Naira Abramyan takes a stand for gender equality

By Brian Canever October 22, 2014

When Naira Abramyan began thinking about attending university, she knew she had to take a stand.

She wanted to study international relations at Yerevan State University, the largest university in Armenia. Her parents, on the other hand, wanted her to study linguistics or computer science at a different institution. A number of her friends agreed.

Still Abramyan refused to budge.

“It was the first decision that I took where I stood against everyone and I don’t regret it,” she says. “You get to a point where only you can help you and it is good to be strong-willed.”

Abramyan passed her entrance exams with exceptional marks and went on to complete her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the university. One year before graduation in 2010, she applied to the Football Federation of Armenia for a job handling the international transfers of Armenian soccer players, club disputes and correspondence between FIFA and UEFA.

After rounds of interviews, she was offered the position, becoming one of the only women employed in a managerial role within the organization.

“There are other women working there, but not in high positions,” says Abramyan. “(Many) are involved with international correspondence and organization of matches. The secretaries to the president and CEO are both women.”

In five years with the FFA, Abramyan has earned a significant level of respect among her colleagues. She has overseen European club transfers for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Yura Movsisyan, two of Armenia’s greatest players, and regularly receives phone calls for advice from coaches, top officials and players regarding transfer protocol.

She had been so impressive in her role from an early stage, that eight months into the job she was assigned to be liaison officer to Spain, winner of the 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup.

“It was one of the most amazing opportunities of my life,” she says. “I spoke with Sergio Ramos, (captain) Iker Casillas, Xavi. I got a jersey from David Villa.”

As a testament to her value, Abramyan is present at all of the association’s official functions, which has allowed her to collect souvenirs from 30 of the 54 member states of UEFA in the past five years.

Despite the many opportunities Abramyan has experienced in her work, there still remains great inequality when it comes to employment and promotion opportunities for women in her country. This is reflected in the disparate representation of Armenian women in leadership, evidenced by the mere 11 percent of seats in parliament held by females. After finishing the Global Sports Mentoring Program, she has plans to address perceptions of female incapacity through leadership seminars for women’s soccer players and staff at the FFA.

“The aim is inspire and give women the confidence in their skills to realize that they are equal with men. It is easy to feel discouraged if you feel unappreciated, but with encouragement and confidence in your skills, then you can promote yourself.

“I know that it will not be easy. I have to take it day by day and I will face challenges. But if I can change the life of one woman or one girl it will be enough for me.”