Tuesday , July 16 2024

Digital literacy helps empower women entrepreneurs


An RMIT research team found that while digital technology provides opportunities for women entrepreneurs, it’s just the first step towards equality.

Despite increasing legal protections and constitutional recognition of gender equality in Vietnam, women entrepreneurs are still undervalued and face social barriers.

Traditional and patriarchal values often constrain women’s business aspirations. They are socially expected to perform household duties that are not seen as having economic value.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the proportion of women-owned firms accounts for a mere 20% of small and medium-sized enterprises in Vietnam. Furthermore, women often operate in less capital-intensive sectors.

A community training on digital literacy and privacy skills for low-income women entrepreneurs in Binh Thanh, HCMC. Photo courtesy of RMIT’s project team

A community training on digital literacy and privacy skills for low-income women entrepreneurs in Binh Thanh, HCMC. Photo courtesy of RMIT’s project team

Digital platforms are known to reduce small business ownership barriers for women, many of whom are turning to these platforms to earn more while maintaining domestic responsibilities.

Besides offering flexibility, these platforms provide access to the digital world for women entrepreneurs who often face discrimination when seeking technical skills in a traditional setting.

Linh Phuong, an online store owner, said that the widespread accessibility of smartphones among potential customers gives her business an edge. She uses social media platforms to reach out to and maintain contact with clients. They can place orders, arrange deliveries, and be updated about her products’ availability.

In a study of approximately 200 low-income women entrepreneurs, a research team at RMIT determined that while digital technology offers opportunities for women entrepreneurs, access to digital technologies is just the first step toward equality.

According to the research team, led by Dr Abdul Rohman and Diem-Trang Vo from RMIT’s School of Communication & Design, women have historically experienced gender bias in the tech world. This can result in underperformance in technical fields associated with market success.

Linh Phuong disclosed that she depends on her children to create social media accounts and to deal with issues that arise in her business dealings.

Feeling unacknowledged is another challenge that the women in the study faced. While the Vietnamese government has made efforts to promote gender equality, the digital gender gap in offline environments persists.

Nhu Quynh shared a personal story detailing a lack of familial support for her online business. When faced with problems, her husband and other relatives frequently respond by making statements like, “Women don’t need to do something big” or “Why don’t you focus on caring for your family?”

Students of the project training for low-income women in Hoc Mon, HCMC. Photo courtesy of RMIT’s project team

Students of the project training for low-income women in Hoc Mon, HCMC. Photo courtesy of RMIT’s project team

Female entrepreneurs also tend to have low personal data protection literacy skills, which makes them prone to online scams.

As part of their business dealings, they often disclose their phone numbers on social media, which opens the door to malicious actors who exploit their personal information. “One scammer took advantage of that to threaten me,” said another woman named Phuong Huyen.

This underscores the necessity for women entrepreneurs to be better equipped with skills to protect themselves and their personal data. While digital technologies have contributed to addressing gender and economic gaps, they also present new threats to women entrepreneurs.

Therefore, investing in digital literacy training can benefit low-income women, as exemplified in a series of community trainings organized by RMIT Vietnam, Traveloka, Nang Moi, and other local organizations across Vietnam.

“While increasing digital literacy skills remains important, mitigating the risks presented by digital technologies is a new challenge that requires an immediate response,” Dr Abdul Rohman said.

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