How the Armenian Tech Industry Empowered Its Women

kim kardashian

A few weeks ago, Kim Kardashian, world-famous reality star, entrepreneur and soon-to-be lawyer placed Armenia on the map of the world, but this time – outside of the country’s complicated and largely tragic political context. In fact, Kardashian, of Armenian origin herself, was invited to speak at WCIT 2019 – World Congress of Information Technologies; for the first time, the summit was hosted in Yerevan, the country’s capital.

While Kim Kardashian might appear as an unlikely guest at an IT conference, when taking a closer look, one will understand that this petite woman herself embodies the country as a tech hub – it’s small, it’s loaded with entrepreneurial energy, it’s heavily in love with social media and it’s unapologetically feminine.

Here are the stats. As of now, the tiny post-Soviet republic of three million people enjoys its 3rd place in terms of IT contribution to GDP, that is, 7% total, surpassing the United States (5.8% of GDP) and losing 1% to the world leader – Singapore.

There are currently over twenty thousand tech specialists working in Armenia, 74% of which are developers – and 30% of these specialists are women, which brings Armenian’s national IT industry to the first place on this parameter. Runner up is Canada, where women constitute 27% of tech pros. One-third might not sound impressive in modern industries, but when you consider that the EU average is only at 17%, you might find yourself surprised that a still largely patriarchal nation has birthed such a skilled female workforce.

When it comes to hiring women in tech, certain start-ups in Armenia take it even further. Enter: PicsArt. Chances are you’ve heard of this image sharing and editing app that prides itself on serving a community of 130 million unique users. What you might not have known, though, is that most of its employees are younger than 23, and half of them are women – which is unmatched and makes PicsArt quite unique on the tech landscape.

Today, Armenia is on the path to becoming the region’s next Silicon Valley, noticeably following the Israeli case. Though this resource-poor rural country has already made a commitment to tech development in early 2000s, the biggest progress was achieved only in the last year, resulting from the so-called “velvet revolution” that launched the long-corrupted country into a more transparent, democratic and dynamic system. Interestingly, most of the investment interest taken in Armenia is attributed to the heavy influence of the diaspora, which is several times larger than the country’s actual population.

As of now, many professionals are returning to the country, determined to not only reconnect with their heritage, but also to develop on a rapidly growing, inviting IT market. The industry’s fascination with female leadership seems to be rooted into this merging between the spirit of entrepreneurship the diaspora is known for together with modern Western values of gender equality, resulting in thousands of skilled, determined women.

What’s in store for tech women in Armenia? They seem to be taken care of. Organizations like “Girls In Tech” that are operating in Yerevan are keen on developing their leadership skills and motivating girls to pursue ambitious ideas and to take the risk of running their own start-up. Could this and similar initiatives potentially spring into a surge of female CEOs heading innovative tech unicorns? It might take some time, but the foundation is already there.

Naira Khananushyan