RMIT Vietnam NewsSenior university women negotiating promotion hurdles

Senior university women negotiating promotion hurdles

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - 17:43
Dr Susan Mate’s research compares the experiences of senior women working in universities.

Women in senior university positions in both Australian and Vietnamese universities experience similar barriers and supports in their career pathways, research by an RMIT Vietnam team has found.

Dr Susan Mate and other academics have interviewed both Australian and Vietnamese women over five years, with the broad aim of providing guidance for mentorship programs for women to improve their career pathways in leadership roles.

Dr Mate, who recently returned to a position at RMIT in Melbourne, said the research is ongoing: “We are currently preparing a grant request from the Austranlian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to continue the project and hope to include women from the Philippines because many women are in promoted positions there.”

The team’s findings highlighted a dominant story about success and effectiveness and a counter story that communicated emotional and social constraint.

Women of both nationalities describe relationships as critical to their development.

“They find it’s who you know that counts,” Dr Mate said.

“But also, women in Vietnam said there was a difference between working in private and public universities.

“In private universities the government system had less impact and relationships were less important but nevertheless critical.

“Women in public universities in Vietnam provided examples of many systems that inhibit development; they have found barriers to women’s progress and promotion in those universities.”

For Australian women limitations around choice and career identity are a key barrier; a woman’s capacity to exercise choice depends on her level of seniority.

“There, women in senior roles experience less choice and more barriers,” Dr Mate said.

“The senior management group reflected on their experience of being part of a minority group.”

The researchers found increasingly as the interviews continued that women spoke about learning from their situations and how the system works: building resilience, adapting, becoming part of a professional group, building formal and informal knowledge, recognising difficulties and obstacles.

The research will continue, with academics from Macquarie University in Australia joining the team in the near future.

  • Other RMIT Vietnam academics contributing to this research are Dr Matthew McDonald, Professor Arthur Morgan, Truc Do Nguyen Thanh and Professor Ray Gordon.

Story: Sharon Webb