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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Reshma Saujani: A Human Embodiment Of Hope For Women Aspiring To Be In STEM Fields

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Reshma Saujani, the CEO and founder of Girls Who Code, is committed to motivating and enabling young women. She and her team equip girls with essential computer-science abilities and introduce them to STEM role models, proving that a fulfilling and prosperous profession in science is feasible. The statistics fueling Saujani’s enthusiasm for tech instruction are shocking and concerning. Although 74% of middle school girls express an interest in STEM, only 0.4% of high school girls plan to pursue a Computer Science degree. Nevertheless, through coding courses, immersive programs, and a vibrant community of teachers and students, Saujani’s three-year-old nonprofit has impacted 10,000 girls in over 40 states.

Saujani’s Background of Perseverance and Bravery 

Prior to creating Girls Who Code, Saujani’s career was in law and politics. In 2010, she made history as the first Indian American woman to run for a seat in the House of Representatives. After her campaign, she worked as the Deputy Public Advocate of New York City.

Saujani’s professional journey is mostly marked by anxiety and unfulfilled aspirations. She fixated on her ambition to attend Yale Law School for years, submitting applications three times consecutively and receiving rejection each time. As the first Indian-American woman to run for Congress, she experienced a crushing defeat. She attempted a second campaign but also lost. Amidst these setbacks, she made a significant observation: during her campaign for New York City public advocate, she observed that computer rooms in public schools were filled with boys and not girls. Despite her lack of technical expertise, she pivoted from law to teaching girls how to code.

The TED Talk That Initiated A Much Needed Conversation

Reshma’s TED Talk that spoke of how we teach our girls to focus on perfection over bravery touched millions of hearts. In the talk, she mentioned how society is raising girls to be perfect, and boys to be brave. Girls are commonly taught to avoid failure and taking risks, whereas boys are encouraged to play roughly and aim high. By the time boys reach adulthood, they have become accustomed to taking risks, whether it’s asking for a raise or even asking someone out on a date. This behavior is often rewarded. In Silicon Valley, it’s often said that no one takes you seriously unless you’ve experienced at least two failed startups. According to Reshma, this lack of bravery among girls is a significant reason why women are underrepresented in STEM fields, C-suites, boardrooms, Congress, and nearly everywhere else. She argues that our society and economy suffer as a result.

Reshma’s Ted Talk initiated a nationwide discussion about the gender gap in computer science classes. However, this talk was only one of the many ways in which she encouraged others to educate girls about the importance of participating in this conversation. As the former CEO and founder of Girls Who Code, she sparked this conversation through various other means. For example, she launched a podcast called “Brave, Not Perfect” with the release of her book of the same title in February 2018. In 2021, she took it a step further by publishing advertisements in The New York Times and The Washington Post, reminding people of her nonprofit organization’s message and urging the Joe Biden administration to take proactive measures to close the gender gap.

Moving On From Girls Who Code To Marshall Plan for Moms

In her book, Pay Up, Saujani is taking on the unequal expectations placed on women and mothers, both in their professional and personal lives. Like many other women, Saujani was devastated by the pandemic and believed that if she worked harder and pushed through the difficulties of pregnancy, she could have it all. Her new movement, the Marshall Plan for Moms (Now-Moms First), offers a direct solution to the inequities faced by women both at home and in the workplace. As a mother of two, Saujani provides a blueprint for making “the workplace work for moms” in her book.

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