During the month of April, we at Candy Digital wanted to take the opportunity to amplify the fight for equality that pushes way past the 30 days of Women's History Month.
While we’ve been celebrating women’s history for 44 years in the U.S., it actually started out as a mere week (March 7-14). So what’s now an established month of celebration and recognition, women and our allies had to fight for five long years, finally convincing Congress to fully observe in 1986.
And that fight for equality continues to this day. Women are still fighting for equal rights, equal pay, and equal recognition in all different occupations and settings. We’re constantly striving to break barriers and shatter glass ceilings to honor those before us who couldn’t - paving the way for those that come after us.
The women at Candy Digital have many compelling stories to share with you. They’re stories of fighting for acceptance, doing things people said they shouldn’t do, and first hand experiences of the challenges they faced, and continue to face, as women succeeding in two generally male dominated industries - sports and technology.
Tell us about a time that you've overcome adversity as a female?
“There wasn’t a girls junior high soccer team so I played on the boys team. Boys and parents on the other teams would make negative comments. It only fueled me more to kick their butts and have fun while I was doing it. Thankfully my team and my parents were extremely supportive and proud of “the girl” on their team. I just wanted to play soccer. Being the “only” in a room (women, Latina, mother etc.), I feel an incredible amount of responsibility and honor to be an advocate for women and other underrepresented groups around me. I am extremely grateful for the people who have enabled my success and try to find every opportunity to spread kindness and mentorship.” - Janelle Pacheco Winowich
“I’m really lucky to have grown up with strong female role models around me, especially my Mother, who was a Corporate Tax Partner for Deloitte. Watching her balance work and home, plenty of difficult conversations, and most importantly advocating for herself helped me define how I show up for myself. To this day she coaches me on how to approach conversations in and out of the office and ensures I advocate for myself and those around me who may not feel comfortable doing so.” - Megan Merrick
“For many years, there were not many females in the fraud and risk space. Even today the industry is male driven. I was promoted to a Manager leadership position in the Fraud space at the young age of 25 and because of my age and gender there were definitely times where I felt out of place or my voice isn't as strong as others. With the help of mentors throughout my career, I now know the importance of having females in leadership positions especially in this industry.” - Katie Nowosielski
“A lot of young girls do not have that same exposure to tech at a young age that I had so outside of my 9-5, I like doing some advocacy work for bridging the technology opportunity gap. I teach CS at a local high school through Microsoft’s TEALS program. This is especially impactful at one of the schools I worked with where many of the students are undocumented and most wont go on to pursue higher education. After participating in TEALS, some of the students have gone on to join tech bootcamps and have started successful careers in technology.” - Alejandra Lee
“When I arrived at college as a freshman, Brown Gymnastics faced a number of challenges from injuries to cramped training facilities. Yet we persevered as a team, and by the time I graduated, we had won two Ivy League championships and earned a spot to compete at the USAG Collegiate Nationals. My teammates and I motivated one another to be better and work harder every day in the gym, and I am very proud to have been part of such an incredible group of women.” - Danielle Hoffman
“Being a woman in tech & working in a male-dominated space comes with many challenges and adversity. It is critical to empower the women you work with every chance you can to build up a strong community within the workplace.” - Annie Frenette
“I’ve lived in India for the last 5 years where I’ve faced a lot of adversity as a woman. Standing up for myself and learning where to draw my boundaries have become paramount for me thriving and surviving here. I’m a much more strong, vocal, and self-confident woman today thanks to the experience. While I’ve been fortunate to work in tech environments that have not had a heavy “bro culture”, I have had to fight many battles to feel my voice is heard as “loud and clear” as my male counterparts. I’ve had to work hard to exude confidence in the workplace and to feel like I “deserved” my success. So I have taken every opportunity I’ve gotten to mentor young women, college students and rural children in India to equip themselves to have a voice. I often engage in conversations with women I work with to see what we can do to empower each other. And I try to spread kindness and empathy, telling all the women I work with, interact with, and love how badass they are. Because it’s always worth reminding them. <3” - Anuhya Ghorakavi
