Meet The Ladies Of Tech At R29

Stereotypes are hard to kill. For women in the tech field, that means combating the assumption that technology teams are full of men — and nerdy ones, at that. Unfortunately, numbers only confirm the notion that women remain significantly underrepresented in the industry. Google's workforce is just 30% female. The majority of female staff at Apple work in non-tech positions. In 2013, women made up just 26% of the computing workforce in the country.
But, the space is changing for women. Apple's CEO has addressed the gender disparity at the company, acknowledging the steps it needs to take to get more women on board. Plus, there has been an onslaught of new programs designed to get young girls interested in coding, like Google's Made With Code.
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Here at Refinery29, we’re lucky to have a tech team that's chock full of savvy, stylish women. They make our site — and all your favorite content — possible. Ahead, meet the rad ladies who run tech at R29.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Britnee Cann, QA Manager

How did you get into tech?
"As a kid, I was always curious about the way things worked. I always wanted to understand why they worked they way they did. To me, answers like, 'That's just how it is,' were not acceptable."

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman in your field?
"I wish I could say none, but the sad truth is this industry still has a strong gender bias. Some men still think of tech as a boys club in that no woman could possibly understand or do what they do. (Luckily, those men aren't at R29.) And, there are smaller, more annoying things, like whenever I tell a man what I do, I always get a, 'Wow, really? I would never have guessed that looking at you' type of response."

How do you get/keep women on the team?
"A lot of women seek out R29 because of its reputation, but sometimes we'll do grass-roots style recruiting through Meetups and community events. Keeping women on the team is the easy part. If they're coming from a job where the tech team was male-dominated, R29 is a huge breath of fresh air."

Where do you see the future of women in tech?
"The future of women in tech is the current female youth. I'd love to do away with the stigma of working in tech as being unfeminine or unsexy so that young girls aren't deterred from computer sciences. Organizations like Girls Who Code that are empowering young girls to take up technical interests are huge in this effort."

What's the best advice you've ever been given?
"'Sometimes it's better to have to ask for forgiveness instead of permission.' In other words, if you have an idea, just do it."
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Rachel Shatkin, Front-End Engineer, Partnerships

Claudia Sosa, QA Engineer, Mobile

How did you get involved in tech?
Claudia: "During my first year of college I was an undecided major. I knew I wanted to be part of something that would consistently challenge me while being financially rewarding. As it turned out, I had family that were in the IT field who introduced me to it. I was amazed with the abundance of IT opportunities available, and how computers were changing the way we all lived our lives. I was told that IT was a boring field, but decided to follow my instincts. I was ready to step out of my comfort zone and did so by enrolling into a Computer Networking and Security program."

What's the greatest stereotype or misconception about what you do?
Claudia: "Quality Assurance has always been considered a non-revenue generating department, and sometimes it can be perceived as being an area of low bottom-line contribution. That's a mistake, because what QA does directly affects the user's experience and helps generate revenue as a result."

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman in your field?
Rachel: "I'd like to preface by saying I'm pretty fortunate to have started my career as a lady dev at a time when the number of women in the space is on the rise, and at a company that surrounds me with rockstar women in tech every day. (I always feel like I'm sitting at the cool kids table — legit.) I know this isn't the case for most gals like me.

That said, people are often surprised when I introduce myself as a dev. While it's a sad reality that this is a hard concept to grasp in this day in age, I love being part of the generation that's changing the way the world views women in tech, and encouraging others to take the plunge as well. So, it's empowering, really."

How does being in tech make you feel empowered?
Rachel: "As much fun as it is surprising others with my technical abilities, I strive to surprise myself on a daily basis by seeking new challenges and ways to improve. I'd be lying if I said I don't get bogged down by stubborn bugs and yak-shaving every now and again, but the feeling I get at the end of a particularly heavy sprint makes me feel like a total badass, and I never fail to learn something new in the process."

