RMIT celebrates the strength and innovation of HERpreneurship

RMIT celebrates the strength and innovation of HERpreneurship

Vietnam has experienced a remarkable upsurge in women entrepreneurs who are defying the odds and establishing themselves as a driving force behind the country's economic growth.

According to a 2022 report by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vietnamese women own 22 per cent of all enterprises in the country, a proportion comparable to developed nations like Sweden, Singapore, and France.

However, the global pandemic has impeded advancements in gender equality. The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2021 highlights that the time necessary to bridge the gender gap has increased by 36 years within just 12 months due to COVID-19, projecting an estimated 135.6 years to achieve global gender parity. This indicates that closing the gender gap still requires significant progress.

To promote a culture of gender equality in entrepreneurship and celebrate the achievements of women business leaders, RMIT Activator in collaboration with The Business School’s academics from the Entrepreneurship major at RMIT recently held an event titled "Empower HERpreneurship".

The event presented 10 exhibitors who showcased the products and services of women-led startups and an engaging panel discussion featuring prominent female figures. 

An exhibitor at the “Empowering HERpreneurship” event An exhibitor at the “Empowering HERpreneurship” event

Dr Justin Xavier, Senior Manager, International & Projects at The Business School, RMIT Vietnam recognised, “Women entrepreneurs are increasingly championing social impact, environmental sustainability, and ethical leadership, making a positive difference in their communities and beyond.”

RMIT Senior Program Manager for Human Resource Management and Entrepreneurship Dr Jung Woo Han added, “Gone are the days when female entrepreneurs settled for small or minor businesses. The female founders in our showcase are living proof that women-led startups are making remarkable strides in innovation and boldly establishing internationally recognised brand names.”

Attaining such milestones, however, necessitates continuous commitment to innovation and immense perseverance.

As emphasised by Ms Van Pham, the founder and CEO of Emmay JSC, a producer of mushroom-based products, "Innovation does not occur instantaneously; it begins with small, repeated steps taken every day.”

“Only 20 companies in the world have the technology that we have. Our mycelium technology is not inherently complex, but it demands years of unwavering dedication. It took 1,000 experiments to ultimately achieve success."

In 2022, Ms Van ranked among the top 30 globally in the FoodTech Challenge organised by the UAE government.

When asked about the uniqueness of HERpreneurship, she highlighted the inherent caring nature that women possess, and qualities such as listening and nurturing that set women apart in the entrepreneurial realm. 

Panellists at the event Ms Van Pham (second from right) shared her entrepreneurship story.

Ms Xuan Nguyen, an RMIT alumnus and the co-founder and COO of audiobook company Fonos, added that one advantage women have is that they constitute most consumers worldwide.

“With their empathetic and attentive approach, women entrepreneurs can better understand and cater to the perspectives of female customers, a viewpoint that men may find challenging to fully grasp,” she said.

“This positions women with substantial potential to establish successful enterprises by effectively addressing women's needs and solving their problems.”

She advised aspiring female entrepreneurs to embrace their strength as a female entrepreneur instead of trying to emulate their male counterparts.

Ms Xuan recounted, "In my twenties, I tried to change myself to be more masculine, thinking I needed to be dominant and aggressive to fit in while working with men. However, I soon realised that this was a misguided approach.”

“I learned to be true to myself, to find balance, and it brought me much greater happiness. Moreover, I recognised the unique advantages that I, as a woman, could bring to the table,” she said.

RMIT students attended the “Empowering HERpreneurship” event. RMIT students attended the “Empowering HERpreneurship” event.

The female founders also acknowledged the unique challenges that women entrepreneurs face in their startup journey. It was evident that despite progress, women still encounter significant societal biases and gender stereotypes.

Ms Van recalled the early days: “On a daily basis, I would enter a room filled with men who would gaze at me with perplexity, as if I were an outsider. Their questioning eyes seemed to imply, ‘Why aren't you in the kitchen? Who are you to discuss technology or build a globally recognised brand based on Vietnamese ingenuity?’”

The panellists highlighted that one of the significant hurdles is the risk of succumbing to a victim mindset and grappling with self-doubt. Women entrepreneurs face dual challenges: not only must they persuade others of their business potential, but they must also believe in themselves.

To conquer these obstacles, the female leaders emphasised the importance of maintaining a heightened awareness of these perceptual barriers and building confidence through learning and education.

Speakers and members of the organising team at the “Empower HERpreneurship” event Speakers and members of the organising team at the “Empower HERpreneurship” event

Ms Xuan shared her personal journey of envisioning a banh mi chain inspired by her grandmother's legacy. Her ambitions were to create something on a scale comparable to KFC.

“Even though I could make a good product, I didn’t know how to build and run a business, like how to read financial statements, build a website, manage the logistics, and so on,” Ms Xuan shared, adding that the Entrepreneurship courses at RMIT later played a pivotal role in equipping her with crucial skill sets and the right mindset to build and grow successful businesses.

Dr Jung Woo Han added: "60% of students who study Entrepreneurship at RMIT Vietnam are female students, which is much higher than the women participation in entrepreneurial activities (22%) in Vietnam. I have full confidence in a brighter future for women entrepreneurs in Vietnam and the region".

If you are keen to explore RMIT's Business programs or Entrepreneurship major, visit The Business School website.

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