Geekettes cofounders Jess Erickson and Denise Philipp didn’t set out to stimulate a movement that would sweep across Europe and spill into the United States. They just had a gut feeling that women were hungry, as they themselves were, and wanted to create a platform in response to that need.
The Geekettes quietly launched in February 2011 as a loose, Berlin-based patchwork of women working (and aspiring to enter the workforce) in Berlin’s international tech-startup ecosystem.
First there was a secret Facebook group, open by invitation only. Then came meetups and social gatherings, just to talk. This transformed into more formal conversations, as well as tech-sector trainings and workshops.
The first year and a half was powered solely by grit and gumption; Erickson and Philipp built the Geekettes’ foundation without funding, voluntarily taking upon themselves extraordinary night and weekend work in addition to their (now former) full-time jobs.
Their efforts flourished.
The Geekettes started a women-in-tech mentorship program with monthly meetings at Google’s Berlin headquarters. They hosted two packed book club events examining Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling book, Lean In. They coordinated an international, 24-hour hackathon bringing together hundreds of female programmers from around the world, sponsored by Coca-Cola.
Then they received a huge boon from German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom, which last year took on the Geekettes as a long-term partner.
Japanese electronics and entertainment powerhouse Sony has also officially partnered with the Geekettes as a sponsor.
Three years since its inception, Erickson and Philipp stand behind a robust movement comprised of female innovators and tech-industry professionals, backed by solid, grassroots collaboration and engagement.
"Our success has been completely organic and natural,” Denise Philipp says. "We don’t know how to pinpoint it, but something powerful is taking shape here, almost of its own accord, and this is testament to its necessity. This includes incredible support for men in tech who want to see more women step up and show themselves at the front lines of innovation."
Philipp and Erickson can tick-off a handsome list of achievements, including the Geekette’s expansion throughout several major European cities, including a new chapter opening in London with a launch party at Facebook’s headquarters there.
Tomorrow marks the Geekette’s entry into the United States via New York with a launch party taking place on the 21st-floor of the Empire State Building. The event is completely sold-out.
Far from an elite, top-down brand entering one city after another, the Geekettes favor sweet, slow-growth expansion that will take root and endure.
"Wherever you decide your life and career path will lead, you want to be around people that look, sound, and do things differently," Jess Erickson says, "because it makes for a richer, more-innovative environment. Right now, tech seems dominated by men in early 20's to 40's.
"I’d love to see more women, more women of color, and just more ladies from all over the world to realize tech is the future. We need to leave our own imprint, develop into leadership roles. It’s much easier to enter now than 10 years when barriers will be higher."