As the Vietnam government looks to help the economy recover from the COVID-19 crisis, the need to increase the viability of women-owned businesses has never been more urgent. In response to this, the National Strategy on Gender Equality 2021-30 aims for women-owned businesses to account for 27 percent of all enterprises by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030 (up from 26.5 percent in 2020).

While Vietnam was ranked 10th in Asia and 25th globally in 2020 for the proportion of female participation in entrepreneurial activities, these numbers only tell part of the story. Vietnamese women entrepreneurs are still struggling to survive and thrive with 98 percent running micro-, small-, and medium-sized businesses in low-productivity sectors. To support and encourage women entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship training programs for women have been developed in recent years. However, their effectiveness has been questioned because they do not adequately recognize the distinct needs and unique challenges of women entrepreneurs such as lack of social networks and limited access to financing.

Because understanding women entrepreneurs’ needs is so critical to establishing more effective policies and practices, I conducted a study as an Echidna Global Scholar in July and August of 2021 to provide better insight into what aspiring women entrepreneurs need and expect from the policies and programs targeting them. I obtained data and insights from in-depth interviews with members of the Future for Women (FFW) program*, who are aspiring female entrepreneurs; individual interviews with government officials and leaders from the private sector; a focus group discussion with practicing women entrepreneurs who have participated in FFW; and extensive review of research and policy documents. Beyond examining the perceived needs and expectations of women entrepreneurs, qualitative data analysis helps provide a more nuanced understanding of the underlying reasons behind women’s perceptions, offering a sound rationale for policy recommendations.

Read the full article about helping women entrepreneurs in Vietnam by Tran Thi Ngoc Tran at Brookings.