When my husband and I had our son, we had a pretty heated debate over whether we preferred for him to learn a foreign language or learn to code. Looking back, the argument feels silly. It’s not a zero sum game – he can learn both! And, at the end of the day, isn’t coding a foreign language in and of itself? Most importantly, coding is the language of the future. As the tech industry continues to grow, having coding and computer science skills is becoming more and more important. And, Reshma Saujani wants to make sure that the girls are as ready as the boys to be active participants in that future.
Reshma is a lawyer by training who practiced law at a large law firm and later left practice to join an investment firm. She briefly flirted with a political career when she ran for the House of Representatives in 2010 and Public Advocate of New York City in 2013. She lost the elections, but not her fighting spirit. In fact, it was during her time on the campaign trail that she realized something important – there was a significant gender gap in computer classes. Boys were learning the language of the future, while girls were being left behind. She decided to do something about it by creating Girls Who Code.
Girls Who Code has a simple mission: close the gender gap in technology. Today, only 1 in 4 women is a computer scientist. To help build the pipeline of women going into computer science, the organization offers a variety of programs. One is a Summer Immersion Program where girls spend 7 weeks learning computer science through story-telling, apps, robotics and more. They also get to work with top tech firms and leading women engineers. A 2 week condensed program is also available for middle and high school girls.
In addition to the summer programs, Girls Who Code also offers free after school programs for 3rd-12th grade girls where they can learn important coding concepts, design computer science impact projects, and be part of a community of girls with similar interests who will support their goals of becoming computer scientists. Through these programs, Girls Who Code has reached over 90,000 girls in all 50 states. At that rate, they are on track to achieve gender parity in computer science by 2027!
Reshma inspires me because she saw a problem and sprung into action to do something about it. It didn’t matter that she didn’t (and still doesn’t) know how to code herself. She understood the consequence of ignoring this very real gender gap, and she brought together people and resources to combat it. She is doing her part to advance women and girls, and for that, she gets this week’s Friday Spotlight.
I also want to leave you with this Ted Talk that Reshma gave in 2016. In it, she encourages us to teach girls to be brave, not perfect. It’s an important message we should all be sharing. If you have 12 minutes and 40 seconds, I really encourage you to watch.
Please feel free to share your nominations for the Friday Spotlight in the comments!