Women in VR

     Today is International Women’s Day, so it only seems fair to pause and recognize how vital women have been to the emergence and progression of virtual reality. The sheer number of females, globally, who have made a tangible impact on the field, is astounding. At the 2017 “Women in Tech” panel in Finland, it was even argued by attendees that women have greater involvement in virtual reality over other STEM fields due to the fact that it is a more versatile space, and less male-dominated, as it is so new (1). Regardless of the reason, there are some incredible women who deserve to be honored for their profound influence on VR.

Nonny de la Peña

Nonny de la Peña

One such woman is Nonny de la Peña, better known as “the Godmother of Virtual Reality”. De la Peña practically pioneered the intersection of VR and immersive journalism, founding the immersive virtual, augmented, and mixed reality company, the Emblematic Group. Some of her work includes, the film “Hunger in L.A”, which was premiered at Sundance, and shows a homeless man collapsing while waiting in line at an LA food bank (2). By using VR as a tool to truly get people to empathize with societal issues, she has been able to change the meaning of the field as a whole (3). Additionally, de la Peña has seen VR shift right before her eyes from her extensive experience with ancient-looking VR headsets back in the day to her company’s present day use of photogrammetry – not to mention, Oculus Rift founder, Palmer Lucky, once interned for her (4).

Jayisha Patel

Jayisha Patel

Similar to Nonny de la Peña is Jayisha Patel, a filmmaker who made a short based on the life of an Indian human-trafficking survivor, entitled “Notes to My Father”. Through her work, Patel has not only been able to give users a visceral perspective of the objectification and vulnerability of trafficking victims, but her film also integrates the female voice into VR content, a rare feat in a field where a good amount of the content is targeted towards male-users (5). Gio Minaya is yet another female trailblazer in virtual reality, serving as VF supervisor at a leading digital studio in the US called ReelFX. Minaya, who has 20 years of experience in animation production, has said that one of her goals with the development of VR content is to make it a less isolated activity, and bring more people together via virtual reality (6). As a revolutionary face in the field, Minaya additionally states on being a woman, “I don’t look at my gender and think it holds me back... Women and men should be treated equally but in most cultures that is not the case and this is not confined to the tech industry. It is in most industries” (7).

Beth Marcus, Carolina Cruz-Niera, Jannick Rolland, and Char Davies are just a few more names that are apart of the broad list of distinguished women who have affected the VR realm (8). As the female presence in virtual reality and STEM grows, we get more perspective and minds to strengthen the field. Be sure to use today (and honestly everyday) as an excuse to celebrate a woman in your life and all of her accomplishments!

  1. Kirschbaum, Judith. “Virtual Reality Is the Place to Be for Women in Tech 2017.” Medium, The Shortcut Talks, 11 Oct. 2017
  2. Knoepp, Lilly. “Forget Oculus Rift, Meet The Godmother Of VR.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 13 Apr. 2017
  3. Helmore, Edward. “'Godmother of VR' Sees Journalism as the Future of Virtual Reality.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 11 Mar. 2015
  4. Knoepp, Lilly. “Forget Oculus Rift, Meet The Godmother Of VR.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 13 Apr. 2017
  5. Faramarzi, Sabrina. “How Women Are Gaining Ground in Virtual Reality.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 14 Aug. 2017
  6. Coleman, Lauren deLisa. “How This Woman Is Changing The Face of Virtual Reality.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 30 June 2017
  7. Ibid.
  8. Morie, Jacki. “Why Yes, Virginia, There Have Always Been Women in VR.” VRScout, 24 July 2015


Written by Sonal Kapoor

Thanking our Female Role Models! My Top 5 #BOSS Ladies

Recently, BWIB had a campaign and tabling event, called Recognizing Role Models : Thanking Inspiring Females in Our Lives . Our mission was to encourage people to recognize and give thanks to the strong women they look up to in their lives. They could either write letters to their moms, sisters, and girl friends, or partake in our social media campaign by taking a picture with the statement, “ _____ inspires me because _____!” See the photos on our Facebook for the empowering messages people had to say to the strong women in their life! 😊

In light of our campaign, I wanted to take some time to recognize my top 5 female role models:


5. Ellen DeGeneres

“Be kind to one another.”

