Vietnam and gender inequality in ICT sector, but making headway in closing gender gap

As in most other countries, women in Viet Nam lag behind men in employment in the ICT sector, especially with regards to more “intellectual” work associated with the ICT industries. According to this presentation by Lee Anh Pham Lobb, of the participants surveyed, only 10.4% of the people employed in the “Specify/Design/Build” areas of software work are women, compared to 89.6% men. In contrast, 60% of the testing/support employees are women, compared to 40% men. When asked what could have caused this inequality, one male operational manager said, “‘ Women do testing better than men because women are always calm and patient. They can spend hours running the same test. Men cannot…'” and a female quality assurance manager said, “‘Design is still male territory. Men advises us (women) to keep out of this area.'” Clearly, if any change is to happen in terms of equal gender representation in the ICT industries, there must be some perception changes.

This imbalance has significant effects, especially when considering pay differences associated with more highly regarded positions, which also tend to be male-dominated. As we had discussed in class, many times, if all other factors were held constant, gender alone would not greatly affect access to and use of ICTs. Lack of resources, especially money, is often something that holds back many women from purchasing and using ICTs. Of course, in the case of employment in the ICT sector, the money dynamic is different, but it indirectly affects ICT access and usage by women not only because of what they earn but also because of the types of products and services that are designed. A paper by Tran Ngoc Ca and Bo Göransson explains that women’s needs are usually not considered in product and service design unless the designer is a woman. If you consider that for a moment, it would almost be as if all lefties’ needs were completely disregarded and they were forced to do things the right-handed way (which actually is true a lot of times, but unfair). Additionally, the way ICTs are used varies according to gender. “Many studies confirm that women are more likely than men to use ICT for family-related purposes, such as health and education, as well as for small-scale social business activities.” It seems that women’s use of ICTs is of great import to the success of many development initiatives, so their needs must be taken into consideration during the design process.

It is often said that development cannot truly occur until women are as empowered as men, until they have equal access to resources and can utilize their skills to maximize economic growth and social harmony. In Viet Nam, it seems that gender equalization in many ways may readily be achieved as more women play an integral role in development initiatives. As Viet Nam embraces ICT4D and considers it a high national priority, we may soon see more rapid development as more ICTs become “gender-friendly”. In fact, the paper also says that Viet Nam is already somewhat “seen as a quite pro gender development and equality.”

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2 responses to “Vietnam and gender inequality in ICT sector, but making headway in closing gender gap

  • nsaqer

    This is really interesting. Do you think that there will be initiatives in Viet Nam to spread Internet specifically? I read an article that Nigeria is trying to spread broadband across the whole country to close its digital divide.

  • tanvishah1

    I think Viet Nam is very progressive and dedicated in its effort to spread technology, at least according to the national ICT policy. It has attracted a lot of electronics companies, who are now manufacturing their products in the country. It will be interesting to see quickly Viet Nam can push its technological growth.

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