In a world that’s ever-evolving, what does it mean to be a woman in Vietnam today? It’s not just about tradition but a fusion of old wisdom and contemporary aspirations. As we celebrate Vietnamese Women’s Day, the first part of this series features the stories of four remarkable women, each contributing a unique piece to the vibrant picture of modern Vietnam.
These women hold secret dreams close to their hearts, dreams that whisper to them in quiet moments. They’ve defied expectations, proving that traditional roles need not define them. Here, they talked about the wisdom they’ve gained from the women who came before them.
These women are symbols of strength, resilience, and unwavering determination. And they’re on a mission to challenge stereotypes, to rewrite the perceptions of women in this country.
As we journey through their stories, you’ll see that the spirit of women in Vietnam, whether native to the land or have chosen it as their home, is a formidable force to be reckoned with.
‘Deep Sense of Purpose’
Angélique Masse Nguyen, co-founder and CEO of NOI - Nữ theo kiểu của bạn, embodies the philosophy of “Be Unabashedly Visible.” This principle, rooted in embracing achievements and advocating for oneself, aligns with the #HypeWomen movement she passionately supports. Prior to starting NOI, Angélique served as the person in charge of raising funds and handling communication at Saigon Children’s Charity.
She already felt the call for a meaningful purpose from a young age. Her journey led her to a commitment to reducing inequalities, even when it meant challenging stereotypes about compensation in purpose-driven careers. There’s no other path for her, as her mental health and well-being rely on making a positive impact. She’s heartened by the growing movement advocating for sustainability and accessibility in such careers.
As the topic of changing perceptions and stereotypes about women in Vietnam arises, Angélique reflects on her experiences in France and the perception she’d like to challenge. In her home country, she couldn’t have had three kids like she does in Vietnam due to childcare costs. “What I love about Vietnam is how children are seamlessly integrated into our working lives, which has made it easier for me to be a working mother,” she shared.
“All my children have taken naps in my office, which would have been impossible in France. Not to mention, the maternity leave in Vietnam is three times longer. Every member of my team knows my children, and I know their kids. This inclusive environment has played a significant role in enabling me to fully embrace my career.”
We posed a question to each woman: “Imagine you’re organizing a dinner party with inspirational women from history. What would you serve, and what’s the one question you would ask them?” Angélique answered, “I would invite Huynh Nhu, Ali Wong, Amanda Nguyen, Taylor Swift, Simone Veil, General Leia, and all the girls I work with. We would eat ốc on a sidewalk in Saigon, and I would ask them, “What is your best strategy to overcome anxiety?”
Inspired by the movie “Fever Pitch,” Ha Minh Chau, a senior consultant at Great Place To Work, envisions a private coaching and counseling practice. She aspires to create a homely vibe for her services. She has informally pursued this dream in Hanoi and is currently conducting sessions in a cozy coffee shop in downtown Saigon.
Her guiding wisdom comes from the concept of “Disagree and Commit” versus “Disagree and Drop.” It emphasizes not letting ego interfere with one’s higher purpose and focusing on the end goal. This concept encourages her to stay committed rather than quitting when disagreements arise in pursuit of a shared objective.
Her experience in inclusive workplaces has spared her from feeling the effects of gender bias or inequality. She’s been fortunate to witness the silent, yet powerful, defiance of gender role expectations by successful businesswomen who manage their family and work obligations without advocacy. This “silently pursuing inner purpose” has become her motto, a philosophy rooted in performance and values-based behaviors.
She symbolizes the strength and resilience of Vietnamese women as an “Incubator.” This metaphor reflects the nurturing spirit of women throughout Vietnamese history, who played key roles in improving the lives of other women by imparting skills and knowledge. The saying “the man makes a house, the woman builds a home” encapsulates this role, highlighting the significance of women in families.
Chau’s imaginative dinner party with historical women features spring rolls as the main course. Her guest list includes influential figures like Nguyen Thi Sen, Princess Ban Tranh, and Marie Curie. Her curiosity revolves around the motivators and lessons these women wished to impart to future generations, making it an inspiring gathering for women of impact and history.
