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This is Tran Thi Thanh Huong, a MEXT Scholar and research student at Yokohama National University (YNU), reflecting on the influence of my study at Vietnam – Japan University (VJU) on my professional path.

Since enrolling in the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at VJU, I’ve been often questioned about my motives and path to further study. I found it to be simple. I knew I wanted to study more about Diversity and Inclusion in Business Management since it matched my eagerness. VJU has given me the benefits of higher education and a variety of experiences.

I am the eldest child and the first in my family to go to higher education. My parents always treat me and my little brother equally even though in Vietnamese culture, it is normal that people prefer boys to girls and encourage girls to soon get married rather than pursue higher education. No issue was ever too big for my parents, who are always been the biggest support and encouragement to me to do what I really want. Their unconditional love and motivation made me able to go out of my comfort zone with confidence and courage to do something meaningful in my life.

Right after gaining my Bachelor’s degree in International Economics, I joined the workforce as a Project Assistant in an IT company and realized that this is a male-dominated industry with several gender stereotypes. All project assistants were female whereas all back-end developers are male in my former company. The HR officer’s response was surprising since they assumed female employees were detail-oriented and capable of maintaining a friendly environment, while male counterparts excelled at logical duties. Since then, I’ve begun to wonder what would happen if firms ensured gender equality by employing more women for certain positions and more men for others that they had previously deemed nonsensical. The presence of such a question in my mind prompted me to seek opportunities that would enable me to discover the answers.

I recall my mum asking me on an autumn day in 2020 that “So, you chose to leave your current job and study further, didn’t you?”. I said, “I would love to discover the things that I haven’t known before” to which she answered, “Well, the choice made. Let’s be hard-working, consistent, and follow your passion.” My special thanks go to my parents for keeping patient with me and sending me countless support which had changed my life.

In addition to the lack of awareness about what a master’s degree entailed, I had to overcome other challenges and difficulties. I vividly recall discussing the expense of a master’s degree with my friends and how difficult it would be to get scholarships for my 4-semester master’s program. With a keen curiosity for gender equality in management, I applied to the MBA Program at VJU. Yet, the Liberal Arts education and sustainable development philosophy given by VJU were the deciding factors in my ultimate decision, since no other institution provided these.

My curiosity about sustainability was nurtured because everyone around me loved to talk about it, and professors in all courses kept addressing its paramount importance. Since then, as I was a business management student, I started asking myself about how the things I was learning and planning to pursue in the future would evolve as a result of inclusive management. In addition to courses that I registered in VJU such as in Human Resources Management and Corporate Governance sections, I decided to join several internship programs in which I was given the chance to conduct research and analyze emerging issues in business, especially in multiculturalism, and how companies are handling these issues. Indeed, this role was significant as it not only sharpened my technical knowledge of economics and business but also exposed me for the first time to interesting concepts, including the upper echelons theory, the resource-based theory, and the managerial networking theory among others.

On top of that, the internship at YNU provided me with a unique opportunity to learn Japanese-style management and sustainability from the viewpoint of a young scholar. This internship period was a great chance for learning and professional development. Among that, the most enlightening course for me is “Study on Comparative Management” delivered by Professor Yang Yunyue. I and my team presented the interaction between gender and informal social networks in which the informal institutions, such as informal social networks and how they are established and who can access them, may present a barrier to effective gender diversity management. It motivated and inspired me to continue researching further the issue of inclusion and diversity in business administration.

With the support and forward thinking of my professors, I conducted my master’s thesis about the relationship between women’s leadership and company performance. The dissertation demonstrated that there exists a significant positive relationship between the proportion of women on the Board of Directors and the company’s performance. And the Board of Directors with at least three women positively influences the company’s performance. This empirical analysis helps make sense of inconclusive earlier studies and provides policymakers and company managers with theoretical and practical implications.

VJU provided me with a fair playing field and a life radically different from what it may have been if I had not sought further education. My broader experiences have exceeded my expectations for what I could accomplish three years ago. I immersed myself in VJU life by studying challenging and intriguing Japanese, participating in seminars on Japanese culture and business, attending field trips and internships (METI, IAESTE), and acquiring multiple scholarships (Japanese Goverment Scholarship, ZEON Scholarship, and Vingroup Innovative Foundation Scholarship). I represented VJU-MBA students in the VTV4 interview video, served as a VJU-MBA monitor, and am now a MEXT Scholar at YNU. I would not have the confidence to achieve all of this without the broader experience VJU provides.

I am going to start my first year in the Ph.D. program in the Department of Business Administration at YNU, a prestigious Japanese institution of higher education. It is fantastic to be able to attend such a program and collaborate with eminent professors. Without the immense and unlimited help from VJU professors, I would not reach this dream which is to play a part in YNU and continue to research diversity business management.

No work can be accomplished without others’ help or contribution. My humble work encompasses the immense and unlimited help of innumerable people. I would love to express my deep sense of gratitude to all professors, officials, and staff members of both VJU and YNU for their prompt and necessary guidance, supervision, professional suggestion & encouragement which have helped me to tide over the hardship encountered during the study. My special thanks go to them for keeping patient with me and sending me countless support.

From that of a little girl from a low-income family to that of a young global scholar, my life has significantly changed. I am grateful that uncountable individuals have continuously molded me into a better person. I am aware that these are only the first stages of my adventure. There are several challenging duties I must do and obstacles I must conquer. I look forward to learning, working, enjoying, contributing, and achieving success in my future journey.