Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
Girls Who Code is a not-for-profit organization which works towards the main goal of increasing the number of women in computer sciences via a grassroots approach to support young women. In response to the disturbing statistic that in middle school, 74% of girls convey enthusiasm in STEM subjects but only 0.4% go on to study computer programming, Girls Who Code runs summer workshops in major US cities which give female secondary school students opportunities to learn computing and programming skills. Attendees take field trips to inspiringly successful technology companies, like Facebook, Twitter, AT&T and Foursquare, while also learning robotics, coding, and web design, algorithms, and mobile phone design skills. Girls Who Code’s current main objective is to see 1 million women in computer sciences by the year 2020. Over 3000 girls have completed the program and 90% of these have gone on to study computer science.
In 2010, Saujani was the first Indian-American woman to run for US Congress. During her campaign, as she spent time in schools, she observed the minute female presence in computer science classrooms. Saujani’s background as a lawyer and activist are a powerful combination; philosophical reasoning, creative thinking skills and the desire to promote change in the world have, in no small part, led to her remarkable achievements. The skills she honed at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Business and Yale Law are undoubtedly at play and likely channeled into her recent book, Women Who Don’t Wait In Line (2013). Also buttressing GWC’s wide reach into some of the most successful companies in the world is the team that supports Saujani. The Board of Directors has an almost staggering roster, including the Chief Technology Officer from Twitter, a professor of computer science and NYU Co-Founder of hackNY, the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Gilt Groupe, and the New York State President of AT&T. These companies form part of the network of experts in engineering, entrepreneurship, education, and technology in their shared goal of empowering young women in pursuit of STEM opportunities.
Saujani is incredibly inspiring. I often lament my own lack of computer programming skills. My areas of most intense interest as an educational technologist have at times seemed unattainable because of my lack of STEM background. In fact, as a young woman, this area of study was not even on my radar. To me, what is astounding is that Saujani is not herself a coder or computer science guru. She is like me. And that is empowering. She is a role model to anyone who has an incredible idea that can change learning culture from the bottom-up.