Motivated by a childhood dream of promoting peace and bridging gaps between countries, Rosi H. Trang Nguyen aspired to become a diplomat. However, she later discovered that traditional politics wasn’t her true calling. Instead, she embarked on a social impact journey, constructing an ecosystem centered on doing good, feeling good, and living good. This shift in her path allows her to fulfill her innate desire to create social change and contribute to the greater good.
Rosi received invaluable wisdom from a mentor: “Embrace your uniqueness and never apologize for being yourself.” This advice encourages her to celebrate her individuality, stay true to who she is, and express her voice confidently.
With a day to herself, Rosi would take her dog Poppi to the beach, teach him to love the water, and enjoy a relaxing day. She’d use this time to read the books she’d been meaning to read and do absolutely nothing else.
Rosi has defied traditional gender roles by being independent, earning more money, and taking charge of decision-making in her relationships. She believes in equality between genders and has challenged societal expectations in various aspects of her life.
“If given the opportunity to change one perception or stereotype about women in Vietnam, I would challenge the perception that women should conform to traditional gender roles and be submissive and dependent,” Rosi told Vietcetera. “I would advocate for equal opportunities, empower women in education and leadership, showcase their achievements, promote gender equality through education and awareness programs, encourage women to be assertive, and engage men as allies.”
To Rosi, the metaphor that symbolizes the strength and resilience of Vietnamese women is the lotus flower, which grows in muddy waters but blossoms into a beautiful flower. It represents Vietnamese women’s ability to rise above challenges with grace and resilience.
For the special dinner, Rosi would serve a fusion dish of Vietnamese and international cuisine, reflecting the diverse backgrounds of the guests. Her guest list includes the Trung Sisters, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart, Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, and Ellen DeGeneres. She’d ask them what advice they would give to women striving to create positive change and overcome obstacles in their lives.
‘Unapologetically Being Yourself’
Bambi Dang, a Vietnam-born entrepreneur currently living in Finland, dreams a future of living a nomadic lifestyle and traveling the world. Her love for travel and belief in the goodness of people led her to explore various countries, even in unconventional ways. At present, her primary commitment revolves around leading a startup with a substantial team, necessitating a stable base in Finland. She values her entrepreneurial journey and uses it to gain valuable experience while saving for future travels.
When asked about a piece of advice she’s received from another woman that has guided her, Bambi’s response offers a valuable piece: “You need to walk into any room with greatness.” It means being fully present, whether in a meeting, project, or any task at hand. This approach encourages wholehearted commitment, focusing on contributing, leading, supporting, listening, and following as needed.
Bambi admits that she used to spread herself too thin by juggling multiple startups, NGO projects, and leadership roles, resulting in burnout and harm to her projects. Consequently, she decided to step back from most leadership roles, concentrating her energy on her three-year-old startup,‘Finest Future.’
In her free time, Bambi enjoys going to a summer cottage in the forest to hike and pick mushrooms. It’s a meditative experience for her, allowing her to clear her mind and connect with nature.
Bambi defied traditional gender roles by proving her worth and breaking free from societal expectations. Despite coming from a small village in Vietnam where girls were often considered less valuable, she excelled in education, ran a successful startup, and traveled the world. She challenges the stereotype that some Vietnamese women may stay in unhappy relationships due to dependence on their spouse or the desire to save face for the family. Bambi advocates for women’s happiness and believes that awareness and education can empower them to pursue fulfilling lives.
She sees Vietnamese women as pearls, symbolizing their ability to transform harsh external conditions into something meaningful and beautiful, much like the loving heart that resides within them.
As for the dinner party with inspirational women from history, her main course would be food from Hue City. Her guest list would include notable figures like Michelle Obama, Carla Harris, Lisa Koshy, H’Hen Nie, Angela Merkel, and Malala. She’d be excited to ask them if they’d like to join her in a Women’s Circle to explore their inner pearls and empower other women to discover their pearls.
To continue reading the second part of this series, visit this link.