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Women Who Tech Are Dangerous: Portraits and Stories in the Age of #metoo

All portraits and interviews by John Davidson

johndavidson-photography.com

Veronica Penaloza

Veronica Penaloza

 
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Veronica Penaloza

Job Title: Account Manager for non-profits at Facebook.

Years working in the tech industry: 1.5 years

On family values:

I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. All of my family is from Venezuela. I moved to Texas four years ago.

From a very young age my parents encouraged me to explore, take initiative for the things I wanted and to be myself. I would pick my own clothing from a very young age, and express my opinion at the dinner table. They wanted me to feel confident of my own voice, and also recognize the moments I was wrong. My brother also included me and challenged me to be better as I grew up. I think my entire family did a good job explaining to me that some things in life are hard to obtain, but they also encouraged me to believe in myself and to work smart to achieve them.

On fighting for inclusion on two fronts — as a female, and as a Latina:

Yes, but I think this is my responsibility. We can go over all the stereotypes placed on women or Latinas and there will always be someone who, regardless of age, gender, or job position will believe they are true. I take it as a personal mission to show that yes, we are energetic and loud, but we are also thoughtful, patient and smart. It is exhausting and I cannot do it alone, but I am aware of this responsibility I hold as an ambassador for Latina women in tech, and yes, I gotta represent!

For the most negative feelings around women and Latinas, I counter them with empathy. We need to do the right thing and assume good intent. The right thing is never the easiest; it means rising above any senseless comment or painful exclusion and politely call it out.

On overcoming gender and ethnic stereotypes:

For the most negative feelings around women and Latinas, I counter them with empathy. We need to do the right thing and assume good intent. The right thing is never the easiest; it means rising above any senseless comment or painful exclusion and politely call it out. It is easy, really easy, to just get angry and hate. When these moments happen (which they do, all the time) it’s important to control your shocked faced, forgive quickly, correct, and move on.

On the value in support groups:

I am a part of Latinos in Tech and Boss Babes ATX. These two are about finding opportunities for a potential business partner and getting to know the most interesting and influential people. I find a lot of inspiration and strength here. They challenge me and encourage me to ask for help and give back to the community.

On a sense of mission at Facebook:

I work as an Account Manager with Nonprofits, advising them on the best ways to use Facebook, Instagram and Messenger to reach their fundraising goals.

I can see the impact of my work every day. Sometimes my impact comes with some of the most important challenges these nonprofits face, like Hurricane Harvey, and how we came together to act fast and help stranded animals and people in need. Other times (most of the times) my impact is directly aligned with them exceeding fundraising goals and expanding their mission achievements beyond expectations.

Sheryl Sandberg said something once about how the ultimate luxury is to combine passion and contribution. In my work, I combine both and this sets a clear path to happiness for me.

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I wholeheartedly support the voices of the strong women who have come forward about their tragedies. This has opened many eyes and initiated important and long-due conversations.

On inspiring figures — a few words about Sheryl Sandberg :

Sheryl Sandberg is someone who I strongly admire. She is courageous, decisive, bold, but also vulnerable and loving. I marvel at the way she juggles her role to be so approachable without losing her command. I aspire one day to have the level of self-awareness, fearlessness and business acumen she has.

On whether such a renowned voice in gender politics is able to impact an oraganization at the grass roots level:

Absolutely. We are all Sheryl fans (boys included)! Having her example at the top is critical for the culture we have at Facebook. The ripple effects of her leadership are felt across the organization, with management and individual contributors truly practicing her teachings.

On the importance of working for a company with progressive values:

In fact, this was a A+ priority for me when choosing a workplace. If a company is not aware of its impact in the world, your potential in the company is already limited. From the beginning, Facebook had a clear mission of creating a more open and connected world. Plus, we have evolved to recognize that this mission was falling short of our potential. We recently changed our mission to ‘bring the world closer together and build community’. I am confident that the opportunities from this new goal are limitless and that company’s clear vision ahead will continue to set my personal growth for success.

On the generational gap in men’s attitudes:

This is — unfortunately — true. Younger guys have more accurate ideas of what it means to work with equally prepared female peers. Older folks are more skeptical of female performance and tend to judge our ideas more frequently.

In my college experience, I don’t remember a time when a male student took the lead for an assignment. This is obviously my unique experience, but this can be a reason why guys my age, just out of college, feel comfortable with women taking the main roles.

I find that males my age (twenty-four) are very supportive and collaborative of other female counterparts. A hopeful sign that things will change and are changing.

On #metoo:

I wholeheartedly support the voices of the strong women who have come forward about their tragedies. This has opened many eyes and initiated important and long-due conversations.

I don’t feel stronger or braver, but I do feel hopeful. There are so many out there still living it, or still too traumatized to even tell themselves what happened, how can they possibly tell the world? #MeToo reflects a tiny fraction of the actual problem; the good part, the ‘I am stronger now’ part.

This movement in a way makes things even scarier and more repugnant and painful than before. Shining light into the most embarrassing truth of the past century is certainly dazing. But yes, those voices are at the epicenter of a movement that finally gets some overdue empathy. I am very hopeful for what will come!

If we don’t encourage guys to take a more active role in the house, raising children, being house-bands (House-Husbands) we cannot talk about true equality.

On next steps in the fight for gender equity:

I am very hopeful. People are seeing the tip of this massive and excruciating iceberg, just realizing that this shit happens. This is a remarkable first step, but sexual harassment is about power. If we don’t get more women in positions of power, things will not change for us. Women of color make just 3.8% of all board seats in Fortune 500 companies, AND only 7% of all female senators are women of color. There is a long way to go and we have finally taken our first step!

Successful second steps: Take women of color with you as you succeed. I hate the ‘I haven’t figured it out for myself, how can I help others?!’ type of deal. If you think you can make it on your own AND THEN make a difference you need to get better at math! Women helping other women, regardless of how senior or junior they are, is going to be the titanic wave we need to make the change we need in leadership.

Third steps involve addressing societal norms for gender roles for men. If we don’t encourage guys to take a more active role in the house, raising children, being house-bands (House-Husbands) we cannot talk about true equality.

 
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Courtney Santana

Courtney Santana