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.