Gainesville program empowers women in tech and engineering

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GAINESVILLE, Fla., (WCJB) -- On this Tech Tuesday, we spoke to the winning team in this year's installation of E.W.I.T.S - empowering women in technology startups.

EWITS is a 10 week long program where women learn how to overcome hurdles they may face in a startup. The program arranges women into teams where they are assigned a University of Florida patented product and come up with a strategy to make it marketable.

During the last week, teams present their business plans to a panel of investors.

Starting a business is no small undertaking. EWITS is giving women the skills they need to be prepared in the startup world.

“I will have a better idea of how to start from the ground up, rather than just kind of winging it,” said Mary Foster, an employee at Infinite Energy and EWITS participant. Each team has a mentor throughout the course. "You have immediate access to somebody who has the experience that you don’t have, so that you can sort of advance, or fast forward through the process almost by osmosis of their experience, you can lean on their understanding without sort of struggling so much along the way,” she said.

And every participant has a different background and reason for participating.

“I am a scientist," siad Graciela Lorca, and associate professor at UF, "I’m always focused on the results and how that makes sense, but we are not focused on selling our product. We write grants, and we sell that to agencies to give us money to make research, but this is very different.”

Infotech, an infrastructure construction management company in Gainesville, was a sponsor of EWITS — and one if their employees is on the winning team.
(jenn edge, assistant director of development, infotech)
“We had six participants from Infotech that were able to join the EWITS sessions across different teams," said Jenn Edge, the assistant director of development at Infotech, "We got a broader perspective not just how to commercialize a product, from patent to product, but also allowing us to connect with other women in the Gainesville community that are in technology, and learn from each other and bring that back to the company.”

EWITS is by women, for women, to create a constructive space for women to grow, learn, and have more of a presence in tech and engineering.

The participants were able to learn important skills without the actual risk of a real-life business pitch.

“The biggest takeaway is how to have in your mind to mind a clear map of what it means to come up with the idea of a product, and put a business plan together and have a successful pitch to a group of investors,” said Luisa Amelia Dempere, the director of a research center at UF's college of engineering.

If you're interested in participating in EWITS, you can find info on the program here.