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Listed Companies Can Benefit From Gender Equality in Vietnam

20 October 2021

By

Peter Heber Percy

Listed Companies Can Benefit From Gender Equality in Vietnam

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3 min read

It seemed fairly obvious to us at Wardhaven that companies with better gender diversity would perform better, and the impact would likely be greatest starting at the top. As a rule of thumb, over half of all customers are women, so if you want to understand your market, you’d better have an organisation that reflects that fact. It’s a subject that interested us as we felt, as active investors, we might be able to enhance returns from a better understanding of the issue.

As we started to engage with business leaders in Vietnam, consensus seemed to be that there wasn’t a problem. Perhaps because the most repeated comment was “some of Vietnam’s biggest companies are led by women, look at VinaMilk, Phu Nhuan Jewelry, VietJet and REE.” But we didn’t have decent insight into the broader public market space and needed to look deeper.

Led by the wonderful COVID-19 university refugee, Sherry Nguyen, and our colleague Lan Anh Nguyen, we’ve spent a year analysing gender balance and corporate performance of listed companies in Vietnam. The only real gender data widely available is for Board and key leadership positions, so that’s where we started. The gender balance numbers were disappointing, with women representing approximately 17% of Board seats and 19.8% of key leadership positions (2020), albeit with a slowly improving trend over the past five years, and a wake-up call for the need for a more proactive approach from a whole range of stakeholders.

What was particularly encouraging was our analysis supported the conviction that public companies with better gender balance tend to perform better. A market cap weighted portfolio of the largest companies with above average gender balance delivered sales and profits growth over the 2016-20 period in excess of the VNI, Vietnam’s main equity market index. Though we need to expand the depth and scope of the study, we felt the findings were sufficiently convincing to alert corporates to the importance of getting this right, and as investors, we believe that the data will be value accretive to our investment process.

What also interested us was how companies with better gender balance got there. It is easy for a male, foreign, investment manager to overlook the scale of what’s involved! But a great deal is expected of Vietnamese women, both running households, often with several generations, bringing up children and full-time work. Listening to Madam Dung, the Chairwoman of Phu Nhuan Jewellery, speak at a conference we recently organised with AmCham, titled “The Business Benefits of Gender Equity in Vietnam”, it was clear that she and her colleagues had invested considerable effort over many years to achieve the excellent levels of gender equality throughout their organisation, with a wide range of policies implemented to enable women to excel at work while fulfilling all the other tasks that are expected of them. Phu Nhuan Jewellery is a portfolio company of the Wardhaven Vietnam Fund and an investment we hope to hold for years to come.

I am convinced that business leaders that don’t invest resources and energy into improving gender balance are failing to maximise the value of their organisations or future proofing them. The same duty rests with us investors. There is much to be done, and organisations in Vietnam need guidance and first-hand experience to help them move forward with this important journey of achieving gender balance in the workplace.

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

Author

Peter Heber Percy

Founder and Investment Manager at Wardhaven Capital Limited

Peter is co-founder and investment manager at Wardhaven Capital Limited, with joint responsibility for managing the Wardhaven Vietnam Fund, which invests in Vietnamese public companies. Peter moved to Asia over 25 years ago, initially joining Jardine Fleming Malaysia’s research and then institutional equity sales teams. Later employed by the Noble Group in Hong Kong as General Manager – Business Development, he was responsible for new business line due diligence, formation and oversight. In 2008 he co-founded Asia Clean Capital Ltd, a PRC focused cleantech development and investment company. He has an MBA from Manchester Business School.

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