Where do you see the future of women in tech?
Claudia: "The future for us is limitless. We are already seeing more women CTOs and cofounders for small start-up tech companies. I think we still have a lot of room for women in this space."
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Zooey Purdy, Product Manager, Publishing Platform

How did you get involved with tech?
"I'm part of a whole family of engineers (there are about 10 of us, including extended family), so technology is definitely in my blood. That said, I've always been the weird, artsy one, so I found a way to incorporate an outlet for my creative side into my career in technology as well."

How does being in tech make you feel empowered?
"Problems in the technology world can be very complicated and very stressful. If I can do this, I can do anything."

How do you get/keep women on the team?
"Ever since I started here (I'm the OG of the R29 tech team), I've really taken it upon myself to create an internal support system and culture of encouragement for our team. It's 100% the reason so many of us have been here for so long, and it is definitely attractive to potential candidates. It's obvious to people who interview with us how close our team is and how supportive we are of one another."

What's the greatest stereotype or misconception about what you do?
"My least favorite stereotype is that all engineers are uncool, socially awkward, and have no style. I think that this misconception gives us all a bad name and also discourages outsiders from pursuing careers in technology. It's one of my personal goals to break down this stereotype! "

What's the best advice you've ever been given?
"Lisa Bloom said at a conference I attended: 'Women have to be 80% sure of something to say it, men only have to be 20% sure. If you're not confident of something, fake it.' Projecting confidence is so incredibly important. The content of what you say is critical, but how you say it can make or break your point. "
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Marin Moore, Support Engineer

Patty Delgado, Engineering Team Lead, Web

How did you get involved with tech?
Patty: "Ever since I began surfing the web, I was interested in building websites. I had a kick-ass LiveJournal, Myspace, and would make weird horse-club fan sites for me and my friends. (I'm from Texas, I love horses.) I never really thought of it as a possible career though, not until I got a work-study position in college."

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman in your field?
Patty: "There's a lot of controversy and stigma that comes with being a woman in tech because there is such a gender disparity. It's also a field that gets a lot of attention from the media — we're the people behind the technology that our society is growing more and more dependent on. There are definitely challenges being a woman in many, many other fields, but those women don't often have the voice and platform that we do."

How do you get/keep women on the team?
Marin: "When I joined Refinery29, the IT/Ops team was still very small, and I was the only dedicated Support Engineer. What I found so interesting and different from other offices was the amount of women who were working in the tech department. Previously, I had only worked on teams that were made up of mostly men. I thought, 'This is really cool. I’ve never worked with so many women before!' We are all friends and support one another. There’s a lot of love on this team."

How does being in tech make you feel empowered?
Marin: "Sometimes working with technology can be extremely frustrating. You can spend so much time trying to figure out why something isn’t working, and when you finally get it and everything is suddenly working you get such a great rush! It’s also really great being able to teach others how to solve those issues and provide them with the tools and skills they may not have had before, which can empower them in the future."

Where do you see the future of women in tech?
Patty: "Hopefully progressing. We need to keep talking about the challenges, and we need to be honest about them."
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Sara Okin, Product Manager, Web

How did you get involved with tech?
"It actually wasn't something I was interested as a kid. It happened a bit by accident. I was doing product management work for the merchandising team at a previous job. I was building backend tools in the admin to help make their jobs easier. That morphed into building some front end features in partnership with our engineering team which I really enjoyed. After doing that for about a year, I moved to Refinery29 and continued to work on the user experience across the site. After working at Refinery for almost two years, I've found myself full integrated into our technology team. It surprised me a bit — but my dad has always worked in technology, so maybe it's in my genes."

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman in your field?
"Being a woman in tech, especially a young one, poses a few challenges. The number-one challenge I've experienced is coworkers and managers not taking you seriously. People have a tendency to ignore suggestions from people who are young. Being a woman, on top of that, only causes them to discount those ideas more. The second challenge I've faced is criticism around being bitchy. On a few occasions, I've received feedback that I'm not supportive enough of other co-workers' ideas. If a man said 'I don't think that idea is very good,' he would receive praise about being honest and efficient — for women it's different. We're always expected to be nice, kind, and nurturing. I think it is so important for women to have the ability to be critical without being considered bitchy."