Everyday Ellen ends her show every day with this mantra. She is understanding, accepting, positive – she always gives her guests surprises to recognize their extraordinary efforts in helping people . Ellen is one of the first major day time television hosts to come out as lesbian, which paved the way for more LGBTQ+ people to have a role on the big screen! Did I also mention that she likes to dance?!



4. Beyonce

Who run the world? Girls! This one is no surprise –

I mean, who doesn’t love Queen Bey?



3. Lady Gaga

I have always looked up to Gaga for how fearless she is to embrace her identity and individuality ! The Born This Way album spoke volumes to many of her little monsters . She also supports mental wellness and empowers the youth through her Born This Way Foundation. Above all else , Gaga stays true to her fans and her music, and reminds us that she is human too.


2. Tyra Banks

Supermodel. Producer. Host and TV Personality. Businesswoman. A fierce, strong, independent woman (and queen) who can walk the walk and talk the talk (as well as have a very, strong smize game) . Tyra has produced 23 cycles of America ’ s Next Top Model – talk about giving women of all color s , shapes and sizes an opportunity in the fashion industry and mainstream media!


1. My Mom

I could not end this list without recognizing the woman who has been there for my entire life, my mom. My mom has made countless sacrifices for me and brothers, so we can do more of what we love. She always takes care of me and wants the best for me . Even though she doesn’t show it sometimes, I know she loves me, and I love her! Thank you, mommy!



Who are your top 5 female role models?

How will you show them your appreciation this holiday season?


Written by Erinn Wong

A Letter to All BWIB Haas Applicants

To all the sophomores in Berkeley Women in Business, who are applying to Haas –
Simply put, you are amazing.

With only 30 days to fill out the Haas application, topped with classes, midterms, clubs, work, family, relationships and life, I can’t possibly know how stressful this time of the year may be for you. The Haas application workshop with Ana revisited my fears of applying next year – Oh no, what if I don’t have enough experience by then to write an essay about, or what if my grades don’t meet the average GPA? And to think that I am only one year away from this application process in the midst of all this craziness, I am actually so scared! I just wanted to take this time to say that I truly applaud all of you for applying and want to wish you the best of luck!

I know for many of us, although we don’t vocalize it, we think that Haas is the ultimate fulfillment and a large part of helping us get to our goals– that most of our worries will be gone if we get into Haas, and life will be figured out. That’s why the stakes are so high. Obviously, this is far from reality – our lives will work out regardless if we get into Haas. It is so, so hard to trust the process. In February, whether we get that letter of acceptance or rejection, take it in as a moment to reflect on how far you’ve grown. If you got in, congrats and we can’t wait to see how you’ll take Haas to fulfill your goals! If you fall in the latter, have some ice cream and we can’t wait to see how you’ll take Berkeley to fulfill your goals! Yes, it is hard to face the defeat in the moment – we think that all our hard work didn’t get us in or that we weren’t good enough.

Quite frankly, that isn’t true, and I think we need to take a step back to realize the bigger picture. We’re here. We’re living. We’re breathing. We’re at Berkeley. We’ve gained so much knowledge in our studies, professional careers, friendships and in all the areas of life that we don’t see – and there’s still so much to learn. We’ve also grown so much in such a short amount of time – just one year. Imagine the amount of growth we’ll experience at the end of our journey here at Berkeley. We may not be able to see the growth within us in that moment of defeat, but we need to realize we have been learning and growing all along. In fact, the BWIB alumni I met at the networking event reminded me that regardless if they got into Haas, they are now working at companies they enjoy. Even then, they’re still learning and growing both personally and professionally. There was a comment one of the alumni made that stuck with me – we asked her, if there was one thing she could have done differently back in her time at Berkeley, what would she do? She told us that while she was satisfied with everything she was involved with, she wished that there was more time to try and do more activities, and to appreciate the multitude, variety and accessibility of opportunities there were. So go, keep trying and exploring! – because that’s how we’ll learn and grow the most.

