Vinaseed, a seed producer in Vietnam, is encouraging women’s participation in its research centers through explicit policies. © Vinaseed
A “yin-yang balance.” That’s how Tran Kim Lien, chief executive officer of Vinaseed—one of the largest seed production companies in Vietnam—talks about the benefits of gender diversity in the firm’s leadership. She’s made it her mission to show that when women employees, managers, and board members contribute their energy and ideas, innovation flourishes, retention increases, and profits multiply.
At Vinaseed, achieving gender balance through explicit policies and procedures has resulted in rapid corporate expansion. Vinaseed’s growth—25 to 30 percent annually in revenue and profit between 2010 and 2015—reinforces Lien’s commitment to providing equal opportunities to women and men, backed by specific practices that institutionalize a more balanced workforce.
IFC shares the belief that it makes business sense for agribusiness firms to invest in better employment opportunities for women. We have worked closely with Vinaseed—whose major shareholder, PAN Group, is an IFC client—to offer support achieving gender parity as the company expands and becomes even more competitive throughout the region.
Lien already knows what many other corporate leaders around the world are starting to find out: Women’s labor is crucial to global agribusiness. The expansion of agricultural production for the global market has been linked with increases in women’s employment. Improving the quality and quantity of jobs for women in agriculture can help reduce poverty and improve family and social welfare. Studies show that better jobs for women can have positive spillovers on economic and social development.
As a corporate role model herself, Lien encourages other women to pursue high-level career pathways in agribusiness. Vinaseed enjoys near gender parity in its research and development (R&D) function, where women represent 48 percent of staff. There is also one woman on the panel of six independent experts that are engaged by the company to advise on R&D. Vinaseed also enjoys strong female representation on its company board: three out of seven directors are female, including Lien herself.
This is a considerable improvement on figures on women’s participation in science and technology in Vietnam, according to which women researchers are under-represented in both the private and public sectors.
Vinaseed’s attention to gender balance begins at the recruitment stage. Its careful recruitment process makes it more likely that employees will remain at the company longer, which allows the company to reap the full benefit of its investment in training. Currently, the average length of service for non-managerial staff is 6.8 years and 13 years for managerial staff.
As commander-in-chief, Lien shares her own experience as a female executive to encourage other women to achieve their goals and provides concrete support to those with responsibilities at home. When she became CEO at Vinaseed in 2004, she had to juggle her domestic responsibilities with those at work—a common situation for women in Vietnam, where entrenched gender roles dictate that household and care-giving responsibilities fall disproportionately on women’s shoulders.
Vinaseed is not only giving opportunities to the women who work within its research centers, but is also providing an example to other science and technology companies. This is important because one of the greatest obstacles to attracting women into careers in science and technology is the lack of female role models in occupations that are seen to be predominantly male, according to an OECD report.
Lien sees the results of gender diversity in Vinaseed’s expanding range of new products and the way the company continually adapts to change. Teams that foster cooperation, communication, and sharing of ideas are more likely to innovate—and a fair balance of men and women can contribute to creating this atmosphere, Lien believes. From 2010 through 2014, Vinaseed has researched, selected, and transferred 30 new varieties of seed, creating an entirely new revenue stream for the company.
While laying a foundation for growth, Vinaseed’s gender diversity policies are also planting the seeds for a future that offers equal opportunities to the next generation of Vietnam’s agribusiness leaders.
Learn more about how Vinaseed is addressing gender issues.
For more information on IFC’s work to support gender equality, visit www.ifc.org/gender
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Published in June 2017