In 2006, Kim Moore and Robin Austin started Network Girls to give female working professionals in Saigon an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas on life and business. “The idea to form a group for female professionals actually began a little earlier, and there have been a number of informal meetings for more than a decade,” says Pamela Haake, one of Network Girls’ current coordinators. “A lot of women here are in Saigon because they have followed their partners’ work commitments, and initially there wasn’t much to help those of us looking to further our own careers.”
When it first began, the group was a very ad hoc affair, meeting together over breakfast to chat casually and offer mutual support for career building and everyday life in a bustling and ever-changing Saigon, but Network Girls slowly became a more dedicated organization, with a core group of regular members. “We started out before social media had really become as big as it is now, and there were far fewer resources for female professionals in Saigon, so we were a really vital service,” adds Pamela. “You can wind up feeling quite isolated in a new and strange city, and for me, Network Girls helped change that. We are proudly a women’s only group because it allows us to offer us something different – we are very open and nurturing, and we offer a more relaxed atmosphere where professional women can talk and understand each other without feeling excluded.”
Network Girls’ contact list includes more than 700 professionals and is growing and renewing steadily. “Our members represent companies such as Air France, East Meets West, Ernst & Young, Ipa-Nima, RMIT University and many more, but we welcome anyone,” says Pamela. “If a backpacker thinking about jumping into professional life in Ho Chi Minh City wants to come along to one of our evenings, then they are very welcome.”
Adding: “We try to be open and reactive to the needs and wishes of our members, and as the need arises we may have a particular theme for one of our meetings. During last year’s International Women’s Month, we had a gynecologist come to give a speech and run a question and answer panel on women’s health. For Tet, we went out for dim sum…so the theme varies.” This diversity is one of the most useful aspects of the club. Members bring their business cards, make useful contacts and develop working relationships, but also have the chance to enjoy some of Saigon’s hottest venues. “We have hosted events at luxury hotels, at destinations like Chill Skybar, and at restaurants and bistros across the city. I work closely with our venues to ensure the best atmosphere for our clients, who get to sample the best this unique city has to offer.”
Network Girls meet on the last Thursday of each month for a 7:30am-9am breakfast or cocktails, or canapés from 7:30pm-9pm. The breakfast meetings are VND250,000 per person, and normally attract 30-40 professional women on a rotating basis, while the evening events are VND500,000, and have 50-70 attendees. Both include food and a drink.