As we continue to explore the multifaceted world of women in Vietnam, we share more remarkable stories. On Vietnamese Women’s Day, we are privileged to share the stories of these remarkable women who embody the harmony between tradition and contemporary dreams. Each of them adds a unique element to the vibrant mosaic of modern Vietnam.
Individually, they’ve defied traditional expectations, proving conventional roles do not limit them. Together, they are formidable and unstoppable.
They personify strength, determination, and unwavering spirit. Today, we celebrate them, giving them the platform to share their dreams and how they’ve defied society’s expectations of traditional women. And truth be told, we need more days like this — not merely for celebration and recognition, but above all, to amplify their voices.
‘Always Learning, Never Stopping’
This woman had a dream in high school to become a journalist and advocate for social issues, particularly the well-being of women, children, and animals. However, she realized that words alone couldn’t achieve this, leading her to a different path in public relations. Ivy Nhi Chau now collaborates with like-minded individuals to create content and stories that promote important causes, spreading them far and wide through various channels.
In her role at Ivy+Partners, a culture-focused PR firm, they offer pro bono support every quarter for projects and campaigns dedicated to social causes. Her goal is to use her firm’s expertise to help brands and organizations share life-changing stories with the community.
One piece of advice that has inspired her is from Beyoncé: “I’m not alive unless I am creating something. I’m not happy if I’m not creating, if I’m not dreaming, if I’m not creating a dream and making it into something real. I’m not happy if I’m not improving, evolving, moving forward, inspiring, teaching, and learning.” This quote motivates her never to stop growing and exploring her full potential.
Despite her good fortune with a supportive family, Ivy is aware of the traditional expectations placed on women in Vietnam. “Women’s worth and success has historically been based on their marriage status and if they can have a good husband,” she said. “It’s not the case anymore, I think each woman can define what success means to them and their personal goals. I think every woman should have the freedom to prioritize different things that are important to them in different stages of their life.”
She hopes to change the perception that Vietnamese women are expected to sacrifice their desires and dreams for the sake of family. She encourages women to prioritize themselves and pursue their aspirations.
To her, Vietnamese women are symbolized by silk. Lãnh mỹ a, a special Vietnamese silk, has the unique ability to provide warmth in winter and coolness in summer, much like the strength and flexibility of women. Silk is known for its elegance, resilience, and the intricate process of its creation, just like the women of Vietnam.
If she were to host a dinner party with inspirational women from history, the PR guru would serve traditional dishes from her hometown in the Mekong Delta. Her guest list includes notable figures such as the last queen of Vietnam, Alicia Keys, Princess Diana, free diver Alessia Zecchini, and Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, CEO of Vietjet Airlines and Vietnam’s first female self-made billionaire. She’d ask her guests what dreams they would pursue if they were free from all responsibilities and weren’t famous for their current achievements.
‘Nurture Compassion and Mindfulness’
Lê Phạm Ngọc Dung shared her secret dream from childhood, wanting to become an artist. She loved drawing and playing with colors, winning several drawing competitions. Unfortunately, as she grew older, focusing on studying replaced her passion for art. Dung found wisdom in the lyrics of a song called “Kỷ Niệm” (Memory) by Phạm Duy and sung by Thái Hiền. The song’s essence of simplicity, innocence, and tranquility reminds her to stay true to herself and nurture compassion and mindfulness.
Dung defied expectations by initiating a conversation on a dating app, ultimately leading to a meaningful relationship. She emphasizes the importance of both partners actively contributing to relationship growth.
Regarding stereotypes about women in Vietnam, Dung wants to challenge the misconception that women are the weaker gender. She believes women should be empowered to pursue their interests and dreams, even if it means disregarding societal expectations.
To represent the strength and resilience of Vietnamese women, Dung draws a parallel between a bicycle and women’s perseverance in navigating life’s challenges. “Cycling demands concentration, skill, and perseverance to reach your destination—qualities that mirror how Vietnamese women strive to uphold their personal and family lives, adapting to whatever twists life throws at them,” she said. “Alternatively, I picture a determined young woman at the gym, vigorously cycling to stay fit. In either scenario, I find this symbolism both true and interesting.”
For a dinner party with inspirational women from history, Dung’s guest list includes the iconic beauty Kieu and the renowned female poet Ho Xuan Huong. She would serve a variety of traditional Hue cakes, such as bánh bèo and bánh lọc. Dung admires Kieu’s fate and Ho Xuan Huong’s poetic creativity, desiring to learn more about their inspirations and express her admiration.
‘Involve Men in the Conversation’
Amélie Huynh Le Maux had a secret dream that she’d always yearned to pursue. In high school, she aspired to become a journalist, driven by the desire to raise awareness about social issues and support causes related to women, children, and animals. However, societal expectations often pigeonhole individuals into distinct categories – you could be logical or creative, but not both. Amélie felt this dilemma deeply as a millennial in France, where she eventually chose to study science, a difficult decision.
Yet, the course of one’s life can change, and time can unlock hidden aspirations. At 41 years old, she has carved out a dedicated space for creativity in her home. It’s a reminder that dreams are ageless, and sometimes, it’s about letting go of imposter syndrome and embracing personal aspirations. Amélie has uncovered a new secret aspiration, one that’s filled with artistic exploration.
In 2016, she made Vietnam her home. During that year, she took on the role of co-organizer and communication manager for the Saigonella Art & Music Festival. Presently, she is the Communications Manager of AIP Foundation.
