AUA’s Yes, Armenian Women Can! Campaign Raises Funds in Hidden Hills, CA, to Advance Women in STEM Education
HIDDEN HILLS, U.S. – With the prominent role that women played in the Velvet Revolution in Armenia, and as gender equality becomes a more important issue globally, the American University of Armenia (AUA) continues to be a leader in the advancement of women through its Yes, Armenian Women Can! campaign. When the campaign attains its $2.5 million goal of endowed scholarship fund, up to 100 women will be able to study Computer Science and Engineering each year in perpetuity.
On April 28, 2019, a fundraiser was held at the home of Vahan and Liza Bagamian in Hidden Hills, CA. The event was dedicated to raising awareness of and support for the Yes Armenian Women Can! campaign. To date, nearly $500,000 has been raised of the $2.5 million goal. AUA was honored by the presence at the event of Dr. Armen Baibourtian, Armenia’s General Consul in Los Angeles. After welcoming remarks by Liza Bagamian, Nelly Der Kiureghian welcomed the guests on behalf of her husband, AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian. She also presented the overarching purpose of the campaign, which places emphasis on the importance of attracting more Armenian women to the degree programs in Engineering and Computer Science. A panel discussion followed led by Dr. Shakeh Kaftarian, Psychologist, Women’s Empowerment Consultant, and Fulbright Scholar at AUA (2016-2017). Her efforts have been instrumental in the development of this campaign, along with the CEOs and founders of some of the most successful technology companies in Silicon Valley and the dubbed “Silicon Mountain” based in Armenia.
The conversation began with Dr. Yervant Zorian, President of Synopsys Armenia, speaking about the need for more qualified talent to close the existing gap between available jobs and skilled candidates in the technology sector in Armenia’s labor market. “High tech has grown fast in the last decade, from only two companies in 1992 to now over 850 companies, employing over 15,000 employees throughout the country. But there are shortages in the industry and many companies struggle to pull resources and find qualified talent. At Synopsys, we are proud that 35% of our employees are women, while in Silicon Valley that number drops to about 9%,” he remarked.
Hovhannes Avoyan (M PSIA ‘95), CEO and Founder of PicsArt, spoke about the important role women are playing in their product design. “At PicsArt, 45-50% of women are engineers, including the Head of AI and our Head of Engineering. The majority of our end-users are women, so we want to make sure women who are representing our customer base are also designing our products,” he said.
Al Eisaian, CEO and co-founder of IntelinAir, highlighted the importance of having good command of the English language for potential candidates seeking employment in the tech industry. Eisaian recommended to explore partnering with Yerevan Brusov State University of Languages and Social Sciences to encourage students majoring in foreign languages to enroll in computer science courses and enter the field of information technology. Over 85% of the student body at that university are female.
The discussion went on looking into ways of inspiring more young women to embrace STEM. Several great ideas were shared among the guests, such as making resumes name-blind, so as not to reveal a job applicant’s gender, a tactic Sevag Ajemian of Globanet is implementing. His company is also offering paid maternal and paternal leave to promote sharing family responsibilities between parents. Nishan Majarian, CEO of Agrian, Inc., spoke about the importance of creating flexible work opportunities and how this could be advantageous to women raising families. Vahe Kuzoyan, President and Co-Founder of ServiceTitan, who just raised $165 million in the latest round of his company’s fundraising, spoke about the need to source female talent and create a pipeline of seasoned managers by offering skills training in specialized areas, such as negotiations, where women may not be as aggressive as the job entails. “It’s also going to take a societal level shift. It can’t just be businesses, it has to be everyone working together to make changes happen in the country.”
AUA has already played a pivotal role in preparing Armenia’s next generation of female technology leaders through the Zaven and Sonia Akian College of Science and Engineering (CSE). The University boasts of a record of inspiring examples of women who have graduated or are currently enrolled and will soon enter the field. One example is Anush Ghambaryan, an early graduate from AUA’s Computer and Information Science (CIS) program who now heads the Artificial Intelligence department at PicsArt. Another is Anahit Serobyan, who graduated with a Masters in Computer Science (CS) in 2013 and went on to join VMware in Armenia. Currently, around 40% of students in the College are female, however, research shows that by 2025, the need for computer programmers in Armenia will triple due to the ever-increasing innovation in the country’s tech sector. This is consistently growing the market demand for even more women to enter the field and set new records outpacing that of Silicon Valley. The visionary initiative of Yes, Armenian Women Can! will ensure that Armenia continues to uphold its “Silicon Mountain” status while crossing new milestones and setting high standards for gender equity in the technology sector.
For more information or to support this initiative, please visit: https://yawc.aua.am/
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Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values. For more information about the American University of Armenia and its donor opportunities, please visit www.aua.am.