12/18/2014 03:40 pm ET Updated Feb 17, 2015

My Circle Inspired Me to Open a Conversation Beyond Just Tech

By Jess Erickson

"Powerful movements often begin in small groups," says Jess Erickson, founder of the Berlin Geekettes.

I remember the first time I became interested in technology. It was when I was working for a small startup out of Manhattan but I knew the feeling was part of something bigger. I immediately fell in love with how limitless technology felt; how it crossed borders, ages and skills sets.

I have always wanted to push myself and take my energy and intelligence as far as it can go. I knew working with technology would allow me to do just that. But the more I delved deeper, the more I realized there was a gender imbalance. I quickly discovered that technology wasn't so limitless; it was actually limited for me -- as a woman. I wasn't given the opportunities I deserved and I was often silenced when I wanted to take things to the next level. People treated me differently because I was a woman. I wondered how many other women were going through the same experience, and the more I asked, the more I realized I wasn't alone.

I have great ideas. And I'm sure there are many other women in the world that have great ideas too. But where are they? I wanted to find them, reach out to them and bring them together in the hope of building a community around one of the most important facets in our ever changing world: technology. This is why I created Berlin Geekettes, a non-profit devoted to helping women innovators in technology. Berlin Geekettes takes a positive and productive step by initiating helpful actions to create a gender balance in the tech sphere. I want to continue to encourage women to strive for what they believe in, to take risks, to mentor one another and inspire the next generation of women to pursue careers in technology and entrepreneurship. To never feel limited -- like I did at the very beginning.

I really believe that our Berlin Geekettes Lean In Circle opens up a new space for discussion that goes beyond tech, business and design. We started a conversation in a room that will lead to changes in behavior in our workplaces, companies, schools and homes. Many participants are already looking at gender differently and reaching out to one another to form deeper discussions within new Lean In Circles. I'm thrilled that the conversation has begun, as it's the first step towards change.

Host: Jess Erickson

Age: 29

Location: Berlin, Germany

Occupation: Founder, Berlin Geekettes

Circle participants: Engineers, entrepreneurs, and designers of the Berlin tech hub. Together, 100 women and four men joined a lively discussion to better understand the characteristics and behaviors that undermine women -- as well as addressing uncomfortable issues that both genders encounter in their daily lives. One by one we peeled back the layers and exposed the impact that our behaviors have had on women in the past and present.

Circle location: In the Berlin Geekettes office space provided by our partner Deutsche Telekom.

Favorite circle moment: I watched several women express their opinions and share their stories -- without fear getting in the way. These were ladies that I knew well and often times would remain shy and timid during past workshops and events. But this time was different. They didn't hold back, they simply leaned in. Instead of quietly sitting in the back corner, they wanted to initiate conversation and find solutions to ongoing problems in their workplace and home. You could really feel their passion and urgency in creating change. It was extremely moving and a big step forward.

Circle goals: I think we can all agree that we'd like to have a positive impact for the lives of girls and women everywhere. My goal is to mobilize both women and men behind a shared purpose of creating positive change towards gender equality. Powerful movements often begin in small groups like a Lean In circle. If cultivated in the right way, these groups can be fueled by passionate discussion that leads to dynamic ideas and later transforms into real change.

Value & Impact of the circle: The revolution toward gender equality may have stalled, but that doesn't mean we should give up. We've had our failures addressing this imbalance, but we've have our fair share of victories too. And we should draw on this strength as we push for a better future. The Lean In book and circles across the globe have already impacted public discussion on gender equality in a very positive way. Our unique and individual circle here in Berlin gives us a voice and allows us to open up without being afraid. A deeper understanding of the issues we face are beginning to surface and now we can finally work together towards finding solutions. I'm so excited.