So as a young freshman myself, you may be thinking – So what? What do I have to know? Why do I care?

I care because I see so many people stuck in this cycle of blindness, that they beat themselves up for not achieving a professional title and aren’t satisfied internally – Sometimes, we confuse ourselves and think that our external, materialistic success defines our personal success. This isn’t true. We must be personally fulfilled before we can be professionally fulfilled. We can look to our alumni, who are all examples of leading women taking pride and enjoying the work they’re doing both professionally and personally.

Don’t forget that you all have incredible stories to tell. So sit back and think about where you stood one year ago, and where you’re at today. How did you grow? What did you learn about yourself and how did you try to make an impact? When did you struggle and how did you make it through?

We all have stories to tell, and you are all talented people who want to make change in the world. We just need to be reminded sometimes – that yeah, we’re pretty amazing! Yes, we’re all #girlboss(es), regardless of Haas! And we will continue to be!

A freshman who really admires all of you and the impact you make,

Introducing Professor McElhaney

Kellie A. McElhaney is the Associate Adjunct Professor for the Haas School of Business - UC Berkeley. She also leads the Institute for Business and Social Impact, which focuses on investing in women in the global economy, in business, and in leadership. She strongly believes in women as corporate leaders .

Below is the transcript of our interview with her for the Females in Faculty Campaign:

Who was your female role model growing up?

"So sadly, I didn’t have a female role model growing up, which probably says a lot about the time in which I was growing up and looking around seeing women that I wanted to become. Actually, my father was my female role model or should say, leader of females in terms of a role model. He was an athletic director at an academic institution, well ultimately for academic institutions, but he was one of the authors of Title IX, so certainly the female coaches that he brought home and female athletes was really fighting for gender equity in the academic world. Early on, he had a huge impact on me."

How has being a woman shaped the way you teach your classes?

"The first thing really that has shaped my view is being a mom. Being a woman and a mom, looking at my daughters and trying to understand what kind of a world  I'm helping to create or not helping to create for them, so that’s what got me into this space. Very much, I teach my classes differently because I know the data that we often attribute ideas a woman has given to a man. Men are the first to raise their hand. Men will generally in the classroom raise their hand and keep it raised while some body else is answering the question. Women tend to find that to be rude, so they will put their hand down. So there’s lots of different dynamics on how you teach. I would say the single biggest thing that I do differently as a woman because I am a woman with other women is to focus, double down, on celebrating other woman every single day because I don’t think we celebrate ourselves enough. Sometimes we don’t think we celebrate ourselves enough … we feel more of a … if she’s going to get celebrated, then it decreases my chances of doing well, which is not the case. So it is my mission every single day to celebrate as many women as possible on that day."

Were there any moments throughout your career where your gender affected how you were treated?

"There have been so many times that I realize being a woman is how people react to me. It’s not even a joke. It ’s not even “just a woman,” but things that I hear like, “Wow, you're so nice to be a feminist,” or “You wear lipstick, and you’re a feminist? ” … Because I came from banking, and there were no women when I was in the room, so my first faculty meeting, post PhD, I asked a question about “Pareto optimality” at a faculty meeting – couldn't remember it from Econ 1, nor did I understand the context in which it was being used and I had a male professor turn to me and say, “ Don't worry your pretty little head about it. This is an Economics term. We have this.” So yeah, I am reminded a lot about how being a woman just changes the way I'm being treated differently, and I should say, not always in a negative sense. There are lots of times where I very much use my feminine power in ways that I know wins me more."

What is your biggest piece of advice for students in underrepresented communities that are trying to pursue a career?

"I think the biggest advice – there has never been a time better than today to bring your whole self to work, particularly if you're an underrepresented minority, diverse, in all ways, we are diverse. Bring it. Bring it all. You're being hired right now not because you're diverse but because you are you and your diversity is part of you. I get frustrated when I hear folks from diverse communities say, “Well, I don't want to be a number, ” “I don't want to be hired just because” – that’s not why you’re being hired. You're being hired because of you and your diversity is part of you, so just bring it."