How do you get/keep women on the team?
"At Refinery29, we make it a point to reach out and recruit women for all roles within the technology department. This has been critical to our current team makeup which has a significant number of females for the size of our team. We also work at a female-oriented company so it can make recruiting a bit easier! Recently, we arranged a dinner with our two female cofounders, Piera (our creative director) and Christene (our editor in chief). It’s events like these that make the women in our technology group feel connected to the organization at large and also special within it."

What's the greatest stereotype or misconception about what you do?
"There are so many stereotypes about working in technology; that you have to be a man, that you have to be a nerd, that you have no style, that you only like Star Trek. The list truly goes on and on. But, as a woman working in technology, I'm already combatting one of the biggest stereotypes out there — that women aren't smart enough to work in STEM fields. The more women who enter those fields, the greater chance we have to eradicate these stereotypes that are so incredibly outdated."

What's the best advice you've ever been given?
"One thing that's always stuck with me is a line from Lean In. Sheryl Sandberg says, "Always take a seat at the table." I think that's such a critical piece of advice for women, because if you don't, you automatically put yourself at a disadvantage. You're physically divorced from the conversation, and therefore cannot as easily contribute. It's important to know when to speak loudly and when to stay quiet, but if the rest of the group can't even see you, you really don't have either as an option. "
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Jennifer Refat, Senior Front-End Engineer, Web
Emily Hengemihle, Product Manager, Partnerships

How did you get involved with tech?
Jennifer: "As a child, I was very curious and persistent with my explorations. I tinkered with science kits, read a lot, and had many do-it-yourself kits. It was a natural progression to take programming classes in high school. I was instantly hooked. The rest is history!"

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman in your field?
Jennifer & Emily: "People in tech are generally welcoming, but as with any field, there are always a few who are arrogant and cocky. This and the prospect of unequal salaries may make someone less likely to stick around. In the end though, it's up to you to make it work for yourself regardless of the industry you're in."

How do you get/keep women on the team?
Jennifer & Emily: "Our tech team is pretty diverse in respect to gender and nationalities. It's not the norm in the tech industry but hey, baby steps!"

How does being in tech make you feel empowered?
Jennifer: "Being in tech nowadays feels a bit like being a superhero. When I tell non-tech people what I do, I get a 'wow!' or equivalent response. It's pretty neat to have a vision for something you want to see built and then being able to build it yourself."

What's the greatest stereotype or misconception about what you do?
Jennifer & Emily: "Being mistaken for a web designer."
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Sarah Azpeitia, UX & Product Designer

How did you get involved with tech?
"I wasn't fully on board with technology until early/mid college. As a kid, I loved my grandmother's VCR, which was the most technologically advanced object I interacted, but I didn't own a computer until I turned 14 or 15. I remember playing at my mother's work computer — I used Microsoft paint and would paint landscapes and drawings using that program. I was always interested in drawing and was a very good note taker in school. My high school encouraged students to draw mental maps, and I would illustrate most things we spoke of in class instead of taking notes. The drawing made it easier to associate and remember."

How do you get/keep women on the team?
"It's been difficult to find fellow women who do UX, but also men and other designers who do user experience. In my opinion this is because designers — who inherently have a knack for web, interaction, and user experience — don't tend to advertise themselves as User Experience Designers. I say this because, I come from a very traditional print background with almost no digital experience when I first started this job, and I ended up jumping into the role because of the way the team transitioned at the time."

What's the greatest stereotype or misconception about what you do?
"People don't really understand what user experience is, most people tend to think I write code. They think of me as a web developer, but I actually don't have the brains for that. Also, people tend to think I just do wireframes — which is an oversimplification of the process behind creating intuitive and functional digital products."

What's the best advice you've ever been given?
"To be happy and to try and not be afraid of going for what you want. Don't forget what it is that you want and makes you you."

