IRELAND AMBASSADOR IN VIETNAM:

"HARMONIOUS PICTURE AT WORK - WOMEN AND MEN SPEAK THE SAME VOICE"

Một phụ nữ Hà Lan tiêu biểu, bà Nienke Trooster - Đại sứ Hà Lan tại Việt Nam, đã nghĩ về người Việt nói chung và phụ nữ Việt nói  riêng như thế nào, với kinh nghiệm hơn bốn năm sống và làm việc tại Việt Nam vừa qua

Biên tập: Nguyễn Kiều Vy 

  1. Interviewer: Thank you Ambassador for your time, joining us in our new sort of very exciting but very humble effort to bring in the woman in different fields, different sectors, different ages, different workplaces. But the most important is we are getting together in some you know simple and we call cost-effective platform so we'll be able to share our opinion, our insight, our experience, and our story about our workplace, relationship with different partner, organisations anywhere that you feel like that you know people skills, people to people relationship actually affecting those relationships. So we would love to hear from you in some of the you know we call fascinating stories that will be able to share with us that our audience is female you know leaders, female professionals, female practitioners so simply goes in some of them name themselves female wage earners. We're going to see how we see the life in work not just life in life but life in work and how to make sense based on experience we can share with each other. So please give us some time and with your own story.

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  3. Ambassador: Great. Thanks so much for asking me to take part in a really great initiative. So I'm the Irish ambassador and I have been in Vietnam for nearly 3 years and it has been enough to live in Hanoi and to get to know so many Vietnamese people and to travel around the country. Maybe one of the interesting things for me in terms of my general getting to know Vietnam has been how present women are in the workplace. Though in comparison to the other places that I have lived or in comparison to my own country Ireland, it is very high proportion of women in the workplace at every level. And I have always been struck by how hard working business women are at all levels, be it at the management board, the CEO level, or the informal sector where you see people are working very hard and women are working very very hard. And I think the interesting thing that I have found was that first of all, we can learn a lot of lessons in Ireland about just how active women are particularly in areas like business, starting their own business is brave enough and women are taking on the risk of business. But I also found the more that I talk to business women particularly women organisations, women business organisations, civil society partners that women are entering, they are doing business, they are working hard but they are also working hard at home and they carry very heavy responsibilities. So as they enter the workforce that doesn't mean that they put their feet off when they go home. They work very hard when they go at home. I often have a lot of conversations with businesswomen how do you balance; you know it is always the question of how you balance family life and workplace. And with me, women seem to do that by working, sleeping very late and working very hard (Interviewer: at any mean). Yes, yes, and I thought that is for me towards question you know that what conversation that we are having with the man of my life, son, and male friends and male colleagues about how do we balance such a little bit. I think we have done a little bit of work in our embassy here in Hanoi to try and see, you know we have an Irish Aid program here in the embassy, we support Vietnam in its development and gender equality is a mainstream to that program, a very important part of what we do and/but sometimes we found that was very important to us as a team, not just to look at external partners, but also take it back to our own office and see you know do we really understand what it means to have a gender equity workplace. Do we really understand the impacts that we talk? So we took some time out of the team and we got in .........and we look a little bit of maybe sometimes the cultural relationship between men and women in Vietnam. And also in terms of you know how can …...at home because I think unless you left gender equality, it is not something you can’t say loudly at the workplace or at home. It is so personal towards the issue. Sometimes that goes into a conversation which you might not normally have in the workplace so we start to talk about what to practice at home and if we work hard all day, and what happen at the time when we get home. It is really interesting conversation flows in, you know, different attitudes between different generations and also really challenging conversations about what would we be like for kids and what kind of future do we want for them, you know, if we want our daughters not to carry the same burden that our women are carrying today, what do we need to do to change that? So I think, you know, something like gender equality at workplace particular you need to make time to have that conversation.

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  5. Interviewer: So making time and involving even your staff in the Embassy to participate and take an observation to see how work life balance for women actually works in Vietnam and then bring out the gender equity at the very practical level. I love it, it's amazing. And so what is the key observation and actually can streamline with different efforts that I understand that Irish Embassy is one of the leading agencies helping so many organisations and companies in Vietnam working on gender equity among many others. So what is the key backbone or observation that you actually mainstream with the gender equity work in Vietnam?

