November 14, 2018

Indiana Conference for Women: Lunch Remarks of Laurie Burns McRobbie

Indiana Conference for Women, Indianapolis

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Thank you, Joyce and Sue, for that kind introduction and for chairing this year’s conference.

 As president of the Board of Directors for the Indiana Conference for Women, I want to thank all of you for being here. Our fantastic keynote speakers and breakout session leaders have and will continue contributing so much to the quality of the conference, but you are what makes this such a vibrant, inspiring community of women. Thank you for attending and for sharing your wisdom and experiences.

 I also want to thank my fellow board members: Carol D’Amico, Dr. Sue Ellspermann, Susana Suarez, Kristen Cooper, Melina Kennedy, Melissa St. John, and our founders and fellow board members Deborah Collins Stephens and Billie Dragoo-Garcia. My thanks also go out to the members of the Conference Advisory Committee, and to our wonderful Executive Director Marie Davis, as well as to Deb Roccafort and all the conference volunteers. Please join me in giving them all a round of applause!


One day about seven or maybe eight years ago, Deborah and Billie invited me to lunch to talk about a new initiative they were planning. They didn’t put it quite this way, but what they talked about that day was a movement that they were building, a movement to support the women of Indiana in their professional, personal, entrepreneurial, and community-building aspirations through this amazing annual gathering. I don’t think our lunch orders had even arrived before I said I was in!

Their vision and their energy were infectious, and I knew from my own personal and professional experience that bringing women together and building networks across all sectors, fields, ages, geographies is catalytic – for individuals in terms of their personal growth and for our communities in terms of their civic health. You see, networks are not just about interpersonal connections, career connections, and friendships, though they are very much all those things. Networks are pathways, through what can sometimes be a sea of choice – or a sea of obstacles. And research shows that women use these pathways differently than men do, more often as ongoing sources of advice and navigation, whereas men tend to use networks more transactionally, going from point to point. I like to say this is the difference between building a staircase and building scaffolding – women build scaffolds that support themselves and others.

Research also tells us that events like this one, and similar ones happening across the country, do move the needle on equality and do move the needle on creating opportunity, because they help us build those scaffolds, and not just for one day.

Indiana Universities Support

Like all of you, I’m here today wearing multiple hats: as a professional with a long career in information technology; as an educator and leader in philanthropy; as an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the academy, in elected office and in community organizations; as a mother, sister, spouse, and friend.

 I also stand here as first lady of Indiana University, the Champion sponsor for this 8th annual conference celebrating the women of Indiana and beyond our state’s borders. The ICW draws attendees from across the Midwest – welcome to all of you non-Hoosiers! I want to recognize the individual IU units who have made our sponsorship possible: IUPUI, the Kelley School of Business, the IU Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, the IU Office of University Information Technology Services, the IU Media School, and IU Women’s Philanthropy. I also want to acknowledge the many other individuals here representing other departments and campuses of Indiana University.

 I want to also thank the other sponsors for this year’s conference and encourage you to continue your support of the Indiana Conference for Women into the future. I also have to say that next year, I hope IU is joined at the top level by another Champion sponsor from the corporate sector. It would be wonderful for our public institution of higher education to partner with a private enterprise in supporting the women of Indiana and beyond.

 IU’s involvement reflects our commitment to serving the state as its flagship and state-wide institution. We know this conference draws women, and men, from a wide range of ages and stages, from those just setting out on their adult journeys to those who have great wisdom to share after a lifetime of experience, like our wonderful dedicatee, Eva Kor.

As a public university, we take seriously our mission to create opportunities for everyone to learn, discover, innovate and share what we’ve gained. And we know that it takes intentional effort to ensure that everyone can learn, discover, innovate and share. IU is committed to making those intentional efforts, and to celebrating the many ways in which we can all use our voices to overcome barriers and divisions, creating a better world for all.

Education lifts us, gives us knowledge, confidence, and purpose. Today, we’ve come together as a community of learners and educators, connecting with and empowering each other. So, let’s keep it going, for today and into the future.

 Thank you.