Thank you , Professor Mc Elhaney ! We are inspired and empower ed , and we can ’ t wait to see the work that the Center for Gender Equity and Leadership will accomplish!

For more information, checkout her UGBA 192 class in the spring time , called “ The Business Case for Investing in Women. ”

Nevertheless, She Persisted

By the members of Berkeley Women in Business

As a community of young women, we reject the misogynistic notions that females should be quiet. We stand in defiance to the messages telling us that women are incompetent or weak. We are a body of powerful, intelligent and successful women who would like to share a collection of personal experiences. These are our stories of persistence.


I was told that I’m incapable of managing a company, because I’m a young female. Instead of being valued for my intellect and experience, I was told that I’m “too pretty”. I prove those people wrong every day by continuing to grow my organization and create more success. I’d like to show the world that I am capable of any obstacle, through my strength, wisdom and courage.


-Ana Mancia


As a woman pursuing a career in startups/venture capital, I've personally encountered sexism from male colleagues in the workplace who still inherently possess the notion that this industry, while traditionally male-dominated, should persist to be so. I prove these people wrong every day through my drive and passion to learn everything I possibly can about the industry, specifically my particular interest in financial technology, and my insatiable work ethic and persistence, whether that is generating as many startup leads as possible, speaking with entrepreneurs about their business models, or advocating for a particular deal from start to finish.


- Anonymous

I have been diagnosed with mental disorders since my freshman year of high school. I battled anorexia then, and I battle depression and bipolar disorder now. But I know I am not defined by my illness. I continue to pursue my passion in technology, challenging the barrier against women in STEM. Now, I am an entrepreneur coach, a writer, and a contributor for Product Hunt. Without my past, I would not be the resilient and empowered woman I am today. I have, and will, continue to persist for passion.


- Kat Nguyen


Though I have grown up with a supportive family, encouraging teachers, and affectionate friends, I’ve always been timid and afraid to step outside of my comfort zone. Every day, I see a new case of rape, gender inequality, abuse, illness, and terror whether I want to or not and every time, I am reminded of the egocentricity within me for not already having made a difference. I am an advocate for the quote “everything happens for a reason” and believe that I was given an eye for social issues for a reason. I know that things are a lot easier said than done, but I plan on making my words, ideas, and plans come to life no matter what serpentine path life takes me on... because that's what leaders do. What I am coming to realize is that me wanting to make a difference outside of my world is actually making an even bigger difference within myself.  


-Suhitha Kosuri


I was interviewed for a intern position at a startup and very quickly, I realized that I was the only female in the office. My interviewer was very direct and the impostor syndrome started to set in. It was very intimidating at first, but I ended up being hired after I persisted to show them examples of my work. It ended up being one of the coolest groups of people I have ever worked with.


- Angie Mejia

Growing up, I always felt pressured to look a certain way. This pressure led to years of self doubt, low confidence, and an obsession with weight loss. But eventually I realized that my value is not rooted in the way I look, but the way I think. Today I always try to focus on living a healthy lifestyle--for both my body and especially my brain.


-Leila Mohaddes

As I was growing up, my mom was often forced to put her career on hold to help raise my brother and I. Especially in the fast paced world of tech, this put her goals at odds with family life. Over the years, she really emphasized to me the value of communication, and it was these skills that allowed her to strike a great work-life balance with the help of her superiors and colleagues. Her hard work has really paid off recently as I have gone to college, and I am so proud that she is able to pursue her passions in tech even more. I feel so lucky to have been brought up by someone that is so dedicated, kind, and a great role model.


