ruby-meetup

Trung Le wants to see more women in Vietnam’s tech ecosystem.

The Vietnamese Envato developer (with five million users globally), who spends most of his time with the startup in Australia, was behind Vietnam’s recently held two-day event RailsGirls that offered free Ruby on Rails training — with a focus on encouraging women to enter the space.

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The event saw 40 attendees and pulled together five mentors from local firms to lend a helping hand.

“The idea is to encourage women in general to control their career as a programmer, and at the same time we teach them how to build product,” he told e27 in an interview. “This is an initial step and we want to take it further. Entrepreneurship [events] could come in the future.”

His involvement in the country’s tech and startup ecosystem actually goes back to at least 2012 when he founded the Vietnam Ruby Group for local developers. The group now claims more than 1,800 members and has been involved in projects such as the Vietnamese version of Ruby Land, and Ruby Meetup Events in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Women in Vietnamese tech

The trend today towards tech and entrepreneurship is undoubtedly a global trend. But in emerging Asian markets like Vietnam, it’s still not always easy for women — especially from more traditional families — to find their place in an industry dominated by men. But this also presents opportunities.

A lack of events and workshops catered towards helping women in tech has allowed people such as Le to jump in and work towards changing that. It also opens up the opportunity for discussion on the topic from a social perspective, and the evolution of women’s roles both at home and work in Vietnam.

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“Historically, the women are taken for granted in many jobs [in Vietnam],” he began.

“But in the IT industry, women are always considered as not supposed to do the [tech] jobs. They’re discouraged from any programming or IT work because they’re told it’s not suitable for them,” Le said.

“But I say different. I want them to stand out… It’s not just about teaching them programming, but giving them that support and backup, and the mentality to pursue programming and product building as a career,” he added.

Le is now planning a follow-up event in Ho Chi Minh City in August targetting 70 attendees that will encourage more interaction and pairing between students and mentors. Local firms will also be able to scout out possible intern talent.

The role of community

It’s obvious from a chat with the developer that a shift in the community mindset needs to take place and by creating a platform whereby these imbalances can be discussed, there is a better chance of actually making some impact. As the old saying goes: Before you can address a problem, you first have to admit there is one.

Beyond that, bigger companies and corporations in Vietnam also have a part to play. They need to make more effort to train and hire women in their tech and IT departments. Already some are sponsoring the events: Facebook, Zendesk, GitHub and Envato have all chipped in.

“My long-term vision is to create a self-run community, a perfect model for every other IT group to follow,” he said. “I want people who are passionate and share the same mindset as me to jump in and take it from here. I’d like to step back and get it multiplying.”

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While there are challenges ahead, gender equality is taking steps forward in Vietnam. The younger generation is helping to change that, and perhaps unsurprisingly so is the emerging startup ecosystem, which is full of forward-thinking young (and old) minds.

I certainly wish him all the best and hope he can inspire a few others along the way.