When her third term as Women & Hi Tech Communications Director ends in June 2021, Lori Boyer will leave the board with a mix of nostalgia and gratitude. “I started out a little shy on the board, but by now it has become ingrained in my life,” she says. “I tell people I have two jobs: my first job at Barnes & Thornburg as a Software Engineer on the Innovations Team, and my second job at Women & Hi Tech.”
Though the Women & Hi Tech board is all-volunteer, meaning Boyer doesn’t get financially compensated for her time, she says the pleasure of sharing and amplifying Women & Hi Tech’s message has been enough. “After every event we host, there’s an influx of women who have become aware of their need for our resources,” Boyer says. “Women are still only 14% of the workforce in software engineering, and that’s just one of the many STEM fields we represent. So it’s great to know our work is driving change in that regard.”
Though Women & Hi Tech has successfully transitioned a majority of its events to virtual and adapted to the pandemic, Boyer says she has missed some of the community connection. “I missed having Passport to Hi-Tech and some of the other events where we show women & young girls the hands-on experience of being a coder. Seeing and self-visualizing a life in a STEM career is one of the biggest barriers for women entering STEM fields. There’s still a big misconception that you have to have a four-year degree in science, technology, engineering, or math to break into these professions, and it’s just not the case.” As we described in her board profile last year, Lori is a self-taught software engineer who studied business at Indiana University. Today, she is an award-winning software engineer recognized at the Leading Light Awards and by TechPoint, among other accolades.
“Software engineers have a skill of just tinkering around due to a love of learning and experimenting. You can’t be afraid to fail because that’s just a chance to figure out a better way of solving a problem.” Lori says that COVID-19 pandemic has given her an accelerated education in data analytics, which she continues to study today. “It was a chance to learn even more by doing—because it had to be done asap! As fast as everything was happening, tools to track, trace, and visualize data had to be created. Every organization needs easily-accessible data insights now more than ever during this time.”
Though her tenure as Communications Director will come to a close next summer, Lori still looks forward to being an active emeritus member of the board and maintaining a very active membership in Women & Hi Tech. “With Women & Hi Tech you get the chance to create your own community, and even an introvert like me finds that making connections and having meaningful conversations is easy,” she says. “I have met people who encourage me to grow my career, and friends who are willing to just pick up the phone and listen or text late into the night.” The one point she emphasizes is that it falls to each individual member to create their own experience. “Every member of Women & Hi Tech is willing to help you, but only if you reach out and connect,” Boyer shared. Women & Hi Tech has almost 2,000 members today.
This energy will only continue as the board and the organization evolves. “As we expand the communications committee to help sustain and grow Women & Hi Tech, we have some committee positions in mind we know need to be filled, and other opportunities where we want members to come to us with ideas. We want members to help us define the exciting opportunities we could be providing in line with their strengths, in communications and other areas.”
Lori believes this communication power is needed because even after more than 20 years, people in central Indiana are still just meeting Women & Hi Tech. “The pivot required by the pandemic has meant a lot of virtual reach and maybe that means more people can join our virtual events from across the state or even other states,” Lori said. She added that encouraging growth in the organization’s reach is already starting to manifest but needs communications to back it up. “This year we had Leading Light Award and Scholarship and Grant applicants from every corner of Indiana. But there is still more we can do to get the message out. If people don’t know the chance is there, they can’t take it.” Boyer feels especially that this applies to diverse women. “If only 14% of software engineers are women in general, then we have to assume that women of color and LGBTQ+ women are even more underrepresented in the field. An organization that actively works to correct this problem is an amazing organization to be involved with,” she concluded. “I was welcomed with open arms years ago, and since then it’s only gotten better.”