In our Women Who Inspire series, we’ll be talking to influential women who are making a difference in their communities and the world at large. Through their leadership, we are inspired to do better, work smarter, and continue to create opportunities for women in STEM.
A wireless industry veteran since 1989, Lori Jolley began her AT&T journey by facilitating a Retail Consumer merger and leading the deployment of wired product sales in AT&T Retail stores. Now, Lori works as the Director of Market Development with AT&T Partner Solutions, overseeing growth planning, recruiting, and communications with other AT&T Partner Exchange organizations. Take a look at how she got started in STEM and gain her insight for how to make a mark in the industry:
What inspired you to pursue a STEM-related career?
Pursuing a career in STEM wasn’t initially on my roadmap, mainly because I didn’t realize it was an option. When I was given an opportunity to jump in with both feet, I thought, “Why not?” Early on, I was incredibly uncertain as I learned the tech landscape, but it was that uncertainty that helped me thrive – it pushed me to learn what I didn’t know; it proved that I’m capable of mastering any challenge I set for myself; and it taught me not to be afraid of the uncomfortable.
What do you most love about your field and your job?
Technology is changing at an incredibly rapid pace. I’ve been with AT&T for more than 25 years, and I’ve never experienced the pace of change like we are seeing today. So put on your seat belt and everyone get ready!
What advice can you give women who are seeking a career in a STEM-related field?
First and foremost, believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, others won’t either. So enter your career with confidence, lay out stretch goals to continually challenge yourself, score a few slam dunks early on to boost your momentum, and never stop asking questions.
Who are some of the women you think are game-changers in the technology industry right now?
I recently had an opportunity to hear Geena Davis talk about her focused efforts around gender equality. While watching children’s programming with her daughter, she noticed an imbalance between the male and female characters. This inspired her to sponsor the largest-ever research project on gender in children's entertainment. She has since launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, as well as an annual film festival held in Bentonville, Arkansas, to highlight diversity in film. Her journey embodies the potential we all have to create change if we are willing to take notice and then take action.
Which female leaders do you admire and why?
Eleanor Roosevelt forged a path for women today. I believe she set the standard for the role of First Lady, and I admire her passion for the causes she supported. Rather than sitting idly by, she took action.
Another female I admire to no end is my sister Deb Deeter. She’s been my lifelong role model, always guiding me and helping me through the tough times. From challenges in high school and college to struggles as a single mom, she was there offering me wisdom and giving me the courage I needed. Plus, professionally, she rocks – she was the first female to implement a LAN for her company in the early '90s; she negotiated substantial grants for nonprofits in her city; and she was a "working mom" at a time when that was heavily frowned upon.
What advice do you have for women technologists who are struggling on all-male teams or are hesitant about pursing STEM because they are entering into a male-dominated arena?
Whether you are on a team of all men, all women or a healthy mix of both, respect typically must be earned. Be confident in your abilities, and don’t be afraid to demonstrate your knowledge, expertise or skill set.
If you really want to have a career in STEM, then don’t let anyone limit your capabilities. Work to understand what’s driving your hesitancies, and know that it’s your responsibility to determine the future of your career. Stay true to yourself, be your own best champion, and be ready to evolve as fast as the world around you.
Why do you think women are leaving the STEM arena? And what can employers do to retain more women in STEM?
All employees require support and guidance, and it’s important to address these needs to ensure that top talent is retained and provided with opportunities for forward progression. Access to mentors and resources that pull you up, point you in the right direction, and believe in your ability to succeed are key aspects of that support.
What do you think will have the strongest impact on closing the gender gap in STEM-related careers?
Having both men and women at the table to develop two-way thinking and awareness will help move the needle. I don’t believe anyone purposefully holds another person back; it’s a lack of understanding.
Mentoring is another lever we can all pull to impact change. Participate in mentoring groups and be a mentor as well as a mentee – mentoring propagates learning and allows you to develop personal networks.
Connect with Lori on Twitter.