Journeys to the top: Women university rectors in Vietnam

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Funnell, Robert
Dao, Hien Chi
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Purpose - This paper aims to outline some of the social, cultural, political and economic conditions in which four of only seven women who have become rectors of public universities in Vietnam. Their experiences are described with a focus on the context of Vietnam in order to focus more clearly on non-western starting points for theory about career development in higher education in Vietnam and other non-western settings. Design/methodology/approach - A combination of historical and personal accounts is used to situate the points of view of Vietnamese women and to argue for the processes of becoming a rector as an important and significant point for understanding how women gain entry to high-status and previously all-male domains. Findings - Findings demonstrate that while family/career relationships are crucial in reporting these women's experiences, too much emphasis on these aspects can divert attention away from the conditions historically blocking the initial journey into high-status parts of an organisation. These processes in which this is initiated cannot be fully contained within western theory and literature. Research limitations/implications - The sample size of four is a limitation and the interviews do not extend to colleagues and family members, but the four women represent over half of the total population of Vietnamese women rectors. On balance though, the research contains implicit material that would be of interest to others in the area to build on with further case studies either in Vietnam or other Asian countries. Practical implications - The experiences of the women rectors could provide examples lacking in Vietnamese society and in literature there. The experiences could be a role model for other women's pursuits of careers in Vietnam. Social implications - The paper contributes in identifying processes of becoming and their reliance on social conditions from the personal powers can be generated. For this framework to be effective, factors such as management style adopted when women are "at the top" must be separated from conditions that have made the "journeys to the top" possible in the first place. Originality/value - The paper is the first of its type on women's careers in Vietnam and contributes to the development of further studies into individual women, for women's groups and academic debate in Vietnamese society. The paper could provide some discussion on where strategies might be most appropriately devised and implemented to counter loss of small gains made in women's careers and within the values in Vietnamese society.

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Gender in Management

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© 2013 Emerald. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.

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