- Deeksha Chaturvedi

Woman of the Week: Elizabeth Warren

“Nevertheless, she persisted.” A rallying quote evoking feminist sentiment that has quickly taken over the media. But where does it come from? And what’s the real meaning behind it? Well, its essence is captured by this week’s Woman of the Week: Elizabeth Warren. 

elizabeth warren.jpg

Elizabeth Warren is the senior Senator of Massachusetts who has quickly gained popularity due not only to her progressive stances, but also her determination. In the 1960s, she was raised by a single mother who supported her family off of a minimum wage job at Sear’s. She recognizes that today, this is a reality unattainable by many families due to perniciously low minimum wages. Correspondingly, her main agenda consists of breaking up large corporations on Wall Street and creating and maintaining a high minimum wage to secure a brighter, more prosperous future for America. 

It is no surprise that these progressive policies have made Warren a chief target of her male GOP Senate colleagues, who voted in February to silence her for assailing Trump’s Attorney General Nominee, Jeff Sessions. It was here that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made his now-famous remark:  “She was warned. She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Altogether, we would like to dedicate this week’s WoW to the educated, courageous woman who continues to resist and persist in the face of adversity and discrimination. Her acts of benevolence remind us to act fearlessly and to use our power to actively defend those without it. Continue to persist, Elizabeth Warren.

My Advice to Haas Applicants

By Ana Claire Mancia, Haas School of Business Class of 2019

This article is intended to provide advice regarding how to approach the Haas undergraduate admissions process, and simply regards what mentality to hold. There is no formula for Haas admission or secret to getting accepted. While acceptance is never guaranteed, this advice is meant to assist students in understanding the frame of mind that is useful when applying.

What is business? 

You could give me the UGBA 10 textbook definition, that business is making profits from selling goods or services. However, business goes far beyond that definition. Before you apply to Haas, it is important to have a clear understanding of what business truly means to you. It has different meanings for each person, and your interpretation should be unique. It should be reflective of your interests and accomplishments. 

Business, at its core, is about taking risks. The greatest business leaders of our time would not be there, if they hadn’t taken a risk. Business means not being afraid of the unknown, and abandoning your fear of failure. The entire Haas application process teaches you the first lesson about business; taking risks. You have to take 7 prerequisite classes just to apply, and you’re not even guaranteed admission. That means 7 difficult, extra classes you must endure and it is most certainly a risk. You must be willing and ready to take this risk in your life. You may be completely blind to it – but by participating in this 2-year-long application process, you are learning the first lesson about business. 

A defining pillar of Haas is to “question the status quo”. In order to challenge the world around you, you must take risks. Haas seeks students who view the world as malleable and who can confront the status quo around them. Learn to be comfortable with failure, and figure out how you can change the atmosphere surrounding you. How will you be a leader and advocate for the things that matter to you?

My second lesson is to be different. You do not need to join business clubs or have internships in order to be a strong candidate. In fact, my advice is to pursue anything you are passionate about. Find what makes you unique, and continue building it. Your passion does not need to be business related. It’s harder to get accepted if you are very similar to your peers, so distinguish yourself as much as possible. Haas looks for people who can bring diversity of thought to the table. Success is NOT the regurgitation of what everyone else is doing. Haas prefers people who are different -- people who have decided to create their own path. If your application is exactly like your peers’, how are you going to stand out? Remember that there is immense value in being an independent person. 

My third lesson is that business is all about seeing problems, and turning them into opportunities. Entrepreneurs are people who recognize problems and figure out how to sustainably and effectively solve that problem. They are not like normal people, because instead of seeing problems as something “bad”, they view them as incredible, great opportunities. Try to apply this theory in your own life, and see where you can transform problems into solutions. 

Lastly, remember that success is never linear. Success is not the same for every person. Success may not be what you thought it was originally. Your definition of success is always changing. I know plenty of people who lived and breathed pre-Haas their freshman year…and by sophomore year realized they didn’t even want it in the first place. They didn’t end up applying, because they were happier somewhere else. Haas is not everything, and Haas is not for everyone. Be true to yourself and understand what you want.

For more comprehensive advice regarding the Haas undergraduate admissions process, please check out: https://advicefromahaasmajor.wordpress.com/