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Wednesday, 26 October 2016 10:08
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Gender dimensions in the current institutions and policies for female intellectuals

(LLCT) - The Communist Party of Vietnam always attaches great importance to the advancement of intellectuals, including female ones. In this article, female intellectuals include those who graduated from colleges and universities, now working in the fields of social sciences and humanities, science and technology, health care, education and training, literature, arts, or holding leadership and management positions. 

1. Female intellectuals as seen from the perspective of gender dimensions in the viewpoints of the Party, laws and policies of the Vietnamese State

Gender equality has become the consistent guideline and policy. The Party has clearly stated: “It is necessary to form a staff of highly qualified female scientists and female leaders and managers who are capable of meeting the demands for industrialization and modernization”(1). At the same time, the Party Central Committee has set out a number of objectives to be met by 2020 as follows: In Party committees at all levels women should make up 25% or more out of the total number of cadres; the rate of female deputies in the National Assembly and People’s Councils at all levels should rise from 35% to 40%; and women should be included among key leaders in agencies and bodies where women constitute over 30% of the workforce.

The Party’s policies on women’s employment and the advancement of female intellectuals-which have been institutionalized by legal norms and policies of the State-form a mechanism and legal corridor for the advancement of women and have promoted gender equality.

Article 63 of the 1992 Constitution stipulates: “Women and men have equal rights in all respects-political, economic, cultural, social and family life. The State and society are responsible for raising the political, cultural, scientific, technical and professional standards of women, and constantly improving their role in society”. The 2013 Constitution clearly states: “Male and female citizens have equal rights in all fields. The State shall adopt policies to guarantee the right to and opportunities for gender equality. The State, society and family shall create the favourable conditions for women to develop comprehensively and to advance their role in society. Gender discrimination is prohibited”. Thus, gender equality is not only a goal, but also an opportunity for women’s comprehensive development. They should promote and contribute their multifarious talent and wisdom to the general development of Vietnam. As for female intellectuals, working in an environment with guaranteed gender equality will have happiness and be of great encouragement; they can become innovative and dedicated to work.

To realize the Party’s resolutions, a number of laws consistent with the  viewpoints on gender have been issued, such as the Law on Marriage and Family, the Labor Code, Civil Code, Law on Gender equality (2007) and the Law on the Prevention of domestic Violence (2008). Specifically, the Law on Gender equality states: “1. Men and women are equal in access to and application of science and technology, 2. Men and women are equal in access to science and technology training courses, and to the disseminated results of scientific research, inventions, and patents”.

Legal instruments of the State of Vietnam reveal new and progressive points in the effort to implement gender equality as follows:

i) The concept of “women in development” has been replaced with the approach of “gender and development”.

ii) The National Program for Gender equality has defined clear, quantifiable targets for women in the workplace. The supervision and implementation of gender equality, including supervision of the process of guaranteeing women’s rights in political participation have been tracked by surveys and comparative data. This attention is important for the effort to implement gender equality laws and ensure women’s rights in political participation in Vietnam.

iii) Some laws and decrees(2) provide sanctions for any violation of legal regulations concerning gender equality, clearly defining the responsibilities of agencies, organizations, and individuals in implementing and ensuring gender equality.

Vietnam’s current vice President is a female professor and doctor. The proportion of female deputies of the 12th National Assembly, while fewer in number than projected, have higher education levels compared to previous tenures. Specifically, 91.34% of female deputies in the 12th National Assembly (88.9% in the 11th NA) have university degrees or higher, of which 32.28% have post university degree while 59.06% of them have university degree. Legal regulations and State’s policies on this issue have changed the gender composition of the contingent of intellectuals.

The number of female Vietnamese intellectuals has developed rapidly. Female intellectuals now work in almost every scientific field in the country. At the same time, they significantly contribute to the overall national development. Thus, the position and role of female intellectuals is acknowledged and honored by society. However, compared with stated requirements for contingents of intellectuals, the number of female scientists engaging in research and especially the number of women in leadership and management positions is still not large enough. At higher levels, this proportion is actually declining.

