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How does culture impact on women's leadership in higher education? A case study in Vietnam

Whilst the subject of women and educational leadership is well documented internationally, research in this field is rare in Vietnam. This scarcity consolidates the commonly held belief that equity has been achieved in this country which masks the persistence of gender discrimination and social injustice. Drawing on the experiences of six women leaders, this study explored how culture shaped the way women led as well as their beliefs and perceptions about leadership in higher education in Vietnam. This qualitative research was conducted within a phenomenological theoretical framework which is concerned with people’s lived experience. Five out of six women leaders were Heads of Departments or Divisions at a technical university. They were personally interviewed in depth and the data gathered was analyzed using a thematic approach. The findings indicated that both the indigenous and organisational culture substantially influenced the female participants’ exercising of leadership and consequently contributed to the poor representation of women in senior positions. The women encountered more challenges in filling their roles when they were younger. Age appeared to be a very important factor in the practice of leadership in Vietnam. The women in this study were overwhelmed with huge workloads and domestic duties. The merit awards they strove for assigned them more responsibilities and made it harder for them to balance their work and other areas of life. In spite of these difficulties, the women could be proud of their leadership because of the democratic and transformational leadership styles they embraced. Traditional gender roles and socio-cultural norms together with the selection process and stereotypical tasks lowered the women’s self-confidence and career aspirations. This study indicates that to promote women’s progress and their representation in leadership positions, cultural change is necessary. This process will require the efforts and cooperation of many authorities, organisations and policy makers.
Type of thesis
Le, N. T. T. (2011). How does culture impact on women’s leadership in higher education? A case study in Vietnam (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5313
University of Waikato
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