08:18 (GMT +7) - Monday 22/07/2019

Op-Eds

Women's insight a plus

Released at: 14:06, 08/03/2019

Women's insight a plus

Photo: VET Magazine

Mr. Laurent Levan, President & CEO of URC Vietnam, tells VET of his appreciation of and respect for Vietnamese women and how female leaders are contributing to the company's success in Vietnam.

How would you comment on the role of women leaders in Vietnam’s economic development?

According to a report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), some 25 per cent of CEOs or board directors in Vietnam are women. This figure is the highest in Southeast Asia, compared to 14 per cent in Malaysia, 10 per cent in Singapore, and 6 per cent in Indonesia, and shows how much the role of women in Vietnam is gaining in respect and recognition.

Vietnam is a mature and open-minded country in embracing gender equality, especially at URC, where women can feel confident about building a career. We have implemented programs to strategically develop a female leadership team, and all enterprises should adopt strategies to develop women leaders for sustainable development and equality.

The younger generation of women have a lot of energy, confidence, independence, and ambition. They seem to have a lot more clarity about what they want to do and conviction in pursuing their goals. They have also begun breaking the boundaries and prejudices that exist in society. Finding the right mentor and support network for me was one of the most important factors in achieving a successful career.

What are Vietnamese women leaders’ strengths and advantages, especially in the food and beverage (F&B) sector? 

A good male leader or a good female leader are all good leaders, and at URC we have leaders with heart and skills, be they men or women. In terms of leadership style, men often decide faster but also more mechanically, while women are often more flexible, meticulous, and thoughtful. Women leaders also have more sympathy and it’s usually easier for them to share with employees.

In the F&B industry, women tend to have more advantages than men. Aside from the role of company leader, they are also wives and mothers taking care of their own families. So they have deeper customer insight on what is needed for the family and can come up with initiatives that contribute to the development of the company.

Women leaders can understand our consumers, especially housewives and shoppers who are always keen on product safety and quality when purchasing. This makes them focus more on improvements to these factors in production and distribution.

What challenges do they face in the digital era, particularly amid rapid changes in technologies in the F&B sector?

The challenge is not only for female but also for male leaders, because the change itself is quite drastic. As things become automated and digitally connected, leaders must adapt quickly to fulfil consumer needs. They not only need to know about these technologies but also need to learn how to apply them into industrial needs. 

I think women have more advantages than men in terms of flexibility and adaptability. However, the prejudiced view that women are generally weak in technical matters should be eliminated. The reality is, unfortunately, that women need to work twice as hard, but many have proved their business savvy and found success.

What advantages support women to successfully fulfil targets and enhance their organization’s performance? 

It’s a common belief that women can multi-task better than men. By having this natural skill set, women should take this advantage to bolster the organization’s performance. 

Women are also meticulous, and this helps them manage the company more efficiently. As patience is a virtue for women as well, they can also interact better with their peers and subordinates by communicating with co-workers in a thoughtful manner.

Knowledge of technologies and their application is important. It will be critical in the age of technology, however, to have other softer skill sets. I believe it is important to know how to solve problems, how to engage with people, how to work in a team, and how to think in a customer-focused manner. At the end of the day, a business succeeds when it brings tangible value to customers. Technologies, while important, are only a tool to achieve business objectives, especially in understanding customers. In this regard, women often hold certain advantages over men, so I hope that younger women will leverage this strength for success. 

What are some prominent examples of women leadership at URC Vietnam? How have they contributed to it growing to become the largest Filipino company in the country?

At URC Vietnam, we always embrace women leadership. As a result, there are many female leaders on the board of directors and holding important positions in the company. Thanks to their major contributions over the last 15 years, URC has become the largest Filipino company in Vietnam. 

Many have been with URC Vietnam since the early days, helping the company overcome difficult stages to achieve the success it has today.

One example is Ms. Nguyen Xuan Dieu Hien, HR Director at URC Vietnam. During her 15 years at URC, she has made substantial contributions to building and improving policies on human resources. The company has a robust management and organization structure, with more than 1,600 employees in various functions manned by competent and well-trained staff. Strong HR systems have built a culture of engagement and created a “one team” spirit. 

Employees feel part of a big family, where each and every one can contribute to the company’s success. Last year, URC Vietnam was recognized as one of the best companies to work for in Vietnam by HR Asia. This prestigious regional HR award confirmed the efforts of the HR department and Ms. Hien in particular. 

Another important woman leader at URC Vietnam is Ms. Le Thi Diem, Head of the R&D Department. This field tends to be dominated by men, but Ms. Diem has proven that this is not true. With her expertise, she helps the company fulfil its strong commitment to product quality and safety. 

This led to impressive results last year, when URC Vietnam received prestigious industry accreditations on quality and safety. Aside from this, Ms. Diem also spent almost two years on researching and creating new products that were launched recently: C2 Milk Tea, C2 Black Tea, and C2 Peach Black Tea, which have received positive feedback from consumers.

We have many other female leaders in different departments, such as finance, communications, and so on. All have contributed to the company’s success. On this special occasion, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all our female leaders and employees. We could not have achieved our level of success without their great efforts.

Can you tell us about initiatives aimed at encouraging Vietnamese women’s leadership and contributing more to national economic development?

Organizations should regularly hold more workshops or seminars for female leaders to share their stories and experiences with other women and inspire them to be successful. They need to recognize women’s achievements and performance and encourage them to continue contributing to the country. Additional support should also be provided to women in different aspects so they can make the most of their strengths.

With 21 per cent of all businesses in Vietnam being run by women, it is critical that the Vietnamese Government continue to extensively invest in training and coaching activities to assist women, especially those in remote and rural areas, to gain access to e-commerce knowledge and experience and help build their business management skills.

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