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Tuesday, 17 January 2017 13:47
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The role and position of women intellectuals in sustainable development: Hindrances and solutions

(LLCT) - Given the development of the country, women in the workforce have not only seen a significant increase, but their presence has become an important source of power for national industrialization and modernization. Although women are so valuable, they are still heavily influenced by societal gender stereotypes which cause negative effects on the country’s development.

Firstly, most people believe that within a household, it is the women’s job to take good care of household chores and their children because they are women. According to a recent survey, women still take the main responsibility for household chores. As for housework in working female’s families, more than half the interviewees confirm that this work is done by the wife. Regarding food shopping, 84.1% of the work is done by the wife and only 2.5% is done by the husband. Only between 3 and 5% of women intellectuals say their husbands do housework(1). In intellectuals’ families, women still take the main responsibility for taking care of their family members’ health; the number of families where the wife takes care of her family members’ health and the sick doubles the number of families where the husband does the work (21% compared to 10.5%). The number of families where the husband takes the main responsibility for this work is very small (3%) compared with the number of families where the wife does so (22.7%). The number of families where the husband makes decisions for this work and personally undertakes it is even smaller(2).

Thus, quite a few people believe that housework and the taking care of family members’ health are women’s main responsibilities and that these chores should be prioritized over careers. Therefore, men do not often share these responsibilities with women properly(3).

A number of people do not trust women’s abilities and they believe that women should not and cannot do things such as scientific research or leadership or management that are defined as important or consequential. This is because those positions are seen to be “men’s jobs”. Society criticizes women for their lack of mental strength and decisiveness and thus concludes that they are unqualified to be leaders. There is a double standard place on women. However, women are mentally strong and tough; they blame them for not being feminine enough. This is an enormous pressure on women in the workforce.

The belief that men are suitable for leadership positions and women are for housework is still existent among leadership and management personnel. There are assumptions existing that equate women’s qualities and abilities with the stereotypes of the traditional woman, such as the characteristics of gentleness, gullibility, and dependency.

Leadership personnel’s idea of gender inequality does not only affect women already in the workforce, but also female college students who intend to enter the workforce. Upon graduation, these students have limited opportunity to apply for positions where they can challenge, train and prove their abilities. Most of them are offered jobs deemed to be women’s ones such as school teachers, secretaries and accountants. Work which is assigned to women intellectuals is often unchallenging or does not require much creativity or does not provide much room for self-improvement(4).

It is also because of the belief that women must take the main responsibility for housework and taking care of their families that quite few people have adopted a negative way of thinking, believing that women who find success at work usually fail at home because it is hard to achieve balance between domestic chores and work. Therefore, in order to prove their ability and get promoted, women intellectuals normally spend more time and make more effort than men as they have to be good at both domestic and social work.

Gender stereotypes are not only common among social groups but have also affected the awareness of women intellectuals themselves. They lack confidence in their leadership or management or lack effort to advance to important positions at work. Le Thi Dzung, a researcher at EOWP, said, “Women remain diffident about themselves and think that leadership or management are mostly men’s jobs. They tend to be complacent with their jobs and do not dare to do leadership or management work”. Even most capable women are still prejudiced against women. According to Pham Thi Tran Chau, President of the Vietnam Women Intellectuals’ Association, “Many women are very capable but hold obsolete views of the role of women and they are satisfied with their lives”.

Not only are some women intellectuals diffident about themselves but they also wrongly believe that women cannot perform well in leadership or science. Therefore, they are jealous of their women colleagues. As a result, women are faced with difficulty rising above themselves. “Quite a few women are satisfied with their lives or hinder each other’s development or do not try hard to be promoted to leadership or management positions”(5). This is one of the most important reasons on the part of women that have caused a negative effect on women’s promotion.

Secondly, women intellectuals are subject to pressure from ongoing women’s movements in Vietnam.

The current motto for Vietnamese women is as follows: “Excel at public affairs and housework and strive for gender equality”. However, this motto is quite an obstacle to women in general. They must take “double roles”, housework and social work. This means they hold two heavy responsibilities over their shoulders. Women intellectuals also need time to learn, carry out research and enrich their knowledge as well as time to rest and refresh themselves.

Women’s movements have assigned women these double roles and have tied them to household chores rather than encouraging their husbands to share that responsibility and other chores in the home with them.

Thirdly, retirement and appointment age policies are irrelevant to some extent.

There are legal regulations which protect women’s health and reproductive function. However, these regulations sometimes limit women’s professional development. This is especially the case with women intellectuals who desire such development and are capable of achieving it. Article 187, Clause 1, Labor Code of 2012 stipulates, “Employees who have paid social insurance for a legally required period of time shall be entitled to retirement pensions when they turn 60 years of age in the case of men and 55 years of age in the case of women”. As a matter of fact, there is a difference in retirement age between men and women; women retire five years earlier than men. This difference causes disadvantages for women intellectuals; it shortens their working time, thereby reducing the number of their pay rises and shortening the period of time where they can try and be promoted. Women intellectuals in general have a short period of time for promotion because they have to retire earlier. They have fewer promotion opportunities, lower total incomes and limited opportunities to contribute to society because they have retire at the peak of their careers(6).

In addition, women’s birth giving and child rearing functions also limit their promotion opportunities. Women have less time to try for promotion than men because they must spend time on birth giving and child rearing. When women focus on their careers, they are faced with age requirements when it comes to training, promotion and transfer. A researcher has pointed out difficulties facing women intellectuals from when they start work to when they retire. Between 25 and 40 years of age, women focus on birth giving and child rearing. When they turn 50, they have no opportunity for succession planning. This causes them to feel that they do not want to try harder. It is this irrelevant policy that makes women “stagnate” when they are between 45 and 50 years of age. This is the reason why women are not appointed because of age requirements for succession planning(7).

