The female forces behind Refinery29

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NEW YORK — It started out as just an idea between four friends.

Now 12 years later, Refinery29 is the leading digital media company with a focus on women.

I got to tour their open concept work space in lower Manhattan that accommodates most of Refinery’s 450 employees.

The media company also has offices in L.A., London and Berlin.

Co-founders Christene Barberich and Piera Gelardi met while working in print publishing.

"I think the focus of women’s media was much different than it is today.  I think the emphasis was on how women look. What’s really evolved over the last decade really the last 13 years is recognizing that women have a wide berth of interests," Barberich said.

Gelardi explained the media company's mission.

"We really work to empower and inspire women and help to support them in all aspects of their lives," Gelardi said.

For them, Refinery29 became a very personal mission – as they were looking for a women-driven publication that covered the wide range of topics they themselves were interested in.

"Being at the helm of your own company to be able to envision it and shape it and inform it" Barberich said.

"Even in the very beginning Christene and I would say we want them when they open the Refinery letter to say, 'ooh what did those kooky kids do today,'" said Gelardi.

Today, you can find articles on everything from style trends, to politics, money and career advice, life hacks and pop culture.

And Refinery’s on every social media platform you can think of.

"They can really determine whether stories or series and franchises and tools we want to launch will actually find an audience," Barberich said.

What do they tell young women?

"I see it as a privilege to create a new model of leadership," Gelardi said.

Those are values that have helped launch them from a small idea between friends to a media giant with over 500 million users across its global online community.

"We have been able to do so much more than we ever thought was possible; for us, in the future we really just see ourselves developing the brand into new spaces," Gelardi said.

"It really doesn’t end up being about us, it ends up being about the women we can put up front," Barberich said.

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