Reshma Saujani is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and the former deputy public advocate of New York City. As executive director of the Fund for Public Advocacy, Reshma brought together public and private sectors to encourage entrepreneurship and civic engagement throughout NYC. Reshma, has galvanized industry leaders to close the gender gap in STEM education and empower girls to pursue careers in technology and engineering. In 2010, Reshma became the first South Asian woman to run for Congress, promoting smarter policies to spur innovation and job creation. Advocating for a new model of female leadership focused on risk-taking, competition and mentorship, Reshma is also the author of the book, Women Who Don’t Wait in Line.
Girls Who Code is closing the gender gap in technology. They inspire girls to pursue computer science by exposing them to real life and on screen role models. Girls Who Code engages engineers, developers, executives, and entrepreneurs to teach and motivate the next generation. Their guest speakers, mentors, and instructors are leaders in their fields, working in positions the girls aspire to have.
I have admired Reshma Saujani’s career for a long time. I attended multiple Girls Who Code events and had the opportunity to see Reshma speak a few times when I worked at Levo League. I’m so excited to share her story and advice with you today!
What inspired you to start Girls Who Code?
When I ran for Congress in 2010, I visited a lot of schools. When I went to their robotics labs, or computer science classes, I would see hundreds of boys learning to code with the desire to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. Rarely did I see girls in these classrooms. This question of “where are the girls” started as a question and later became my obsession. It didn’t seem right to me. At a time when women were a majority of college graduates and a majority in the labor force, where were we in tech, the industry shaping our collective future? That’s why I decided to start Girls Who Code
What were the first logistical steps you took to start a business?
I did research to understand the market and the demographic I was trying to serve.
What is a day as Reshma like? Please walk me through a day!
Feed my son
Go to an Orange Theory class at 7am
Get home by 8:30am
Play with my son
Go to work
Home by 6
Put baby to bed
Do more work or go to a work event
Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code
What are your responsibilities as CEO of Girls Who Code?
I am responsible for our mission to educate, inspire, and equip high school girls with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in computing fields. I do this through fundraising, speaking, inspiring our students, managing our team, and ensuring that we are constantly bettering ourselves and our program. I feel responsible for each girl we serve and each girl we’re unable to serve because the demand is so high. I want to make sure that we’re able to meet our demand and never turn a girl away.
What has been your proudest moment from your career so far?
The proudest moment of my career has been starting Girls Who Code. Little did I know that when I failed at running for Congress, it lead me to my calling of starting Girls Who Code!
What have you learned about yourself since founding Girls Who Code?
I’ve learned how to manage a team and bring the best out of people. I’ve learned to never say no and to shift directions as needed. I’ve learned how to scale and grow.
What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of starting Girls Who Code?
I am so inspired by our students each and every day. It’s incredibly humbling to see the effect that learning to code has on a girl’s life. On the flip side, we’re not growing fast enough and it’s heartbreaking that we can’t fill the demand. I wish I could teach every girl who wants to learn to code.
What is the most important characteristic for entrepreneurs to have?
It’s important to have humility and to understand that you need to hire people who are smarter and greater than you are in order to be great. You also need to have passion.
You recently had a baby. Has becoming a mother impacted the way that you think about work, or the way you think about being a leader?
Having a kid has changed my priorities and has made me see the bigger picture. I feel more fearless and less selfish.
You’re the author of the book Women Who Don’t Wait in Line: Break the Mold, Lead the Way. A key component of the book is the importance of women lifting each other up personally and professionally. Who is a woman who has helped lift you up?
Hilary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, and the girls in our program are women who lift me up. I am so inspired day in and day out by the girls in our programs. Their commitment to learn to code and their desire to make the world a better place lifts me up. Any time I’m having a bad day, I visit a club and it refocuses me.
How can readers get involved with Girls Who Code?
Readers can get involved by telling all of the girls they know about our movement and encouraging them to join a club or apply for our Summer Immersion Program. Go here to sign up for our interest form and get more information about all of our programs.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up, feed my son, read the NY Times, workout, come back to play with my son, and go to work.
What are you reading right now?
Originals by Adam Grant.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
My husband reminds me that I’m not ever going to be the “perfect” mom. That doesn’t exist, and that’s okay.
What is your career advice for other young professional women?
Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t hide your failures. Your life will be a series of failures, learn from them and become braver by them.
Images via Reshma Saujani and Girls Who Code.