Published by the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, University of Canberra

Research and Stories through a Gendered Lens

We’re so proud! BroadAgenda PhD student 3MT finalist

Aug 27, 2021 | Commentary, Leadership, Equality, Opinion, Research, International, First Person

The Three Minute Thesis is an academic research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland, Australia.

Three Minute Thesis heats were held across the University of Canberra’s faculties throughout July. The six finalists from across four faculties, are now progressing to the UC 3MT Finals where they will present their thesis at an online, livestreamed event in front of a panel of judges. Competitors must explain their research and convince the judges and audience of its significant in no more than three minutes, for a chance to win the $4,000 first place prize, $2,000 for the runner up, and $1,000 people’s choice prize.

BroadAgenda is SO EXCITED that Jane Phượng Phạm, who is currently completing her PhD with us at the the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra, is a finalist.

Wooohooooo! Did we mention how proud we are?!

Read or watch her wonderful presentation below. And then vote for her here. Go on. You know you want to.


Take a look at this beautiful river. Doesn’t it look refreshing? Inviting? Full of life.

Now, imagine you were swimming in it. Now, here’s the thing. You don’t actually know what’s underneath. That’s exactly how female academics leaders feel in Vietnam. Their lives are like a river, it flows on but no one knows what’s below the surface. It’s difficult to see the full picture. My study explores the under-representation of female academic leaders in Vietnam. There are 171 universities, but only 13 female presidents. That’s tiny 7.6%. The number can tell us what’s happening, but they can’t tell us why.

In the West, a number of metaphors have been used to describe women leaders’ barriers. You would be familiar many of them. There’s glass ceiling, sticky floor, or the labyrinth. But they make little sense for an academic leader like myself.

To understand the challenge that female leaders have in Vietnam requires qualitative study. I use a method called photo elicitation which involves asking participants to bring in photos that reflected their lived experiences as female leaders.

In doing so, I learnt about their wishes, desires, feelings, motivations, belief systems. I found that my participants conceptualised their career as a journey, but their journey is not on land, it’s in the water, in the river. One dean told me that she found herself swimming in the river on her own without any life boat. The other found herself stuck in the water wheel, trying to balance work and family care. All of my participants saw the uncertainty of the river’s flow which could lift them up, drag them down or wash them ashore.

For me, the adverse environment that female academic leaders face is better understood by researching the language that they used. The river metaphor will provide a clearer understanding of their lived experiences as female leaders and shed light on the challenges that they have to navigate in academia in Vietnam. Vietnamese women are like raindrops. We were born from the water, and we die to the water. Where our lives turn out depend on where the raindrops fall. And my research is finally telling their story.

Alex and Jane

Alex Lascu with Jane Phuong – both finalists in UC’s Three Minute Thesis. Their mate Dua’a Ahmad (not pictured) is also a finalist. 

Feature image: Nho Que River in Vietnam. Picture: Ngoc Nguyen

Jane Phuong is a PhD candidate at 50/50 Foundation by 2030, Faculty of Business, Government and Law, The University of Canberra. She believes kindness is the goal of education.

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