Nearly a third of business owners in Vietnam are women, placing the country seventh worldwide and first in Southeast Asia in the Women Business Ownership ranking compiled by Mastercard.
With 31.4 percent of entrepreneurs being women, Vietnam was ahead of high income economies like Spain and the U.S., while also faring better than its northern neighbor China.
The credit card company found it "surprising" that Vietnam, a lower middle income economy, made it into the top 10 because another index, calculated using three different components, shows a different story.
Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE), which surveyed 54 markets worldwide, actually ranked Vietnam 19th worldwide. The country scored 65 points overall, which is a combined score encompassing three components: Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions, Knowledge Assets and Financial Access, and Women's Advancement Outcomes.
As the Mastercard index has ranked Vietnam much lower than the Women Business Ownership list, the report listed Vietnam among countries that are performing "better than expected".
"There are unique internal market dynamics within each economy that draw out explicit entrepreneurial traits," the report explained.
In developing markets like Vietnam, many women are engaged in entrepreneurship "either out of necessity or opportunity". They "tap on business segments that are usually non-knowledge or innovation-oriented [...] which effectively allow them to avoid financial, regulatory or technical constraints."
Indeed, Vietnam's low rank in Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions, at 42nd place, indicates a relative lack of support mechanisms to enable women entrepreneurs to thrive. This component score is generally proportional to the economy's income as wealthier countries tend to have better infrastructure and institutional support in place.
Meanwhile, Vietnam ranked fourth with a score of 86.6 in Knowledge Assets and Financial Access, only behind Singapore, New Zealand and South Africa. It shows that Vietnamese women entrepreneurs are relatively less marginalized commercially as financial customers and academically in terms of tertiary education.
Vietnam's score, together with those of the Philippines (82.3) and Indonesia (82.0) were reported as "surprisingly but encouragingly high, driven mostly by a high tendency to borrow or save for business purposes, and high access to financial services/products," the report said.
The country also made it into 8th place in Women's Advancement Outcomes, which measures women's progress and the degree of marginalization they face economically and professionally as business leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs and workers. Also among the top scorers in this component were the Philippines and Thailand, in first and second place respectively.
Mastercard's study also identified some of the constraints facing women business owners, such as alack of financial funding, regulatory restrictions and institutional inefficiencies, lack of self-belief/entrepreneurial drive, fear of failure, socio-cultural restrictions and lack of training/education.