5 Awesome Women 2021

Now eight years running, in honour of International Women’s Day, I’ve named 5 awesome women; women who I appreciate, admire, have learned from and who I personally know.

My 5 for 2021 are all Armenian women in recognition of the fact that in 2020, Armenian women in the Republic of Artsakh endured war for a period of forty-four days and many have lost their husbands, sons, brothers and their homes.

Sona Hovhannisyan – Sona and I met nearly two decades ago when we were both members of AIESEC. She was President of AIESEC in Armenia and during her tenure, she oversaw the first round of interns and cultural exchange between Armenia and Turkey. She is passionate about developing leadership as an act and choice (not as a position) and she has continued to do this in for profit and non-for-profit organisation. She is currently Director of Picsart University, one of the latest tech unicorns coming out of Armenia.

Sona is also a trained pianist. You can check out her TEDxTalk below sharing what she learned about management is music.

Lara Tcholakian – Lara and I met when I was studying in Ottawa at Carleton University. She was then working for the World University Service of Canada. A few years later, she and her husband repatriated to Armenia. Her work as an HR leader and as a researcher at the VU Center for Boards and Leadership Development centre on leadership, organizational behavior, transgenerational transmission of collective traumas and mindfulness.

Update: Starting in April of 2021, together with CivilNet, Lara has been conducting interviews with Armenian leaders. Aptly named, the Mindful Leaders series, these interviews aim at preserving the stories and legacies of families, and reflecting on the lessons learnt from inherited collective trauma and introspective leadership. One of my favourite interviews I’ve shared below.

Lia Mkhitaryan – Lia and I also met when we were members of AIESEC. Lia is a creative leader working in the fields of arts, culture, environment, education, media, communications and social entrepreneurship. She is co-founder and CEO of the Eiva Arts Foundation. One of the foundations projects has been the creation of a board game call Arvest (now also available virtually). The game includes 12 outstanding Armenian artists of 19-20 century such as Hakob Hovnatanyan, Hovhannes Ayvazovski, Martiros Saryan, Yervand Kochar, Minas Avetisyan, etc and their most famous artworks, interesting factual information, including biographies of each artist and the peculiarities of their style. I am lucky enough to have been gifted one of the game sets. It is a wonderful and interactive way to inspired and educate children and adults about great Armenian art works.

Mary Basmadjian – Better known as the ‘Funny Armenian Girl’ is a stand up comedian, actor, writer and producer. I came across Mary online when she starting going viral with her hilariously accurate reflection of the Armenian diaspora subculture. You can follow her adventures on Instagram; like all great comedians, she uses humour as a mirror to show us truth.

Update: Now also on YouTube, you can watch my favourite character of her’s below – Vartoush!

Nevart Nina Minassian – My talented cousin who lives in London is intelligent, creative, artistic and a foodie. She founded Epel Tapel where she shares cooking recipes (and sometimes caters and collaborates with local restaurants!) and dining reviews. Epel Tapel refers to an Armenian saying describing the endless cooking and related cleaning up at home.

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