Nestled between Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, the landlocked Republic of Armenia’s thriving technology sector reached $250 million in 2018 while the country of three-million peacefully overthrew an oligarchic regime. As the world’s next tech hub, Armenia’s tech sector has enjoyed double-digit annual growth rates employing some 20,000 workers–30 percent of whom are women. Armenia is also the global leader for the “Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality” action coalition of the UN-led Generation Equality Forum.
“Tech is the new culture in Armenia,” says Amalya Yeghoyan, executive director of Armenia’s second largest city, Gyumri IT Center (GITC) and Project Manager at Enterprise Incubator Foundation (EIF) where 70 percent of employees are women. A former Deputy Minister of IT, Yeghoyan previously managed the Gyumri Technology Center (GTC).
EIF is conducting the “Empowering Females through Capacity Building to promote technology in non-technology sectors” program delivered by IFC/World Bank Group in partnership with the UK Government’s Good Governance Fund. With investment, growth, and job creation among Armenia’s female entrepreneurs through capacity building, investor connection and access to global business networks, intensive bootcamps and acceleration programs will be held in Yerevan, Gyumri, and Vanadzor–Armenia’s capital city, second and third largest cities, respectively.
“While globally, the average share of women employed in IT doesn’t exceed 20 percent, in Armenia it’s 30 percent,” underscores Senior Analyst, Wireless 20/20 consultant, former Yankee Group CEO, Berge Ayvazian. He is an angel investor and one of the Diasporan co-founders of the Armenian High-Tech Council of America (Armtech), instrumental in attracting investments and acquisitions by such companies as Synopsys, National Instruments, Mentor Graphics, VMware among others.
Even before the 2018 bloodless “Velvet Revolution” captured world attention, Armenia’s tech industry was on over-drive, building upon the Soviet-era ecosystem when Armenia (the smallest of the former republics) manufactured 40 percent of the mainframe computers for the Soviet military. Fast forward to independent Armenia, home to over 900 ICT companies where start-ups enjoy 10 percent income tax and where 50-60 percent of applicants at the university IT departments are women.
Armenia’s Top Tech Companies’ Global Impact
Armenia is ground zero for award-winning, globally recognized technology start-ups–many led by women, some 30 years old or under, or hailing high percentage of women employees including among the extensive list:
- Digital Pomegranate–one of the world’s premier Flutter development agencies, and one of Armenia’s largest tech companies–with CEO, Gayane Ghandilyan Arakelyan–50 percent of employees and 70 percent of top management are women.
- Synopsys-Armenia (the largest office outside the U.S.)–one of Armenia’s largest IT employers with over 650 employees–33 percent of its 600+ engineers are women. While women employees comprise only 15 percent of Synopsys’ Silicon Valley headquarters.
- DASARAN–cloud-based Educational Development System ranked by UNDP as one of the world’s top 5 social enterprises –with Deputy CEO, Rima Sargsyan–72 percent of employees are women.
- WeDoApps–a premier web and mobile application development company–with CEO, Anahit Manukyan, top managers and 50 percent of employees are women.
- PicsArt– all-in-one photo and video editing app with over 150 million monthly active users, ranked 5th in Forbes Top 50 Startups of 2015–51 percent of employees are women.
- Tumo Center for Creative Technologies–a new kind of educational experience at the intersection of technology and design–with CEO, Marie Lou Papazian–51 percent of its employees and contractors are women.
- Girls In Tech, Armenia–a chapter of the global non-profit designed to end gender inequality in high-tech industries and startups–with Founder, Seda Papoyan (also Founded CoderDojo Armenia) led by a team of four women, with 200 registered members and a network of over 1,000 girls and women.
- SoloLearn–free student-centric open crowd-learning–with Co-founder-CEO Yeva Hyusyan–46 percent of employees are women.
- Forge Fiction–community-driven platform created by an all-female team, transfers universe creation and story writing from individuals to communities–with Co-founder-CTO Gayane Gasparyan–55 percent of employees are women.
- Embry Tech–technology to turn all types of shoes to a biometric data tracking and wellness monitoring device–with Co-founder and Chief Design Officer, Nare Gevorgyan–50 percent of the founding team are women, as are 47 percent of employees.
- Krisp–background noise cancellation for remote workforce, among Forbes Top 50 AI companies–25 percent of employees are women.
“Women are really essential in the tech sector as they are bringing a complementary strength and point of view,” says Nare Gevorgyan of Embry Tech. “I’m proud to see our numbers are growing in Armenia.”
Papoyan of GIT-Armenia explains how Armenia’s intergenerational women are readily quitting their day jobs to participate full-time in tech intensive courses. “We had a lady in her 60s register for our introduction to programming course–and was one of our top graduates who was immediately employed.”
Inspiring school children to jump on the fast-paced tech sector, GIT-Armenia’s LikeAGirl in Gyumri offered tech programs for youth, and UNFPA in Armenia supported #Teens4Change that offered technology and business skills to youth 15-18 in the northern city of Ijevan to generate innovative technical business solutions to meet local communities’ needs. Final student projects, presented at the UN offices in Armenia, included plastic recycling, tourism, and an anti-café and led to local authorities designating space for the youth to expand on their ideas. Amidst the pandemic all programs are now offered online.
The CoderDojo Armenia–joining the global movement of volunteer-led, community-based free coding clubs for youth ages 7-17, also provides young programmers mentoring opportunities. Supported by Innovative Solutions and Technologies Center (ISTC) which hosts weekend DoJo’s, over 500 Armenian children have participated in the CoderDoJos which are on hold due to Covid-19 as Papoyan and her team seek private funding and sponsorships to remain sustainable. The team’s post-Covid-19 programming will focus on Armenia’s regions and on the science behind the technology to better understand Covid-19 pandemic. They will continue to up-skill girls and women with online courses on basic literacy, digital marketing and recently had the US embassy approval of “STEMpowered girls Armenia” to help create a network of STEM girl ambassadors across all regions in Armenia.[Look for Part 2 of Armenia’s women in tech-coming tomorrow]