FemaLEAD – Empowering women and girls

“I alone cannot change the world. But I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. Changing perceptions of women’s leadership is a problem that cannot be solved in the short term, but if we don’t start, no change will be made.

Photo: FemaLEAD

Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama once said “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.”

One of many activities organized in Vietnam to boost female leadership in concurrence with Ms. Obama’s view is the FemaLEAD - Vietnam Young Women Leadership project.

It is a project that empowers Vietnamese female students to become future leaders through incubating potential female student program, social media campaigns, talk shows and summit. The project aims to change Vietnamese female university students’ perception of women leadership and empowering them to become leaders in their future workplaces. 

As many as 100 outstanding female students saying “Good morning, FemaLEAD” in chorus opened the Inspiring Women Summit, part of the FemaLEAD project to encourage future female leaders. The project, sponsored by the US Embassy in Vietnam, was started in April, 2020, and targets female university students who are about to graduate and enter the work environment, according to VOV.

Huyen Trang, the project’s secretary, elaborated “There have been some awareness raising campaigns for women in Vietnam, most of which have focused on disadvantaged groups such as women in remote areas or married mothers who have no job.

Those are very practical projects but might take quite a long time to achieve their goals. Meanwhile, we have noticed that there has been little attention paid to female students, who are well educated and equipped with the necessary skills to be future leaders of the country. Therefore, we decided to create this project to raise their awareness and refine their leadership skills.”

Several project activities were organized ahead of the Inspiring Women Summit in November, including talk shows called “She Can” that took place at several high schools and universities, at which successful female key opinion leaders shared their experience. There was also a mentoring program in which 24 outstanding students had an opportunity to work with and learn from 8 female influencers leadership skills such as time management, team building, and networking. Then the mentees were divided into 4 groups for a Seeding Fund program that gave them financial support to carry out small social projects.

Photo: FemaLEAD

Phung Thi Kien Luong, who worked on a project called “Empower”, was happy about what she learned from the project.

She shared “Our small project aims at providing female students in vocational schools with hard skills and soft skills to give them more future job opportunities. As head of external affairs for the group, I found the skills I learned in the mentoring program very helpful.

For example, in practicing networking skills, I met another mentee who was very suitable for our project and later invited her to be a key member of our team. My dream is to work in the field of education management. After participating in this project, I feel more confident that I can choose my own future occupation and achieve my dream.”

The Inspiring Women Summit wrapped up all the project’s activities. Themed “Leader in heels”, the event invited famous key opinion leaders and successful businesswomen to share their thoughts on leadership. MC, Youtuber Mai Trang said her core message is this: Before trying to lead anybody else, a woman should become the leader of her own life, starting by eliminating all limiting beliefs.

She explained, “Many of my followers and subscribers are women, and they have a lot of limiting beliefs. I see a lot of power and potential in each and every woman I have met. I think if they can believe in themselves and empower themselves to overcome their limiting beliefs, they can become superwomen.”

Bui Kim Thuy, a member of the Harvard–Asia Pacific consulting board, says confidence is the key to leadership in any circumstance. “I urge everyone here to grab all your confidence and step out of your comfort zone without bothering about any prejudice against you," she said, "The sky is your limit. Whether men or women, we have the right to become a better version of ourselves day by day. That is the greatest leadership quality that anyone can achieve.”

Summit participants got to sit down and discuss with each other and the 8 mentors of the project issues involved in the pursuit of leadership—financial management, gaining startup experience, enjoying your life to the fullest, nurturing your creativity, and much more. Involved with the FemaLEAD project from the beginning, mentor Do Thu Giang, co-founder and Vice Director of the Green Generation Joint Stock Company, is optimistic about the future female leaders she has met. “I’m impressed with both the organizers and the participants of this project," she said.

"All of them are outstanding, well-oriented students with specific plans for their lives. They are eager to learn and ask a lot of questions. Although their small projects were carried out within just a couple of months, they have already helped the community to a certain extent. I have strong belief in this young and dynamic female generation,” she added.

Thuy Quynh of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam shared her thoughts after the event “I initially thought this event focused only on obstacles for female leaders, but it actually took us to the fundamental cause, which is leading our own lives. I’ve learned that we don’t have to reach for something far away, but can start practicing leadership skills on the most basic things in our lives. That way, we can prepare ourselves to be great leaders in the future.”

Thanh Ha