The day after International Women’s Day, four successful women in various fields gathered at the Green Bean Cafe of AUA. As stated by one of the organizers, Mimi Zarookian, the aim of the meeting was “To bring together the disparity between the genders and to empower women to reach their full potential in all spheres: socially, economically, philanthropically, politically, culturally, and so on.” “Powerful Women – Complex Lives” speed-dating event took place on March 9 at Green Bean, AUA. The speakers gave crucial advice to the AUA students and shared their experiences.
Madlene Minassian (Director of Consumption for PicsArt, Freshman English Instructor at the AUA, she partnered with numerous nonprofits to bring over 30 million USD of medical relief to Armenia) has faced the gender gap in Armenia in the past. “One of the first jobs I had in Armenia was in the field of construction. It’s a very male-oriented place. I would speak to the construction workers to see the budget and their progress, and they would always answer me via the male architect. It was a mix of my young age and little experience, but it was mostly because I was a woman. It was the first time that I felt I was being singled out as a woman in the professional field.”
Lara Tcholakian (Human Resources Department Manager of VivaCell-MTS has two Masters and a Combined Honors degrees from various universities and is currently completing her Ph.D. at the Free University in Amsterdam in Business and Management) also experienced a similar situation. “I moved here from Canada in 2004. I came from a background where women, more or less, had equal rights. At that time and even now, women in Armenia, are not as well accepted as anywhere else, especially when they are leaders. I had a hard time adjusting to the work and the career lifestyle here. It is like being bullied all the time: you always feel as if you are in this psychological position, where you constantly try to defend yourself. You just have to be strong and have faith in yourself” Mrs. Tcholakian explains what it feels like to be a woman in Armenia.
Arina Zohrabian (Worked at IREX as Country Director and Regional Education Manager, currently the Director of Admissions at AUA) also sees the gender inequality in Armenia. “We underestimate our women. Our women need to step up and be a lot stronger and a lot more confident.”
Lucineh Kassarjian (Country Director of Armenia Tree Project, Founder and CEO of Molorak Arts, Inc., Trustee at The Awesome Foundation and member of many other non-profit organizations) also agrees and encourages us to “Never think that you did not accomplish something and you are a failure. You have to be walking together with time and always refining and refreshing yourself with new sets of goals.”
Here is what solutions these wise ladies offer Armenian women.
Hard work is one quality that all these women share.
According to Mrs. Tcholakian, “You have to be strong in order to succeed in this market.” By this, she means emotional strength, not physical. “Do not take things personally. As a woman, be very patient and determined because you will come to a point where your wisdom will beat everything.”
Mrs. Zohrabian states that consistent work is what creates success: “Failure is a big part of success. Keep working and don’t be discouraged when you fail.”
Mrs. Minassian connects these ideas and shows why women, in particular, have to work even harder. “Along the way, you prove your intelligence and your ability. But still, there is this barrier. I try to be as able and smart as I can, and my husband helps with our kids whenever I need to work. You don’t give people an opportunity for that mindset (gender discrimination) to manifest, but it exists, and it’s tough.”
Mrs. Kassarjian thinks that we forget, very often, to live and enjoy our lives to the fullest. “Whatever you are doing at the moment, try to grasp the whole picture of it and attempt to enjoy it as much as possible” is her advice because “Every moment that you spend is never coming back.” When you want to do something, go for it and try to enjoy it as much as possible, so that you will not have any regrets later. For instance, she mentioned that she had some problems with her neck, but she did horseback riding, as she enjoys it so much. When you look back, saying “I wish I did it” hurts more than saying “I wish I didn’t do it.” So, It’s all about vigour, passion and grasping the moment.
“Everything is based on attitude” Mrs. Zohrabian. One should think positive and have a clear mental picture of what he/she wants to do. Always try to think good, do not stress over midterms, or think that you are going to get a low grade or fail. Instead, concentrate on the idea that you are getting an education and pursuing your dreams. “We put way too much emphasis on what other people think of us or what other people want us to be,” she says and advises to try to find a more positive environment.
Mrs. Tcholakian stresses the importance of being around supportive people. “I have a lot to thank my husband for. If it weren’t for him, I don’t know if I would be here today. He gave me a lot of words of wisdom and helped me come out of a nervous situation or anxiety.”
And as Mrs. Zarookian mentioned, “It has a lot to do with the people you surround yourself with. Everyone around me has always motivated and empowered me.”
By prioritizing tasks, these women manage their responsibilities better: “Work and family are my two most important things, I try not to do too much outside of those” says Mrs. Zohrabian. She believes that in order to be successful, you should learn how to differentiate between the essential and the secondary.
Another very important aspect that helps these ladies maneuver through their responsibilities is living in Armenia. Armenia itself is a source of inspiration for them. “I see Armenia as a responsibility and an opportunity,” Mrs. Minassian expresses her love for Armenia. As a small city, Yerevan is easy to navigate in but, at the same time, big enough to find what you want. “The tools for progress are available here,” says Mrs. Kassarjian. “I don’t think it would ever be possible for me in the US to do everything that I do here in Armenia. The idea here is that we have so many possibilities of expanding our capabilities and capacities. I would never be able to call up my neighbor in the US and say, ‘I am running late, go pick up my kids from school, bring him/her home, feed, do the homework, and wait until I come.’ NEVER in my lifetime. Even if I had my parents living 15 minutes away from me, I would ever be able to call them and ask them to take care of my kid.”
Mrs. Tcholakian talked a bit about the difference between people: “I like the fact that it is straightforward here (Armenia), but there (US) everything is vague, you have to understand what they are saying. You have to be strong enough to be that straightforward, like Armenians.”
And of course, it is greatly inspiring when you notice that your hard work is making a change. “I see the cream of the crop, and it makes me so happy to see females in Computational Sciences, which provides me a lot of reason to continue doing what I am doing,” Mrs. Zohrabian wraps up the inspirational meeting.