The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on Thursday held an award ceremony for the winners of the ‘Women in Science and Technology’ Essay Contest, which began March 7th, at the American Center in Diamond Plaza in District 1.
The contest was organized to highlight the crucial role women play in advancing development in Vietnam, especially in the fields of science, engineering and technology; as well as to mark International Women's Day and Women's History Month.
The winner of the contest was Truong Nguyen Hong Tam, a student from the Institute of Asian Studies in Ho Chi Minh City. In her essay, Tam shared her opinion on the lack of two main factors that strongly influence Vietnamese women’s viewpoints, which is blocking their ability and self-confidence to enter the science and technology field.
These factors are belief in themselves and encouragement from others, which are, according to the winner, also her own problems. “The essay was written relying on my own experience. I tried a lot to convince my parents to let me join in the world just like men do. I hope over time and via this prize they will sympathize with me”, Tam shared.
The winner was awarded an Apple iPad Mini and a USAID certificate of appreciation.
The student whose essay received the most votes, Nguyen Thi Ha, a student from the Foreign Trade University of Ho Chi Minh City, was awarded a USB flash drive and a certificate, while each author of the top ten essays received a certificate.
According to Mrs. Claire Pierangelo, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S Embassy, the contest focused on science and technology because they are the basic fields directly contributing to the development of the country. However, these fields have very few women participating in them.
She also listed a few Vietnamese female leaders in the fields, such as Duy Loan T. Le, an engineer and the first Asian woman to become a Texas Instruments Senior Fellow; and Dr. Luu Le Hang, who was a co-recipient of the 2012 Shaw Prize in Astronomy and the 2012 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics.
In addition, she shared a true story about an excellent female student in Hanoi, who asked for a letter of recommendation to study abroad from her teacher and was refused just because she is a girl.
At the ceremony, many Vietnamese teachers, such as Nguyen Thi Hien Luong from HCMC University of Technology, Tran Thi My Hanh from HCMC International University, and Pham Thi Hoa from the School of Biotechnology International University, all of whom are symbolic characters of successful women in the Vietnamese science and technology field, joined to share their experiences on how they ‘fought’ for the their current success.
The top ten essays can be read on USAID’s Facebook page.
The winner’s essay
In Vietnam, there are very few women who pursuit a science or technology career (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Either because they do not realize their potentials or they do not get adequate supports. To enter the fields of science and technology, women need to believe in themselves, are free to be who they are, and to receive greater encouragement.
Vietnamese women usually avoid science and technology careers because they are trapped in a pattern of thought: ‘Men are better in those fields’. However, everyone is born with the same intelligence and this varies from people to people because of changes in their lifestyle over time not because of their gender. Women should believe that they can think independently and intelligently as much as men do. They can solve logical problems as well and fast as men do. This confidence should be effectively integrated in early childhood development to ensure that women do not underestimate themselves in choosing a career because of self-prejudice over gender.
Family plays a very crucial role in shaping a child’s future. At a very young age many Vietnamese girls are discouraged from pursuiting a science or technology career for the sake of their future marriage life. Many parents mistakenly believe that girls with too high an education level would find it difficult to get marriage. Even if they can find a match for their intelligence, the marriage would not be happy one if the girls do not pretend that they are inferior to their husbands. This old-fashioned belief should be abadoned. Women should have the rights to choose how their lives would be, whether they would be single or married, and to be who they are.
Science and technology career are very demanding and women need encouragement from family to be able to devote in the fields. Vietnam as well as other countries in Asia have traditional beliefs that women are born to get married, bear children and do housework. This puts a severe pressure on women to balance work and family. Hence, the idea of equally-shared family responsibilities which requires mutual understanding between the two partners should be adopted to solve the problem.
In conclusion, there should be a change in both of the inside and outside aspects. Women themselves must find courage to chase their own dreams while family is the wind to fly up that kite of dreams.