Tech girl

Beth Akerlund is building a Milwaukee movement to motivate girls and women to explore opportunities in the technology sector.

Akerlund, product owner, agile software development, for Brookfield-based Centare, helped launch a Milwaukee chapter of Girls in Tech, a global organization comprised of more than 30 branches all focused on empowering women in technology and drawing more females into the field, which has traditionally been male-dominated.

The Milwaukee chapter hosted its first event on June 6 during the city’s Innovation Week. More than 50 people attended the catalyst event, held at Translator in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, where they opened up a dialogue about the goals of the organization as it gains momentum.

While each Girls in Tech chapter exists as an affiliate of the global organization, which was founded in 2007 in Denver, each chapter also aligns its objectives with its own needs.

“What’s great about the chapters is you can really cater to the market you’re in,” said Akerlund, who serves as managing director of the organization.

In Milwaukee, Akerlund along with chapter directors Kirsten Corbell and Cindi Thomas of Translator hope to provide collaboration and peer-mentoring opportunities for women currently involved in technology fields. After reviewing feedback from the first event, they also plan to coordinate education and networking opportunities for women interested in technology and entrepreneurship.

And the chapter aims to provide a forum for Milwaukee-area women in technology to mentor young girls who want to learn about career paths in the industry.

“We’re just really trying to break down the barriers and show the opportunities and jobs and studies that are available in this state,” Akerlund said.

Akerlund, a Milwaukee native, conceived the idea for a Milwaukee branch last fall when she returned to Milwaukee and realized the city could use a platform for women to exchange ideas and opportunities related to technology.

She credits a number of mentors and peers for piquing her own interest in technology and pushing her to run with it.

“Having that support and encouragement along the way kind of led me to where I am now,” Akerlund said.

While many of Girls in Tech’s workshops, panel discussions, and networking and recruiting events will specifically target women, the organization won’t exclude men.

“It’s really open to anyone who’s interested in the initiative and how to bring more women into the (technology) space,” Akerlund said.

To date, more than 85 members have joined the group, which is open to anyone. Membership is currently free, thanks in large part to the support of founding sponsors Centare and Translator.

For more information about Milwaukee’s Girls in Tech chapter, visit www.facebook.com/GirlsInTechMKE or www.meetup.com/Girls-in-Tech-Milwaukee.

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