the last decade, and Vietnam is one of the countries that have increasingly invested in entrepreneurship, with women playing an important role in Vietnam’s transition economy over time (Bui, Minh Tam, and Trinh Q. Long, 2021).  However, the profound impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on women around the globe has also contributed to a gender gap in the country, as entrepreneur women struggled to keep businesses running. In the case of the tourism industry, the multiple lockdowns imposed since 2020 led to large job losses, as international tourism plays an important role in the Vietnamese tourism industry (Da Van Huynh et al, 2021). The response of the country to the reopening of international travel began in 2022, and together with other areas of the economy affected by the pandemic, there was a need to boost the sector with different economic plans, for example, extending visa-free periods, and investments in inbound tourism.

In this context, the province of Thua Thien Hue in Central Vietnam, which was the old capital of the country during the Đàng Trong and Nguyễn dynasty periods and is now a popular tourist destination, has also been impacted by the crisis in the industry. Addressing societal challenges already present in the region, Technological University Dublin and Hue University developed a programme of mentorship for entrepreneur women working in tourism in the region, called Sustainable Agenda for Gender Equality in Tourism and Hospitality: Promoting Entrepreneurial Pathways for Women in Central Vietnam – SAGETH. funded by the Irish Research Council in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs of Ireland. This project was led by Dr. Denise O’Leary, Head of the School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology at Technological University Dublin, and in Vietnam by Dr. Lien Tran Thi Ngoc , Vice Rector of the School of Hospitality and Tourism of Hue University.

Hue Imperial City, UNESCO Heritage Site, Photo: free licence, Benjamin Wong, Unsplash.com

 

The project addressed this by focusing on the provision of career development tools and skills to support women entrepreneurs in tourism. The mentorship programme aimed to address societal challenges related to women’s participation, inclusion and equality in local economies, with the development of mentorship sessions and a career development programme for aspiring and existing female entrepreneurs from the Hue region.  This programme counted on an evidence-driven approach in collaboration between partners to promote strategies and engagement actions for empowering women working in tourism and narrowing social inequalities for a sustainable future.

Dr. Lien Tran Thi Ngoc answered a few questions related to this initiative, and how it has impacted participants in the region.

 

Could you talk a little about women’s participation in tourism and hospitality in the Hue region?

‘’Women’s participation in tourism and hospitality in Hue is a matter of concern, as the industry now faces more challenges than before the pandemic. The statistics show that before the pandemic, only 16% of enterprises were led by women entrepreneurs in the region. This indicates that women’s participation in leadership and management positions in hospitality and tourism is relatively low, and the numbers may have been affected by the pandemic as well. However, we are hopeful that with mentorship programmes like SAGETH, more women will be encouraged to take up leadership roles and start their own businesses in the field of hospitality and tourism.’’

 

Can you also talk about how was the response to the mentorship programme, and how it may have positively impacted women wishing to develop a business in tourism in the Hue region?

‘’The response to the mentorship programme has been overwhelming, and we received an excellent response from local entrepreneurs in hospitality and tourism who have expressed their interest in participating in this initiative including Ms. Ho Suong Lan (Viet Orchid Travel Co.), Ms. Nguyen Giang Thanh (Vietcharm Co), Ms. Chau Thi Nho (Garden Chill Farm), Ms. Truong Hoang Anh Tuyet (Me Ly Farm Stay), Ms. Do Ngoc Quynh Chau (Hue Lotus Tea). The programme provided mentorship sessions to aspiring and existing female entrepreneurs in Hue who are interested in starting or developing businesses in tourism. The mentorship programme played a crucial role in guiding women in the industry and provided them with the knowledge and skills they require for long-term sustainability and success in their entrepreneurship journey.

The mentoring program helped the mentees to define their path and build bigger visions, as well as providing assistance in business administration, determining the business model, and directing their business strategy. The mentors identified gaps in the mentees’ business plans and redirected their business orientation, provided crucial knowledge and filled the necessary gaps for future success. As a result, the mentees gained valuable business experience and developed the ability to think bigger, creating a clearer path for their business and their employees.

Entrepreneurs greatly benefited from the SAGETH mentoring program. The program offered customized mentorship and guidance to fill specific knowledge gaps, and thereby empowered women entrepreneurs in the central region of Vietnam. By providing resources and promoting gender equity, the program helps to narrow social inequalities and creates a more sustainable future for entrepreneur women.

 

SAGETH Mentoring Programme Workshop, July 2022, Hue University. Photo: School of Hospitality and Tourism, Hue University.

 

Could you give an example of a participant entrepreneur, and how the mentorship programme was relevant in developing skills for her business?

‘’Through the SAGETH mentoring program, entrepreneurs receive customized mentorship and guidance to fill specific knowledge gaps. One participant who stood out to us was Ms. Tuyet Truong Hoang Anh, who owns a farm stay in the south of Thua Thien Hue province (named Vuon Hong Me Ly). Due to the pandemic, she was struggling to promote her business. However, through the mentorship program, she learned how to utilize online platforms and social media marketing strategies to promote her business. The mentor gave her specific directions that aligned with the main purpose of her project and included activities such as renewing the houses, planting trees and generating more income for local people who live in the area. Additionally, the mentee learned how to create unique experiences showcasing local culture and traditions to the customers, leading to increased bookings and revenue for her farm stay.’’

 

Will there be follow-up actions for the development of the mentorship programme and/or other programmes related to this initiative?

‘’The next actions for the development of the mentorship programme are to broaden its scope and include more women entrepreneurs in the region of Central Vietnam. We also plan to collaborate with more stakeholders in the region to create a supportive environment for women in tourism and hospitality to expand their businesses and create more job opportunities for the local community. Additionally, we aim to establish a strong network of mentors and mentees who have completed the mentoring programme to provide them with ongoing support and promote knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer mentorship.’’

 

This blog has highlighted sustainable social skills, such as leadership and business management, self-awareness, communication and networking skills, aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals of Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth and Partnerships for the Goals. We would like to thank Dr. Lien Tran Thi Ngoc for her insights and example in supporting entrepreneurship pathways for women in Central Vietnam. TU Dublin also would like to thank the Irish Research Council for funding this initiative.

 

By Fernanda Rabelo, Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology, Technological University Dublin

 

 

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