Srpouhi Galpchian immigrated to the United States from Armenia when she was a young girl with her sister and parents. She is half Armenian and half Egyptian. She grew up in Providence, Rhode Island and moved to San Diego, California after college. She graduated from Northeastern University and is currently the Director of Engineering at 4Liberty, Inc. She is happily married and has one child of her own and two stepchildren. I wanted to interview her because she has always been a close family friend and I wanted to understand how her immigration process was and how her experience in the United States has been.
Childhood in the United States
Srpouhi’s family decided to emigrate from Armenia because it was controlled by the Soviet Union at the time and they wanted a better education and opportunities for their children. There has been turmoil in Armenia for many years and many religious genocides, so they chose to come to the United States for safety reasons as well. They came as refugees and had to fill out a significant amount of paperwork as part of the immigration process. Her first impressions of the United States were pure admiration, and stated how it was far more abundant than Armenia had been. Her and her sister quickly learned English. Once she arrived and started school, her parents stressed the importance of assimilating into American culture since that was their new home, while also retaining their Armenian heritage by speaking the language at home. Srpouhi’s parents were strict and emphasized the importance of maintaining high grades so they could later become successful. She recalled fond memories of her grandmother and father, as
“they always taught us [her and her sister] if you’re going to do something, do it right or don’t do it at all.”-Srpouhi Galpchian
Her parents instilled values of hard work and dedication to both her and her sister Vartouhi. They took this advice to heart, as they are two of the most hardworking people I know, and rarely make excuses for anything. Throughout their lives, they have not let anything get in the way of their goals and have ultimately become successful in their careers, as well as being wonderful mothers.
As a female engineer in a male-dominated field, Srpouhi has unfortunately faced discrimination. Sadly,
“It took many years of working with them [men] and gaining their respect and them understanding my capabilities to come to kind of an understanding that I’m in the position because I’m deserving.”-Srpouhi Galpchian
This idea that she was not deserving of her position because she is not a man is so ill-conceived, since she went to a top university and got selected for good jobs. The sexism she experienced in the workplace for years just because she is a woman is very sad. In addition to dealing with men in her job, she has to also juggle being a mom. She revealed how difficult it can be when she stated how she felt the need to step back from her job in order to really be there for her son in his first couple years of life. Even when she fully returned to all of her professional duties, she still had to sometimes be pulled away to pick him up, or care for her young stepchildren since her husband has a less flexible schedule. However, in my opinion this makes her an even stronger person for being able to care for her children while also working hard in her job as an engineer.
The American Dream
Srpouhi views America in a very positive light, and fully believes that the American Dream still exists today. She does not believe that skin color or gender or race are substantial barriers and that anyone can succeed if they work hard enough. Her advice to a new immigrant would be:
“do your best, try your hardest, and you will succeed. If you’re willing to put in the time and the effort to work and educate yourself and educate your children, your outcome will be bountiful.”-Srpouhi Galpchian
Srpouhi and her family came to the United States with no knowledge of the language, customs, or government policies and over time through her determination, she became educated and successful. She would not accept failure as an option and reaped many rewards. She did not allow anything to stand in her way and fought against discrimination to get to where she is today. She is immensely grateful to live in the United States, since she had lived in communist Soviet Union and appreciated the opportunities she received here.
Srpouhi believes in a merit-based system, where someone’s capabilities, knowledge, and abilities should be the most important factor in terms of hiring. Although she is a strong supporter of women’s rights, she believes that the person with the best capabilities should receive the job. She states,
“I believe that as long as you work hard and you try hard if your abilities and your knowledge and your capabilities are equal, it doesn’t matter if you’re a female or a male, so I don’t really base it on gender or race or color or religion or age, I base it on capability”-Srpouhi Galpchian
It was a pleasure to speak with Srpouhi and I gained a lot of respect for her after our discussion. I learned so much about her life and how her values impact her worldview. I also learned about how being a mother impacts her in the workforce, and heard about the blatant sexism she experienced from some of her male coworkers. This reminded me of the article “We talked to an employment lawyer about ‘mom bias.’ Here’s what she wants you to know” and found some similarities. In this article, it stated how there’s a perception that “mothers in particular are “less available,” and “too distracted” to do their jobs properly” (Murray). This idea is detrimental to all mothers because it makes others think that they are not qualified to do their jobs even though they are.
However, based on this interview, many things we learned in class do not apply here. Audre Lorde proclaimed that “we have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate” (Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference). The United States is so ethnically and racially diverse and the differences among each-other do not define us, it is the American bond that brings us together. Lorde’s analysis is a very negative and bleak way of looking at the US that did not define Srpouhi’s experience here at all.
Another topic we learned about in class was white fragility, as explained by Robin DiAngelo. She essentially stated how every person is racist, whether they think they are or not, and that there is no way to escape this. It also enforces the oppressive system and each person must become educated to become an ally. Srpouhi’s experience completely differs from this, as she does not believe race or ethnicity to be a factor in terms of jobs. She does not see the need for people to apologize for their race or to make significant efforts to not seem racist. After all, she has not experienced systematic racism or sexism in the least, even though she is a colored woman.
Personally, being a half Mexican and half white woman has not caused me to experience any racism or sexism based on who I am. Srpouhi and I are both very fortunate to have not experienced this, since millions of other people do.
Full Audio File
Murray, Stephanie. “We Talked to an Employment Lawyer about ‘Mom Bias.’ Here’s What She Wants You to Know.” Https://Www.thelily.com, The Lily, 28 July 2020, www.thelily.com/we-talked-to-an-employment-lawyer-about-mom-bias-heres-what-she-wants-you-to-know/.
Lorde, Audre. “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference.”
DiAngelo, Robin. White Fragility. Public Science, 2016.