2. Barriers to female intellectuals as seen from the perspective of gender

Regarding institutions and policies, there are many studies revealing instances of gender inequality regarding female intellectuals, such as the followings:

First, the legal age of retirement differs between men and women.

The Labor Code defines that the age of retirement for women is 55, while for men it is 60. This difference of 5 years has strongly impacted the career of women, particularly female intellectuals, right from their employment in the State sector. Specifically:

- They are disadvantaged because they have less time than their male colleagues to show creativeness and to be promoted in rank.

- There are different rules for the ages of men and women involved in training and capacity enhancement courses, and in the rotation of cadres (a criterion for the planning or election of cadres). It is this gender distinction that forms barriers to the advancement of women and forces women to aim for training and promotion 5 years earlier than men. They also have to fulfill the function of being a mother without any special considerations.

- This legal regulation also forces women to retire while they are still able to demonstrate creativeness and effective dedication to their work. When the retirement age of female intellectuals was determined, gender policies were not thoroughly grasped by this regulation (here the retirement age of female workers in general is excluded). Now, conditions have been improved and science and technology have developed to the point where most female intellectuals aged 55 to 60 are still heathy enough to continue working. They also generally have more time and can devote their best efforts to research objectives and political activities, considering their diminished family burdens. Moreover, this is an age of maturity and creativity in female intellectuals because they have already accumulated knowledge and practical experience. Even at this age, many female intellectuals are working as leading experts in scientific research and teaching as well. This unequal gender policy has led to a waste of brain power in scientific and political communities.

- Also with this regulation, female workers earn less income from wages and social insurance because they retire 5 years earlier than men.

Second, many guidelines and policies of the Party and State on gender equality have not yet been fully implemented.

- According to Guideline No. 15-HD/BTCTW dated 5 November 2012 of the Organization Board of the Party Central Committee, cadres must be young enough for two terms of office (10 years), or at least one term of office (5 years) before retirement in order to be considered. With this rule, women must plan their involvement in cadres before they have reached the age of 45, or at least the age of 50. To be appointed, women must also be young enough to work for another 5 years. Thus, female cadres and state officials at the age of 46 immediately lose the opportunity to be included into cadre plannings and cannot be appointed after the age of 51 (while men are appointed up to the age of 55).

In the meantime, Resolution 11-NQ/TW of the Politburo “Regarding the work of women in the period of accelerated industrialization and modernization” clearly states: “We should implement the principle of equality between men and women in terms of age limits for inclusion in cadre planning, training, promotion and appointment”(4). Thus, the provisions on the retirement age of civil servants do not guarantee this principle.

- In recent years, the Party and State have issued major guidelines and policies regarding women. However, the extent to which these important guidelines and policies are actualized remains limited. Many agencies and governing bodies do not implement the stated guidelines and policies, but no consequent sanctions are issued. This fact, to a large extent, has led to shortfalls in securing the staff of female intellectuals in scientific research and leadership and management positions in the country.

Third, the underuse of female intellectuals in scientific research agencies remains unreasonable. The structure mechanism in choosing candidates for election is a barrier to the advancement of women.

- Surveys of a number of scientific research agencies have revealed a common situation in the implementation of science and technology projects at all levels, especially at the state and provincial level: female intellectuals often play the role of supporter in these projects while male intellectuals direct them. Paradoxically, the scientific research capabilities and innovative capacities of women are not inferior to male intellectuals; there are many female scientists who can offer a high level of expertise in research.

The “deputy titles syndrome” for leadership and management positions in the political system is also common, which is mentioned in many surveys and studies.

The idea of “male preference” is still seriously dominated in Vietnamese society, which has directly led to the current situation of gender inequality in assignments, roles, and assessments of cadres, limiting women’s capacity for enhancement and empowerment. As a result, a number of female intellectuals lack self-confidence and are not proactive in asserting their capabilities.

