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March 28, 2023

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Battle Ground woman finds empowerment raising money for women in STEM

By , Columbian staff writer
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3 Photos
Ally Orr poses for a portrait at Orr's residence in Battle Ground. Her shirt, which she created herself, shares a campaign motto of "I stand with medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome women." The slogan is a response to a Boise State professor's statement at a National Conservatism Conference in 2021 where he used the three adjectives to describe independent women.
Ally Orr poses for a portrait at Orr's residence in Battle Ground. Her shirt, which she created herself, shares a campaign motto of "I stand with medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome women." The slogan is a response to a Boise State professor's statement at a National Conservatism Conference in 2021 where he used the three adjectives to describe independent women. (Photos by Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

BATTLE GROUND — Out in the rolling hills beyond Battle Ground, it feels like there’s a new electricity in the air. It could be because Ally Orr has made her return to Clark County.

Just as she was when The Columbian last spoke with her in February 2022, Orr — a former Prairie High School student and recent Boise State University graduate who started a scholarship fund for women in STEM in response to a professor’s sexist comments last year — is brimming with ambition.

After a brief hiatus, and now based from her home office, Orr’s set a goal to raise $27,000.

“Women make up over half of our workforce,” Orr said. “But only 27 percent of workers in STEM are women. There’s still more, so much more to go, and a huge path to create for women in STEM, specifically.”

Last year, Orr’s fundraiser raised more than $200,000, a feat that still amazes her and sometimes brings her to tears. The fundraiser and corresponding scholarship, was spurred by her frustration with Boise State professor Scott Yenor, who while speaking at a National Conservatism Conference in December 2021, described independent women as “medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome.”

How to help

Learn more about or donate to Ally Orr’s current endeavor to raise another $27,000 for the Boise State University Scholarship for Women in STEM, Med, and Law scholarship: https://www.gofundme.com/f/women-in-stem-med-and-law-scholarship-2023?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unknown&utm_campaign=comms_pzxm+women-in-stem-med-and-law-scholarship-2023.

Orr said that, going forward, she wants to lead with a message of empowerment, rather than reaction.

“That was one of the difficulties in getting the confidence to step out there and start fundraising again, because I thought, ‘OK, we had the opportunity that this professor provided to control this anger we had and put it somewhere, and that was donations,’” Orr said. “But now, I don’t want to rely on that anger, that what that professor said. It’s irrelevant, and I really want to focus on just uplifting women.”

As of February, Yenor had reportedly taken a job with the Claremont Institute, a Florida-based conservative think tank seeking to “stop woke policies,” according to the Idaho Capital Sun and a tweet from Florida first lady Casey DeSantis.

Taking a breather

Given Orr’s powerhouse presence she emits today, it’s hard to imagine she’s someone who saves time for relaxation. But after a whirlwind senior year in Boise, she admitted she was starting to run on fumes once graduation came around last summer.

“I felt like I missed out a little bit of senior year on like fun things because all my time was spent fundraising” she said. “And so, in the past year since graduating, I’ve spent my time participating in so many hobbies, like swing dancing and roller-skating and just so many fun things. And it’s all been really fun.”

The time to indulge in self-care and personal hobbies did more than give Orr a moment to catch her breath — it provided some much-needed clarity on how to continue her work with more positive messaging.

“I was feeling so professional from December to June, I felt like everyone was watching me,” she said. “And so like, after taking time to really be myself again and hearing donors say they enjoy seeing me show my true self, I thought, ‘OK, let’s just be my true self.’”

A piece of that realization came, too, in the moment where she handed over the first scholarship check to Jessica Lambert, a third-year Boise student studying mechanical engineering. The award, which was for $2,430, was enough to pay for Lambert’s fall semester.

Though formally a benefactor, Orr said she’s been lucky to develop a more special, personal relationship with Lambert.

“We’re like very close friends, we do talk quite a lot,” she said. “(When I presented her the check) I was crying, and I think that made her cry. And her whole family was there, like cheering her on, and a lot of people from her department, men and women. Since then, it’s been really it’s crazy to me to be like, ‘I’ve affected her degree and affected her life.’ And I want to do more.”

New perspectives

Today, Orr works a remote marketing job for a semiconductor manufacturing company at her own place in Battle Ground. On the side, she’s studying for the LSAT with law school in her sights for 2024 — as evidenced by the collection of textbooks stashed neatly beneath her coffee table.

Though her work in marketing isn’t necessarily reflective of her dreams or passions, she said the transition to a full-time job in the STEM industry has allowed her to gain a better firsthand understanding of sexism in the workplace and the corporate efforts to curb it.

“I think it’s interesting, because you sit in meetings, and you see men over-talk women, you notice that power dynamic, those microaggressions,” she said. “And it makes you think, like, ‘Oh my god, this is why we get angry, these are some of the things that keep women away from places they need to be.’ ”

In conversations with co-workers, Orr said she’s learned about how the company and others in the industry have made strides in hiring and retaining women in recent years.

“You can’t hide things anymore, you have to hold people accountable,” Orr said. “So it’s interesting to be here and see that there’s been great work to help women get here, but like, we still have a lot further to go.”

Making local connections

Orr’s first goal in reigniting momentum in her cause, she said, is doing as much as she can to establish and enforce her personal brand of women’s empowerment.

Inspired by Yenor’s demeaning trio of adjectives, Orr has developed a new slogan: “Motivated, mighty and qualified.” She’s released merchandise to support the fund, too — donning a shirt that reads, “I stand with medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome women.”

Now operating closer to her hometown of Vancouver, she hopes to attract a new donor base in the Portland metro area, with the idea that her campaign’s message need not be specific to Idahoans.

In the coming weeks, she’s hoping to connect with local businesses and learn more about what partnerships she can make to “help others get on the bandwagon” of supporting the scholarship and other, similar messages. She’ll also be speaking about her work at a conference at Boise State in April, she said.

“I think that the biggest thing that I’ve learned from this, that people have probably pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey, Ally, don’t burn yourself out,’ ” Orr said. “I can often do too much too fast. And so a lot of people are like, go slow and be sustainable with this and more opportunities will come as well.”