Many women aspire to be like Reshma Saujani, the 42-year-old former lawyer and founder of Girls Who Code. After an unsuccessful bid for New York’s 14th congressional district in 2010, Saujani realized that she couldn’t go back to the private sector – she just wasn’t passionate about it. So she looked for where she could make the biggest impact and found that there were no coding programs for girls. Never mind that she herself had no coding experience.
In 2011, Girls Who Code launched with its first class: 20 high school girls in New York, most living below the poverty line and all having an amazing experience in the program. Saujani realized that this is the way she could build an entire generation of changemakers. Today, Girls Who Code has taught coding to 90,000 girls across the U.S.
This includes 100 who have participated in the 7-week Summer Immersion Program at Intuit for the past five years. Intuit’s Mountain View campus became a classroom for 20 girls entering their junior or senior year in high school, where they learned computer science through fun projects like building apps, websites, video games, and robotics.
Saujani has been thinking about bravery a lot these days. It’s the topic of the book she’s been writing for the past two years, “Brave, Not Perfect,” due out in February 2019. That’s also the title of the weekly podcast she’s hosted for the past six months. Her stance is that for girls, perfection is valued more than bravery. Parents are usually more concerned about the cleanliness of their little girls than their little boys. Girls tend to be coddled and protected more than boys, so while boys are taught to be risk-takers, girls develop a fear of failure. And they grow up to become perfectionists. But Saujani believes that you can unteach perfectionism and replace it with bravery. She found her own bravery in her 30s, when she lost miserably in her congressional campaign but, as she said, “I didn’t die.”
All this achievement makes Reshma Saujani a great role model for women who want to effect positive change.