- From the political angle, female intellectuals are limited in their participation in Party committees at all levels. Meanwhile, “the structure mechanism” in the selection of candidates for election has become another barrier to women’s participation in the National Assembly and People’s Councils. For example, to ensure the diversified representation of candidates, this “structure mechanism” has outlined a system of various criteria for choosing political representatives. If a female candidate is selected, she must meet the set criteria of age, qualification, and ethnic background, among others. So, to be elected, women face many more challenges than men, and may even be eliminated by a male candidate that meets just one criterion during candidate selection. With this “mechanism”, it is clear that gender equality is not guaranteed.

Thus, barriers created by institutions and policies present a number of obstacles to the advancement of female intellectuals; their status and role in sociality is not currently being promoted.

In addition to institutional barriers, there also exist social barrier. It has been established that the engagement of female intellectuals in scientific research and political activities is heavily limited, and they may face negative reactions when they take on positions of leadership. The general perception of society still hold that the sacred mission of women lies in serving the family, primarily at home. These patriarchal ideas dominate both familial and societal thought. Moreover, envy amongst women themselves due to such a narrow pool of opportunities also makes the competition fiercer.

A survey in 2013 found that, among 2,400 replies from participants surveyed online, only 50% thought that women should be government leaders, economists or entrepreneurs. The numbers of men and women saying that these jobs are not appropriate for women were equal. According to this survey, 66% of young men expect that women should be good housewives, 63% expect that women should be laborious, and 33% expect that women should be tolerant(5). Social perceptions based on traditional gender roles are still profoundly imbued in Vietnamese society and create further barriers to the advancement of women, particularly female intellectuals.

3. Some policy proposals

To dismantle barriers created by various mechanisms and policies on female intellectuals, the following measures should be implemented:

- Reviewing, supplementing and adjusting the policies on women, particularly female intellectuals. Amendments to the Labour Code and laws related to social insurance and retirement of female intellectuals and the age of holding leadership and management positions for female cadres should definitely be considered in order to ensure the principle of equality between men and women in promotion and appointment age (according to Resolution No. 11 of the 10th Politburo).

- Continuing to implement guidelines and policies of the Party and State on the employment of female cadres and female intellectuals; raising awareness of people at all levels and sectors, especially heads of agencies and localities, regarding the significance and importance of promoting the status of female intellectuals. The Party committees and organizations should continue to guide and strictly implement the guidelines of Resolution 11.

Guidelines and policies of the Party and State related to women and female intellectuals should be strictly carried out to ensure gender equality; adding forms of strict discipline for heads of agencies if they do not appoint women as leaders of departments and offices of state agencies with over 30% female workforce. At the same time, specific rules should be made to reward heads of bodies if they have followed these guidelines.

- Studying and proposing new policies so that one candidate will not take on more than two “mechanism” to ensure fair competition.

- Incorporating gender viewpoints into the planning and creation of resources for female scientists, leaders, and managers at all levels in order to reasonably train, refocus, and utilize the contingent of female intellectuals.

- The Women’s Associations and Committees for women advancement at all levels should continue to study, advise and propose specific policies on forming and developing the contingent of female Vietnamese intellectuals during this period of industrialization, modernization and international integration. Barriers to female intellectuals must be targeted and overcome in order to create a favorable legal environment for women and favorable conditions for the development of female intellectuals and their role in Vietnam’s future development. So far, there have been no documents or specific policies from the Party and State specifically addressing this issue. Therefore, the issuance of such documents shall facilitate the removal of institutional barriers in policies and the guarantee of the principle of gender equality.


1), (4) Resolution 11-NQ/TW of the Politburo “Regarding the work with women in the period of accelerated industrialization and modernization of the country”, dated 27 April 2007.

(2) Criminal Law, Gender Equality Law, Decree No. 34/2011/ND-CP; Decree  No. 66/2011/ND-CP; Decree No. 112/2011/ND-CP; Decree 27/2012/ND-CP.
(3) Source w.w.w.hoilhpnvn.org.vn.

(5) UNDP, “Ready for success” - Training materials for potential female candidates in the 2016 elections, p.13.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Bui Thi Ngoc Lan

Institute of Scientific Socialism

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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