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  7. Ambassador: Well, I think for us it's been very important to take a leadership approach so we report to our department in foreign affair ministry in Dublin, the minister and the head of our department will take a particular interest, and take a leadership role on gender equity. So this year we launched a gender equality and diversity plan, a strategy. We just had the first networking event for LGBTI people working in the embassy and I think that senior level leadership has allowed our embassies around the world, but also our departments to allow ambassador and embassy team to now treat it as our priority and sometimes I think gender can get lost. It is something we know it is a good thing to work on but it gets ........ by other priority issues. But we have very clear directions within our team and from Dublin that this is the priority. So we put it in our business plan. (Interviewer: that's very important) And then from the team here I guess what we are trying to do you know in particularly with our work day was to make it about the whole team so all of our male female colleagues and all of our staff or support staff or drivers and our support team our senior management team, every body came on because I think every body has a really important role to play. And it is very important to hear every body's voices and to allow enough space to do that so it is kind of working bottom up with the whole team, men and women are both engaged, both have different roles and then getting back by .........

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  9. Interviewer: But that is also a long way to go and then to get engaged with so many people and then so many levels at the same time. I'm very interested in to see with this is so many efforts, so many programs out there where we see that there are some you know so many programs for gender equity He for she, the best work to protect women in sexual harassment. Some cases was just came back to some of very interesting statistics saying that women in Vietnam are already empowered with a lot of people already in the leadership level, in some other cases that we were looking at some case with very a lot of audits provided by big organisations saying that there are no sexual harassment at workplaces that we are babbling to. And some other places said that there is a big firing you know lay off women especially woman from 30 to 35 has been everywhere but then suddenly some leaders said that it does not happen in some big organisations, like free foreign invested companies for example. So the need of having those statistics actually influencing you know people's mindset because right now we're getting so influenced by what people post on Facebook or newspaper, giving people such a really confusing and sometimes overwhelmed. How we should look at different efforts and what is truly the problem in order to perceive it. It is still the issue that we have to address and then going to put into priority because you already see it, your embassy already see it, your staff understands it. How to make similar or different organisations see as the priority when out there are information or statistic kind of misleading?

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  11. Ambassador: Yeah, and I think you know it's really important that we have a good evidence base and good data and I think government has the responsibility around that, certainly in my own country it very focuses on towards gender equality mission and our human right commitment and having good data so that we can make decision. But even with good data, it takes time to make changes. I think the differences is to look at what happens if you do nothing and what happens if you do something to try to drive change. So, yes, absolutely getting good data but not being overwhelmed by it because sometimes I think it can be difficult with the volume of data and maybe misleading data, but that shouldn't stop us from taking action. I think in relation to if we say for instance in Ireland, in our department, we have a problem with not enough women being in senior leadership position, we have an imbalance, we have you know (Interviewer: you can see it) you can see it, so the data tells us that there is 30% of women in team leadership position. And we realise within our managment team that if we do nothing, it is going to take 100 years to change that. So we need to be proactive, and ready to take specific actions that will enable women to progress into senior leadership position and to retain them and to make an enabling environment for women progress. Here in Vietnam, there........ labour force at the moment and I think that is the key opportunity to look and see how we can particularly in the political sphere and in public services encourage and provide an enabling environment for women to progress. One of the areas have been identified as a big issue is retirement age and equalisation of retirement age that women have the same courier window, isn't it? And I think we encourage by education so that it is the objective of the Irish Embassy and Irish government to look at equalisation and the path toward that and I think that will make a huge difference.

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  13. Interviewer: Yes, I definitely agree with that. So going back to our flow of thinking of how to study from your story, the way to engage different people with different levels different education into some of the very you know new and very challenging journey is to looking at gender equity. How you engage different people, especially Vietnamese, you know, like you said staff and we point out in so many, you know, stories when we work in different levels different working environments, seeing that so many things we can list out as a Vietnamese workforce. One of them is always the blame game. Seeing that we, especially women I can talk about myself about that, sometimes I feel that I cannot get to what I want, some of the goals that I planned, I want to be perfect at work and then at home I want to be a perfect mum and wife and I cannot do that and I excess stress and I complain all the time, I blame something. So that is just one of the examples and in very daily life we talk to each other. So how we can get away from that negative feelings because that obviously impact what we are having and how to get through the fact that we have to work with so many people to do something, you know, just one of the examples, it is talking about some challenges that you have when you create with kind of journey or efforts.

