Southeast Asia's e-commerce market could grow by more than $280 billion between 2025 – 2030, achieved by increasing the number of women selling on online platforms, and by providing them with better training and financial support, IFC report.
The report titled “Women and e-commerce in Southeast Asia” found that Covid-19 has accelerated the growth of e-commerce and digital entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia, and that more women have embraced digital business.
TheLEADER talk with Emmanuelle Gounot, CEO of Intrepid Vietnam, a regional innovative ecommerce and digital solutions provider, about what can be done to promote women's entrepreneurship and help women overcome e-commerce challenges..
What is your assessment of women’s participation in e-commerce? How about Vietnamese women?
Emmanuelle Gounot: I think in general, women are very well represented in the labor force in Vietnam, and ecommerce specifically as well. So of course, we can always have more support to ensure that women can thrive in the industry.
But a lot of the fundamentals are there. When I look at our recruiting efforts, for instance, I see a lot of very creative, credible and accomplished women applying for positions.
When I look at peer companies, and in our broader network, I see a lot of women in leadership positions with marketplaces, brands, digital teams, or other e-commerce companies. So I do see that active participation, there were also some initiatives from the marketplace side to recognize women.
For instance, Lazada had a program that recognizes women sellers for their contributions to the platform, and in 2022, three of 18 winners were from Vietnam.
In addition, we've seen some proactive support from the Vietnamese government and NGOs to invest in upskilling digital transformation training for small businesses that are owned by women.
We can always do more, but there are already a lot of good things going on.
We can see that the use of updated technologies in e-commerce helps women easier to find and apply for the jobs, increasing the female worker’s participation level. What is your view about that?
Emmanuelle Gounot: Sure. E-commerce is a very rapidly growing industry, and that comes with a lot of professional opportunities, across job families, for women, and for all potential candidates at large.
There are a lot of role models for women, to encourage them to join the industry. So that's a plus.
About the role of technology, with technology, there's an opportunity for women to work a synchronously, work with higher flexibility.
However, because e-commerce stores never close, it also means that there's sometimes a need to work some odd hours, and that could be challenging for women, if they have their responsibilities at home, and in addition to their professional responsibilities.
So that's something we also need to address in terms of how to retain women in this environment.
In general, I would say that the industry offers tremendous opportunities. But it may not be easier for women to enter the industry than for men to thrive, because one must really have the right skills.
We’re looking at a battle for top talents in this industry, and so, I would encourage all the candidates, women included, to continue to upskill their knowledge to ensure that they will continue to stand out.
In your opinion, what are some other existing barriers for women in e-commerce?
Emmanuelle Gounot: As I said before, indeed, retention is what we probably need to focus on for the industry.
It can be challenging for women, when they are often the primary caregivers, and have to balance their responsibilities at home and at work, especially in high pressure campaigns, or the need to work some odd hours.
But there are lots of things that we can do to support women in the industry, such as by offering protected and predictable time off and benefits for working parents and caregivers.
I would actually encourage companies to even explore such benefits for caregivers, and for working fathers as well. In my experience overseas, that can be a way to encourage men to share their childcare responsibilities with women.
So can you share me with me some issues that Intrepid Vietnam has taken to create a more inclusive culture and support your female workers?
Emmanuelle Gounot: Of course, in Intrepid, we are lucky to have lots of women in Vietnam and across the region. And I think we have good leadership role models for young women joining us. For instance, three out of our six country CEOs are women.
Specifically, this creates role models as well as a peer support network, which is quite important, especially when women might go on maternity leave, and then look to reenter the workforce upon their return.
We also offer a workplace which can help to manage a smoother transition in this area.
In terms of our culture, we provide autonomy to all our employees to perform their tasks and manage their personal commitments as they see fit, as long as they can deliver good work.
We also respect and recognize our employee's personal commitment, so if they take a day off to take care of a family member, or to attend a child's event at school, that's certainly something that we respect and recognize.
To me, I would say that diversity and inclusion also goes way beyond the inclusion of women in the workforce, and we should really look at the intersectionality of identities, so that everyone feels supported, and empowered to do their best work.
So beyond gender, I like to look at working parents with different personalities, different interests, different skill sets, and different backgrounds.
In Intrepid, we have hybrid work arrangements, and we also invest in training and development.
So I think that at large, we really want to create and we do a good job of creating moments where everyone can be their authentic self and thrive independently of their background.
So after a long period of working and holding important positions in a large corporation, what advice do you want to pass on to the younger generation of women?
Emmanuelle Gounot: Obviously, every career path is unique. But there are maybe three recommendations I would have based on my experience.
The first one is if someone is looking to join a new company, or take on a new role, maybe look at the cultural fit, and look at the leadership team. You can see what the company values and what is actually being done to promote inclusiveness of women, and inclusiveness of all employees at large.
That will also guide your reflection on whether that's the right place for you.
The second piece is really enlisting the support of a peer network. It can be at work, but also outside of work. I have found it very useful to have thought partners and career mentors that can really advise me at various stages of my career, and be a good sounding board.
And the last one, which is especially valid for caregivers, is prioritization. We have infinite demands on our time, and we need to prioritize ruthlessly, to ensure that we spend our time where it matters the most.
So to get the biggest return on time spent, make sure that we can deliver that impact within a time that makes sense for you.