In September, Central Oregon Community College hired its first female chief information officer, Laura Boehme. She had previously served as the chief human resources officer for the college and will continue to work in both roles. She's also a business instructor.
The COCC Information Technology Services Department employs only three other women besides Boehme out of a staff of 25.
- Central Oregon Community College
- Laura Boehme has worked at Central Oregon Community College since 2010 and was recently promoted to chief technology officer.
Only 18% of large corporations in the U.S. have female chief information officers, according to The Wall Street Journal. According to the Women in IT Global Initiative, only 9% of companies worldwide employ female IT executives.
Boehme told the Source that while she's developed a great deal of technical expertise, her role as a leader and a manager requires a different set of skills. Some people may view her approach as embodying more stereotypically female traits, she said.
"When I started the job, here is what I truly believed: They did not need another technician, they needed someone to care about them," Boehme said. "I can read people; I know what they need. I said, 'Hey team, we're all going to work together.'"
Boehme has had a career in academia for most of her life. After moving to Bend two decades ago, she worked remotely for Oregon State University and eventually started working at COCC in 2010. During this time, she earned both a master's degree and a Ph.D in education from OSU.
Before she was hired at COCC, she worked for Bend City Councilor Bill Moseley at GL Solutions. The company develops software for government licensing agencies.
Boehme said she's worked very hard to earn positions in leadership and is grateful to her former boss, Dan Cecchini, for giving her a chance. She was the only woman who interviewed for the position, she said.
Overall, Boehme said she sees her new role as an opportunity to use her feminine leadership style. Promoting stereotypically female qualities is a growing trend in the U.S.
In a 2018 book by Amy Stanton called "The Feminine Revolution," the author encourages her readers to embrace qualities within themselves that have traditionally been associated with women, including empathy, caregiving, collaboration and intuition. These were all characteristics Boehme used to describe her management approach during her interview with the Source.
Stanton writes that these traits have often gone unrecognized in traditional workplace culture compared to masculine qualities such as being direct, competitive and assertive.
A nurturing or "mothering" approach in an organization can create a culture of care and support that inspires employees to fulfill their potential, Stanton writes. Leaders expressing empathy give people space to feel heard and understood and to overcome their shortfalls, she said. Creating an atmosphere of collaboration brings a diversity of skills to the table and helps companies grow in creative directions. This contrasts with a stereotypically masculine approach, which is more focused on personal achievement, Stanton said.
"Oftentimes women leaders bring something different to an organization... including care and discernment and awareness," Boehme said. "Here at COCC, we've had two female presidents and the institution is thriving."
Boehme explained that COCC's IT department is charged with managing the student help desk, networking various systems within the college, providing data services and storage and setting strategies and goals to make sure it is delivering the technology that students and instructors need to be successful. It also provides internships and work-study opportunities for students.
The IT department also manages the technology instructors use to deliver the content for their classes: COCC uses the Blackboard platform. Boehme said her department embraces the use of the school's social media accounts on YouTube and Facebook to provide students with updates and how-to videos.
COCC is open for some in-person and hybrid instruction this fall and plans to continue that arrangement into the winter. Boehme said one of the biggest issues students have reported since the pandemic is difficulty accessing WiFi off campus. Both instructors and students have also had difficulty obtaining laptops and other equipment to learn and teach from home, she said.