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  15. Ambassador: Well, I think, you know empathy and understanding is really important so you need to be able to put your thoughts on somebody else's shoes. One of the, I guess, way of trying to address it in our team was to say how do you engage everybody on the issue, men and women and so we use a couple of like fun techniques like role playing, so we set up a scenario where everybody took a role so we step away from our own role and we step in to maybe a situation where an older member of the family had difficulties with the younger member of the family going to study abroad or taking of a new exciting opportunity on a basis of the girl and she should stay home and it is too dangerous for her to go abroad and I think it was really, first of all, it was very funny because we have different people think (Interviewer: just like men putting some belly thinking he is pregnant and telling us his feelings. I see some of the movies, some of the TV shows lately actually getting to that point).

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  17. Yeah, exactly, you are putting yourself on someone else's shoes. I think it is a really good way. And then, I think you need to work on net getting angry or getting frustrated. I think sometimes, you know, there are a lot of things in gender equity like "oh you should get men's job" and you should. But we also need to engage women to manage expectations with one another because there can be a tendency for women to not to have the conversation to say we can't, you know, we can't do it all or either not to be enabling themselves. I think it was Madelein Albright who said there is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women. So I think we have a special responsibility as women but also men to have special responsibility because gender equity is not a woman issue, it is a human issue.

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  19. Interviewer: So it is just based on I think it is a perfect idea on role playing but obviously look at what we have at work. Let's think about that if the role playing when you did at the embassy already have some efforts in order to change a person really take time if there if there is .. ......put in their hat. How you could identify those actually not really buy the idea of gender equity but then of course he is still participating and how you can identify the individuals who are not getting in it? So later we would be able to engage that person. How specific you know effort would look like?

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  21. Ambassador: Sometimes I think people need to be incentivised you know into understanding why to the issue and I think that very data can come in very usefully so if you look at it in the business context, you know why it is important to you know women in senior leadership to qualities to women bring that are important and I think on a business corporation, that connect is really powerful and incentives for change because actually it make economic sense.

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  23. Interviewer: Oh that is exactly a perfect sense because to be honest, we've been doing so far with a lot of campaigns with a lot of political pressure and a lot of you know work has been done in order to tell the business or business owner business leader about why you have to do good, why you have to treat your employees in a good way, why you have to sometimes to bring into gender equity. And economic sense sounds to be the perfect fit when actually the people from the side need to speak the language that the business actually talk so we have to bring in the concept of cost of any of risk or conflict or any problem and they see if there's any gap between in gender equity happening. It's come up with the the real problem that the company can not see, you have to measure and put in US dollars and EUD and Vietnamese and when they put it on the table they will see. So what you have just suggested actually totally you now understand what we are thinking, really inspiring to hear that from you as well. So I think that's really exciting that do you know gender equity is coming to Vietnam starting become something really cliche, something you talk about it and truly do what it means but all the efforts come from embassies, your embassy and then other organisations actually get it with us now it is very familiar terms and is getting to real work. So you know which is like among all the work you've been doing and I understand I could get it from you, this hasn't still you know the world of work changing and it's really changing really fast, new challenge come after challenge and what is your advice what is your piece of advice for you know Vietnamese you know women, mostly at work, mostly who are struggling, who are still struggling, who if they are lucky enough to watch the clip with you, your advice in here, they will be able to find some way out? to thrive? not just survive at work. So what is the piece of advice from you to them?

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  25. Ambassador: I think it's important to be confident in yourself but not too big because you're a woman that you need to adapt into a male work environment and I think that can have a huge shift in terms of thinking patterns that women should be expected to adapt to the male business world. Women may often think in slightly more creative ways and that is something very important, very valuable. And they should see themselves as an agent to change and not feel that they have to compete with men. It shouldn't be a competition; it should rather be a corporation. And the other point can be that don't think that you have to be perfect everyday at home and at work.

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  27. Interviewer: That is really important, keyword about not going to be too perfect. That's what I see every single woman is struggling to be, becoming so perfect at any mean and that actually I realise it maybe happen to me as well. It's one of the issues that we have to go through and thank you very much for that. Actually that was really a good advice for all of us. It was good seeing that sense because you know if we don't really believe in ourselves we cannot change and then we cannot do anything for ourselves first. And then this is a platform called Woman for Women, which actually put the power of woman in the sense that knowledge is power and if we have more knowledge about what we're saying, what we are compatible with men, we can collaborate with them otherwise it is going to be competing or running or hiding or avoiding. It is not collaborating so it is such a really good set-up advice and we would love that we have more women at work will understand this message and it's really get into their real work and life and make it balanced or make it great, not perfect but great.

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  29. Thank you very much Ambassador for your time and your wonderful thoughts and insights. And all the best to your time in Vietnam and thank you again for all your support and continuous contribution for the development in Vietnam.

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