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Spotlights

Introducing Reshma Saujani

By Petrina D'Souza, 24 Jan, 2018

    Saujani​ ​is​ ​the​ founder​ ​and​ ​CEO​ ​of​ ​Girls​ ​Who​ ​Code,​ ​​a​ ​national​ ​non-profit​ ​organization working​ ​to​ ​close​ ​the​ ​gender​ ​gap​ ​in​ ​technology.

     
     
     
     
    With titles such as Fortune’s​ ​World’s​ ​Greatest​ ​Leaders,​ New​ ​York​ ​Daily​ ​News’ one​ among ​50​ ​Most​ ​Powerful​ ​Women​ ​in New​ ​York​​​,​ and Forbes’s​ ​Most​ ​Powerful​ ​Women Changing​ ​the​ ​World,​ Reshma Saujani’s story is an inspiring and interesting one.​ ​Saujani​ ​is​ ​the​ founder​ ​and​ ​CEO​ ​of​ ​Girls​ ​Who​ ​Code,​ ​​a​ ​national​ ​non-profit​ ​organization working​ ​to​ ​close​ ​the​ ​gender​ ​gap​ ​in​ ​technology​ ​and​ ​change​ ​the​ ​image​ ​of​ ​what​ ​a​ ​programmer looks​ ​like​ ​and​ ​does.​ It may come as a surprise knowing that the leader of Girls Who Code does not come from a technical background. “I’m an unlikely person to be leading this charge – I am not a coder,” quips Saujani, who began​ ​her​ ​career​ ​as​ ​an​ ​attorney​ ​and​ ​activist.​
    In​ ​2010,​ ​she​ ​surged​ ​onto​ ​the​ ​political scene​ ​as​ ​the​ ​first​ ​Indian​-American​ ​woman​ ​to​ ​run​ ​for​ ​US​ ​Congress.​ ​During​ ​the​ ​race,​ ​Saujani visited​ ​local​ ​schools​ ​and​ ​saw​ ​the​ ​gender​ ​gap​ ​in​ ​computing​ ​classes​ ​firsthand. “During the campaign, I would visit schools and see armies of boys learning to code, training to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. And I thought to myself, where are all the girls?” she recalls. This daunting question eventually became a motivating factor in the 
    creation of​ ​Girls​ ​Who​ ​Code in 2012. “It didn’t seem right to me. At a time when women are a majority of college graduates and close to a majority in the labor force, where are we in tech, the industry shaping our collective future?”
     
    Today, with​ ​their​ ​seven-week​ ​Summer​ ​Immersion​ ​Program,​ ​two-week​ ​specialized Campus​ ​Program,​ ​after​ ​school​ ​Clubs,​ ​and​ ​a​ ​13-book​ ​​New York Times best-selling​ ​series,​ ​Girls Who Code is​ ​leading​ ​the​ ​movement​ ​to​ ​inspire,​ ​educate,​ ​and​ ​equip​ ​young​ ​women​ ​with​ ​the​ ​computing​ ​skills to​ ​pursue​ ​21st​ ​century opportunities.​ “We’ve gone from 20 girls in a borrowed classroom in New York City to nearly 50,000 girls across the United States in five years, and we’re not slowing down,” declares Saujani, “We’re constantly coming up with new ideas to really flood the gates of the tech industry with girls who code, from trying a new approach to our tried-and-true programs to thinking about what we can do differently to reach even more girls.”
     
    Saujani’s organization has been playing an incredible role in encouraging young girls to pursue a career in programming and be an active participant of the computing industry. Through their app, Loop, where girls can network with each other and discuss what’s important to them, and a job platform called #HireMe, where companies can post internships and jobs specifically for Girls Who Code alumni, the organization has been providing various tools that can help them make a difference in the world. “We focus a lot on the idea of sisterhood and bravery in our programs so that the girls know that they can do anything they set their minds to, and they can lean on each other when they need help,” adds the proud founder, who is the author of Girls Who Code:​ Learn​ to​ Code​ and​ Change​ the​ World,​ ​the​ ​first​ ​in​ ​a​ ​13-book​ ​series about​ ​girls​ ​and​ ​coding,​ ​and​ ​​Women Who​ Don’t Wait​ In​ Line​,​ ​in​ ​which​ ​she​ ​advocates​ ​for​ ​a​ ​new​ ​model​ ​of​ ​female​ ​leadership​ ​focused​ ​on embracing​ ​risk​ ​and​ ​failure,​ ​promoting​ ​mentorship​ ​and​ ​sponsorship,​ ​and​ ​boldly​ ​charting​ ​your own​ ​course​ – ​personally​ ​and​ ​professionally.  
     
    Saujani’s commitment towards bridging the gender gap in the tech sector has been well-recognized and appreciated. She has been honoured with numerous titles, such as ​the WSJ​ ​Magazine​ ​Innovator​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Year​ ​and City​ ​& State’s​ ​Rising​ ​Stars, among many others. She serves​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Board​ ​of Overseers​ ​for​ ​the​ ​International​ ​Rescue​ ​Committee,​ ​which​ ​provides​ ​aid​ ​to​ ​refugees​ ​and​ ​those impacted​ ​by​ ​humanitarian​ ​crises,​ ​and​ ​She​ ​Should​ ​Run,​ ​which​ ​seeks​ ​to​ ​increase​ ​the​ ​number​ ​of women​ ​in​ ​public​ ​leadership.  
     

    Q: What’s your message and advice for girls who desire a future in coding or the computer science industry?

    A: This is absolutely a career path girls should pursue! Today alone there are 500,000 open jobs in computing. These are the best-paying jobs in the country. I’d also ask them to think about a problem they want to solve. If you learn to code, you can solve that problem. 
     
    As for advice, just be brave and go for it. In our society, we train boys to be brave – to throw caution to the wind and follow their passions. And we train girls to be perfect – to please and play it safe, to follow the rules, and to always get straight A’s. The result? Girls are excelling in the classroom but falling behind in the real world. Because in the real world, success is a product of bravery, not perfection. If we don’t start teaching girls to be brave, they are going to miss their chance to code the future in Silicon Valley, to build the future in the C-suite, and to legislate the future on Capitol Hill. So jump in and start learning, and don’t worry about failing.

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