Being trained and certified of financial background or experienced in the financial sector is seen as a catalyst for women to achieve boardroom positions in big corporations, heard a seminar on women and leadership recently held by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

In fact, women now hold more corporate leadership positions than ever before. Vietnam has achieved encouraging progress in gender equality, evidenced by high rate of girl students at schools and female workers in the labour force.

In the country, about 30 percent of corporate boardroom members are women, higher than the world average. However, the gender disparity in leadership positions remains quite large. Recruiting talented female leaders is increasingly competitive in businesses and in countries around the world, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Business Forum Magazine reported.

Speaking at the seminar, Nguyen Vinh Ha, Deputy Director of Grant Thornton Vietnam, affirmed that the percentage of women in business leadership is increasing, especially in the financial sector. Women play an increasingly important role not only in the family but also in society.

She also gave a fact from a Grant Thornton report that a 1 percent increase in female training will result in a GDP growth of 3 percent; hence, training programmes for women are being increasingly cared and attended by women. Nevertheless, the rate of female workers is relatively low. Up to 66 percent of enterprises surveyed said their female employees account for less than 50 percent of their workforces. In many countries, women support programmes are not popular.

Explaining this reality, Ha said women still face a lot of barriers to leadership roles. Women still do most housework and have little time for career development. They sometimes lack confidence in business activities, lack good examples, or cling to pattern thinking.

Moreover, earlier retirement age also limits experience and skill accumulations to advance to senior positions. Gender equality will bring success to both development and business fields and changes can be made to have more women to take on leadership positions, she noted.

According to experts at the event, women have different views from men in various issues. Empowering the engagement of women in leadership positions and policy-making processes will help illustrate different views and perspectives of different issues when making decisions, whereas decisions and policies will be more comprehensive, especially those with effect on women.

Some experts disagreed with a predefined rate of women in forming a corporate leadership, saying this would lead to unfairness and non-transparency. Sometimes, this is the main barrier to women advancing to leadership positions.

Martin Turner, President of ACCA Global, said the finance function is such a springboard for women. The financial sector has created a clearer path for career advancement for women, especially in companies that provide professional services.

Citing the report titled "Women in Finance: A Springboard to Corporate Board Positions", he said a number of women seem to be more successful in corporate executive positions if they have experience in the financial sector.

According to the report, 45 percent of corporate female executives have a functional background in finance and 65 percent of them have experience in the financial sector while the respective rates of male executives are 26 percent and 44 percent.

The report also shows that finance is the language of the boardroom and the ability to communicate financial information establishes and builds credibility. It appears to validate the suitability of women in considering them for a board appointment - a view especially expressed by the search consultant segment of respondents.

Emphasising the role of social connections to advance their career, Turner concluded while there is a clear message from executive search consultants and chairpersons that finance is a facilitator for a path to the boardroom, it is also clear that financial skills alone are not enough - women need to stretch their social connections and make themselves known to the places they want to work.-VNA