SEATTLE, Washington — Gayane Ghandilyan Arakelyan is the CEO of Digital Pomegranate, one of many Armenian tech companies run by women. Her rise to power coincided with the coronavirus pandemic; she rapidly developed solutions to confront it.
For many Armenians, poverty is a condition of everyday life. In 2018, just over half of Armenia’s population fell below the poverty rate. This indicated a significant decline in the rate of hunger since 1999 when over four-fifths of Armenia’s population subsisted below the poverty line.
For a nation structured on strict gender roles, especially in the country’s rural villages, and which has fought a decades-long war against poverty, it is a wonder that Armenia’s tech industry has found a way to out-do the rest of the world in the number of women who are employed in tech companies and non-profits. Armenia’s tech industry employs over 10% more women than the combined average of the rest of the world in that same industry.
Five Armenian Tech Companies and the Difference They Make
- Digital Pomegranate: Arakelyan’s company helps new businesses open and helps to sustain them once they do. When coronavirus hit Gyumri, the city where Digital Pomegranate is located, Arakelyan had to take risks to sign big-name clients like Sony. By sheer strength of will and entrepreneurial finesse, Arakelyan has positioned her company to employ 100 paid interns from Gyumri and to produce online classes at no cost to anyone interested in learning ways to break into the tech industry. Half of Digital Pomegranate’s employees are women, and women hold nearly three-fourths of its management positions.
- Gyumri Technology Center: Perhaps the envy of other Armenian tech companies, Gyumri Technology Center has an international reach. An emphasis on its business strategy is to connect Armenian businesses with international partners. Boasting nearly 200 international clients, GTC understands the dynamics of local and global markets, and, like Digital Pomegranate, almost three-fourths of its employees are women.
- Enterprise Incubator Foundation: Armenian tech companies have demonstrated a commitment to hiring and empowering women. While not a tech company itself, the Enterprise Incubator Foundation is responsible for a lot of the positive work Armenian tech companies have been doing in the past few years. The EIF structured it’s training program around an intensive bootcamp, in which women develop entrepreneurial techniques and are exposed to market strategies, and an Acceleration Program, in which qualified candidates prepare to pitch their ideas to prospective clients. The goal of the EIF is to continue to increase the number of women who are employed by Armenian tech companies.
- DASARAN: Since 2015, when the United Nations announced its Sustainable Development Goals, governments and companies have sought ways to demonstrate their commitment to those goals. DASARAN creates first-rate technology that is less expensive than its competitors, giving students in Armenia access to the type of educational curriculum outlined by the SDGs. Around 330,000 Armenian students, parents, teachers and administrators benefit from DASARAN’s approach to augmented learning goals centered around student achievement.
- TUMO Center for Creative Technologies: With four locations in Armenia, TUMO seeks to provide teenagers with a way to learn about technology and design. Much of the “curriculum” is student-directed with experts to help students develop their craft. Over 50% of TUMO’s payroll is dedicated to women.
With an eye to the future, Arakelyan is representative of a generation of Armenian women who are focused on making a meaningful, substantial changes in Armenia. Arakelyan’s Digital Pomegranate is currently developing a tourist app, which Arakelyan hopes will reinvigorate Armenia’s tourism industry in a post-pandemic Armenia. In face of adversity, positive forces are working together in Armenia to bring about a flourishing economy with women at the forefront.
– Taylor Pangman