Where do you see the future of women in tech?
"I’m optimistic. I realize the statistics of Silicon Valley giants are discouraging, but there’s a generational shift across all industries where both genders are getting to play on an equal level. We are also surrounded by personalities who have encouraged and sparked that buzz and awareness around us, from women like Marissa Mayer to Sheryl Sandberg to Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel, Malala Yousafzai, Lena Dunham, even Beyoncé, they all have one thing in common — that they are portraying women as front-playing, influential, and powerful leaders in their respective industries. This is super empowering.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Laima Tazmin, Platform Engineer, Publishing Platform
Jennifer Calloway, Front-End Engineer, Publishing Platform

How did you get involved in tech?
Jennifer: "Growing up and even through college, I didn't know a single person who had anything to do with tech at all. I never even remotely considered it to be something I would ever know much about. I started my career as a writer, then when I moved to New York a few years ago I got a job as a community manager at a tech start-up based on my past writing/social media experience. My first exposure to real tech work happened there, and I slowly started to get familiar with HTML and CSS throughout the couple of years I spent on their product team, and I really loved being to manipulate the elements of a webpage even with the rudimentary skills I had at the time. I realized that coding was actually a really good fit for my personality, and decided that I liked it enough to make a major career change and become a real developer. I quit my job and spent about six months teaching myself as much as I could, and I was super excited to end up here at R29 as a front-end engineer. Although it took a LOT of work in a short period of time, I'm so glad I took that leap of faith because I've never been happier!"

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman in your field?
Jennifer: "The 'bro culture' you often think of in relation to the tech industry is very much a real thing, and it has been present in varying degrees of prominence in every experience I've had in tech companies, meetups, and forums. I think it's difficult for women in tech because there's a level of respect that many men automatically give to other male developers, but for women, you really have to prove yourself before your opinions are considered valid. It can be really intimidating, not because male developers are necessarily better or more knowledgeable, but because there is a strong feeling that they have no interest in what you have to say. The intimidation factor also makes it a very difficult industry to break into because you know you're going to be judged very harshly even as a beginner."

What's the greatest stereotype or misconception about what you do?
Jennifer: "To me the biggest misconception is one I had before entering the tech industry, which is that coding is something so foreign to the average person that they wouldn't be able to understand it and it's not worth trying to approach in any way. Even a tiny bit of knowledge about a few pieces of the technology you interact with is valuable! Having some form of context makes you a smarter and better technology user, even if you have no interest in making anything yourself."

How do you get/keep women on the team?
Laima & Jennifer: "It really comes down to team-wide hiring decisions and keeping a close eye on department culture. If leadership doesn't cultivate a positive culture and actively take steps to make sure it stays that way, most women aren't going to want to work there."

Where do you see the future of women in tech?
Jennifer: "I think more women will definitely continue to enter the tech industry in some capacity since it is so profitable, but that tends to mostly be women coming into marketing or client services type of roles. From my own experience, I imagine there will certainly be other women like myself who are introduced to technology for the first time while working at tech companies in non-technical roles and decide to make a switch, but that's not very easy to do. I hope that an introduction to basic coding skills becomes more common in high schools because I think a lot more girls would discover they were interested if they didn't have to go out of their way to get the initial exposure."
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Susana Delgadillo, Platform Engineer, Publishing Platform

How did you get involved with tech?
"Thanks to my brother, I've been interested in and have played video games since I was in elementary school. I've spent an astronomical number of hours on my PC, especially in high school and college. When the time came to start thinking about college, I'd taken inventory of the things that interested me. One question that took hold was 'how do these games work'? And, that question quickly branched out into more questions about how these machines around me work."

What's the greatest stereotype or misconception about what you do?
"Some people assume that learning about "tech" is something extremely difficult and maybe even impossible. The term "tech" is so broad and encompasses many things. It would be very difficult to learn all there is to know about tech in one shot. If you start off small, it is possible to learn all that you care to know."

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman in your field?
"One of the first impressions people get of me is that I’m female. That in itself is unavoidable and it's a non-issue. In the cases where this is then flagged as a negative trait, it's almost as if I've been placed behind the starting line. It can be frustrating that I can't control that very next mental action that some people take when they see me. But, that's not really my problem. Being female is not a problem."

How does being in tech make you feel empowered?
"One of the best parts of this job is being able to contribute to problem-solving discussions with the other developers on the team. It's also a lot of fun to create things that other developers and users will use."

What's the best advice you've ever been given?
"Haters gonna hate."
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