“Most of my career has been spent in male dominated industries, specifically AI/tech and franchising. Over the 3 years I spent raising money in the AI world, I realized how impossible it is for women to be heard and have a voice. Because of that, I spent the 2 years prior to coming to Candy advising and investing in founders who are female to use my experience, knowledge and connections to allow them to start their business. Not only did this initiative empower me to be a better leader but I hope it touched the lives of other women to speak louder!” - Heather Chmura
“All through college, I worked at my local record store part-time. There were around six employees, me being one of the only girls on staff. Here, my coworkers, especially my boss, Justin constantly showed me such respect and gave me a voice where I even got to express my creative side. I never take for granted how fortunate I am to have such supportive men in my life so that in the real world I know I have my own voice and a tough skin to go with it.” - Julia Delaney
“Working in tech, which is typically male-dominated, there are definitely moments where imposter syndrome can strike. When I was hired at the first startup I worked at, my then-manager promoted me on the first day to be the lead of a newly formed team, and though this was my first managerial role, I was able to successfully grow the original team of two to a team of 14 within the year. Through this position, I was able to also mentor other females and help them grow into other roles within the company.” - Lydia Kim
“I’m incredibly proud of my career, which has been largely male-dominated. I’ve more often than not been the only female leader in a group, constantly fighting for more diversity and building a powerhouse of women around me.” - Kellie Simpson
What role did Tech, Sports, and Entertainment play in your life...and now?
“Gymnastics taught me hard work, it defined determination and gave me self worth at an early age. I learned how to channel thoughts of self doubt, fear, and lack of confidence, into forces that drive me passed barriers and helped me discover abilities I didn’t know I had. Following my career as a competitive gymnast, I have kept the same fervor and passion for other aspects in my life. The grit gymnastics ingrained in me has carried over to a tireless drive to be a valuable employee at Candy, and as a woman in the workplace.” - Lexi Sachs
“I am a true millennial. I grew up with “computer class” but without a cell phone. I love being from the last generation to have nostalgic memories before everything was so intuitive and immediately gratifying. It’s nice to have had time without all of that. I recently started getting involved in community theater and events here in Vegas. I am proud of myself for pursuing those goals in a city that still feels new (and intimidating) even after 5 years. “ - Ashley Rogers
“Sports was always a way I bonded with my older brothers, dad and mom. I grew up playing roller hockey with my brothers in the driveway & I was one of two girls in an all boys’ league. We are die hard Philadelphia fans (& yes, the rumors are true, we are brutal). We would always watch games together as a family while my dad almost had heart attacks screaming at the tv since being a Philly fan is borderline torture. Being a fan encouraged me to go to Tyler School of Art at Temple University in the city I’ve always loved, but was far away from. I’ve stayed here ever since. In a way my love for Philly sports impacted my entire adult life trajectory.” - Kelly Dickinson
“I was involved in swim and waterpolo in high school and became a swimming instructor to help kiddos learn how to swim as well! Sports really taught me to overcome my own limitations and develop grit! Was in Drama all 4 years in high school and majored in Theatre in college. Acting allowed me to truly be myself and build up my self-image! Ever since then I’ve been blessed to perform at the Disneyland Resort. All my passions and interests have opened many doors to great friendships, connections, and opportunities!” - Jenny Huynh
“I grew up the only girl and middle child of two boys, so sports were a part of my life since day 1. Throughout my life I was lucky enough to play sports through college and coach for about 8 years - teaching me more about life, relationships and the bigger meaning of sports all while having the opportunity to make an impact on the young girls I coached. I’m grateful to have grown up playing and coaching sports in such inclusive and empowering environments and to be surrounded by great women in all other aspects of my life. I was never told I can’t do anything because I’m a female. Of course you get people who doubt you or think you’re not ready yet or tell you the boy can carry the box downstairs because it's heavy, but that just pushes you to do better and bring others with you along the way.” - Ellie Huffman