Sunday, October 17, 2010

Warning: You must be over 160cm to enter this diplomatic service

In many diplomatic services around the world, women meet a glass ceiling as they climb the departmental ladder. In Vietnam, it's more like a glass ruler.

Two very able female graduates of Vietnam's  Diplomatic Academy told me they were unable to join the foreign ministry because they were under the 160cm minimum height requirement.

Vietnam's diplomacy has certainly risen in stature over the last year, with the government deftly using its chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to force the South China Sea disputes onto the international agenda.

But, I'm not convinced that the best way to ensure that Vietnam continues to grow on the world stage is to exclude women under 160cm, who make up no small proportion of the population.

Given that Vietnam always provides a cohort of smiling, ao dai-clad dolly birds to impress foreign officials at international events, why is the ministry so concerned about the height of its female diplomats?

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