There is no consistency between the Law on Gender Equality and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which took effect in Vietnam in 1982, on one side, and the Labor Code and Law on Social Insurance, on the other side, regarding retirement ages for men and women, resulting in discrimination against women. It is the policy which allows women to retire five years earlier than men that has caused double discrimination based on age and gender. This inconsistency may neutralize efforts to achieve gender equality goals set by the national gender equality policy, particularly the goal of increasing the number of women in leadership positions.

The 21st century is witnessing nations’ dramatic changes, for better and worse. Seeking solutions for maximizing positive factors and minimizing negative ones for sustainable development is presenting a good number of challenges for nations. However, the main trend which many nations are following is tapping all resources, particularly high-quality human resources, implementing the “respecting intellectuals and talents” strategy and achieving equality between social groups and especially gender equality.

To increase the role and position of Vietnamese women intellectuals in the current sustainable development, it is necessary to focus on the following measures.

Firstly, there must be more communication efforts aimed at increasing the awareness of individuals and communities of the role and position of women intellectuals in socio-economic development and family building.

Party committees and authorities at various levels and socio-political organizations are to raise their awareness of, and sense of responsibility for, the position and role of intellectuals in general and women intellectuals in particular. It is important to fully grasp the Resolution 27-NQ-TW on developing intellectuals during national industrialization and modernization. Besides, it is necessary to increase communication of exemplary women intellectuals in various areas of society in order to affirm their role in national sustainable development. Importance must be attached to the communication of the Party’s guidelines and the State’s policies and laws concerning gender equality in education and training, scientific research, leadership, management, production, and business. Such communication needs to emphasize the role and responsibility of men and women in the family and at work. Gender equality is becoming a Millennium Development Goal and a driving force behind social development, equality, democracy and civilization. Such communication must be conducted through a variety of means including the mass media (especially television), clubs, conferences, and training courses.

Secondly, there must be policies aimed at using and appreciating women intellectuals and training leading women intellectuals and experts.

First of all, it is imperative to evaluate correctly the value of intellectual employees so as to pay them deservingly through salaries and state benefits. This must be considered to be a special investment policy. Accordingly, women intellectuals must be trusted, appreciated and used effectively. There must be guaranteed working conditions for creative work. It is important to avoid “diminution of grey matter” among intellectuals in general and women intellectuals in particular.

As for young women intellectuals with scientific ambitions and real abilities, they should be provided with time and material support so they can make full use of their capacity and intelligence in all areas.

There must be specific legal regulations concerning women intellectuals’ retirement age because they are a special class, according to Lenin. Their labor and products create special values which other classes don’t. The current retirement age regulations still discriminate against women intellectuals and in favor of men intellectuals as well as against women intellectuals and in favor of women civil servants, causing a huge waste of the country’s grey matter. Therefore, it is reasonable and necessary to prolong the time where women leading experts, scientists and intellectuals make mental contributions to their respective fields given the country’s ongoing integration. This policy needs to be legalized so that women intellectuals’ retirement age is the same as men intellectuals’ and women intellectuals’ resources can be used effectively.

Thirdly, women intellectuals should be provided with care and conditions so they can combine their familial and social functions.

Because of the characteristics of Vietnamese culture, regardless of the position or level in the workforce, the family plays an especially important role in their lives. Women intellectuals must spend a lot of time taking care of their families, so this affects their opportunities to make mental creations and contributions. For women intellectuals to reduce their household and housework burdens and spend more time on their professions, the State should encourage social organizations to focus on developing household service systems (home helps, nursery schools and kindergartens, health facilities, and so on). Also, it is important to enforce the Law on Gender Equality. There must be broad social support for men and women who excel at work and are good at housework in order to overcome and eradicate beliefs that housework is women’s job and scientific research and leadership are exclusively men’s jobs.

Finally, the Vietnam Women’s Union and Women Intellectuals’ Association should represent women intellectuals’ interests.

The Vietnam Women’s Union and the Women Intellectual’s Association play an enormous role in women intellectuals’ advancement and maturity. Therefore, while studying and recommending policies for women employees, the Vietnam Women’s Union needs to take into account the characteristics of women intellectual employees and overcome the negative side of some movements which have not caused a positive effect on women intellectuals’ roles and positions in society. The Women Intellectuals’ Association needs to continue to create activities aimed at increasing women intellectuals’ knowledge and creativity. It should participate in formulating policies for women intellectuals (regarding their retirement and promotion ages and preferential treatment), jointly organize awards for excellent women intellectuals in different areas such as the Kovalevskaia Awards, Golden Rose Awards, and L’Oreal UNESCO Awards and Scholarships, and hold talks and training courses in leadership and management skills for women intellectuals.


(1), (2) See: http://www.tapchicongsan.org.vn: “Luu Song Ha: A Women Intellectual and Her Family and Career”

(3), (4), (7) http://gas.hoasen.edu.vn: “Tran Thi Minh Duc: Social Prejudices and Pressures on Women Intellectuals”

(5) http://phunudanang.org.vn: “Women in Politics - Difficulties Remain”

(6) Jean Munro: Women’s Participation in Leadership and Management Roles in Vietnam, 2012, pp.14, 15.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Do Thi Thach

Institute of Scientific Socialism


Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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