Colleagues Jennifer Ketz, Cynthia Smith and Patricia Cabral-Mercado have formed a new company calledLift Up Careers LLC (dba Lift Up MKE) to train women re-entering the tech workforce.
The trio, who work together as a director, manager and architect in engineering, aim to help women who have taken time away from tech careers to raise children or take care of aging parents re-skill for leadership roles as they return to the workforce.
“All three of us have a strong passion for women in tech and just knowing where women are in the pendulum of holding positions in tech is really what’s driving us to make sure we have that equal opportunity,” Ketz said.
This professional training is needed because tech changes so rapidly, and because there are so few women in the field, she said. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, 26% of the tech workforce is women, and 56% of women leave midway through their careers in science, engineering and technology.
“We really feel that in order for us to be a tech hub, diversity and inclusion needs to be included at the table as we move forward,” Ketz said.
The trio plans to host three to four cohorts of its training program per year. The six-to-eight week program will be weekend-based, and the first class would start this fall. They plan to open applications in June.
Lift Up MKE also plans to host Milwaukee’s first all-female and nonbinary hackathon on May 4 and 5 at Ward4 in Milwaukee.
“A hackathon is where you have people come with ideas and at the hackathon you form teams around those ideas and you make them come alive within those two days,” she said.
The ideas could be an app or an IoT innovation, for example. Participants should have a tech background.
At the end of the weekend, the teams will present their creations to a panel of judges. The top invention will get $2,500, second place $1,500 and third place $500.
“Our goal is to actually bring women technologists together in creating that safe environment and that networking and that community for them to have the confidence to go back and continue to work in tech,” Ketz said.