Wisdom can be a guiding light in one’s journey, and for Amélie, it’s the advice she received from her mother: “You are the one who has the solution.” Her mother’s method of guiding her involved not telling her the answers but asking questions that helped her find solutions. This lesson in self-discovery has stayed with her throughout her life.
Amélie had her own experience challenging traditional gender roles when an employer jokingly inquired if she planned to become pregnant. While it was presented humorously, she was taken aback by the negative undertone regarding pregnancy in the workplace. In response, she approached the topic with humor and steadfastness. It’s a reminder that women aren’t defined by motherhood and shouldn’t be expected to hide or downplay this aspect of their lives. Modern women shouldn’t feel ashamed about pregnancy. This incident highlighted the need to raise awareness, particularly among men, about changing attitudes towards women in the workplace.
One of the perceptions Amélie would like to challenge in Vietnam is the assumption that women lead because they manage households and family income. It’s a stereotype that obscures the broader spectrum of Vietnamese women’s experiences. In reality, many women face challenges and are subject to societal pressures. To challenge this, she believes in a comprehensive approach beyond women-focused programs.
“Of course, we have to stick together to make things change,” she shared. “But what is the point of attending women’s events with only women audience? What is the point if we are not also convincing men instead of them still seeing feminism as a threat and not as equity?”
In an imaginary dinner party with inspirational women from history, both within Vietnam and beyond, Amélie would opt for a diverse spread of international snacks, allowing inclusivity while ensuring a good supply of cheese and wine. Her guest list would feature remarkable individuals, such as Neri Oxman from MIT Lab, Vietnamese rapper and singer Suboi, and authors like Sandrine Roudaut.
“The one question I am excited to ask? I like authenticity, so I think it will come with the flow… or maybe ask them what they would ask the other women in the room.”
Born and raised in France to Vietnamese parents, it’s safe to say Khanh-Linh Le is obsessed with chocolates. And it has been a dream come true for her to find purpose in something she loves. “I’ve been lucky to fulfill some of these dreams through The Cocoa Project,” she told Vietcetera. “It means working with cacao and chocolate, something I’m truly passionate about. I’ve assembled a team, founded a company, and built a brand, all of which allow me to contribute positively to the world through a sustainable project.”
“Focus” is what’s keeping her on the right track. “Think about the one thing you want to achieve, the one thing you will contribute, and that matters to you. Make this your obsession and chase this relentlessly. The rest is a distraction.”
Asked about a moment she defied expectations and challenged gender roles, Khanh-Linh said, “Every time I find myself in a conflictual situation or a negotiation.” She has to resist the urge to be too agreeable. This can be uncomfortable but necessary. It’s relatively straightforward when it’s about defending her team or company, but it becomes more difficult when it’s about preserving herself.
Khanh-Linh envisions changing the perception of women in Vietnam. She acknowledges a lingering stereotype among certain individuals, one that unfairly portrays Vietnamese women as materialistic and motivated by money. She believes this stereotype exists because Vietnamese women are independent, self-reliant, and unafraid to seek financial stability to support their autonomy and families. This stereotype reflects a global issue where women are often hesitant to request pay raises, unlike their male counterparts.
In the hypothetical dinner party, her guests would be Greta Thunberg and Mira Murati, the CTO of OpenAI that develops ChatGPT. She would ask Greta and Mira how artificial intelligence can save the environment from collapse.
‘Eliminate All Stereotypes’
Thuy Thu Nguyen, the General Manager of Networld Solutions, an AdTech company that’s part of the Networld Asia Group, reflects on the wisdom she’s received from another remarkable woman: Helen Keller’s quote, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.“ This reminder encourages her to look beyond surface appearances, prioritize empathy, and recognize the importance of understanding and compassion in a world often focused on the visible and tangible.
When asked about her secret dream or aspiration, Thuy notes that she has always pursued what she wants and given her best effort in everything, so she doesn’t have a secret dream that she hasn’t attempted to pursue.
She also shares a moment when she defied gender expectations, highlighting the challenges of traditional roles during Tet holidays, where women are expected to handle household chores while men entertain guests. Thuy advocates for true equality, emphasizing that everyone should have opportunities to showcase their talents and pursue their dreams.
“In my opinion, we shouldn’t necessarily strive for complete equality or try to pigeonhole people based on their gender,” she said. “Men and women are different, not just in terms of gender, but also as individuals. We all have unique strengths, weaknesses, personalities, and preferences. So, achieving a one-size-fits-all concept of equality is practically impossible.”
She discusses stereotypes, she expresses her desire to eliminate cultural norms that restrict women to specific roles and expectations. According to Thuy, “No one, whether they are women or men, should be limited or restricted by the cultural and societal norms that dictate how they should be or what they should do as women or men.”
She chooses bamboo to symbolize Vietnamese women’s strength and resilience, she chooses bamboo. Bamboo’s diverse qualities, such as strength, adaptability, and gentleness, align with her perception of women who can embody various qualities beyond fixed definitions.
In a hypothetical dinner party with inspirational women from history, her main course choice is fresh spring rolls (Gỏi cuốn). Her guest list includes Margaret Thatcher, Queen Nam Phương, Trưng Trắc, Trưng Nhị, and Cleopatra. She’s eager to ask them a thought-provoking question: “If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be, and how would you make that change?”
To read the first part of this series and discover more inspiring stories, click here.