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Girls Who Code Founder, CEO speaks to students

Girls+Who+Code+Founder%2C+CEO+speaks+to+students

By Shreya Thakkar, editor-in-chief
To a group of 16 girls, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code Reshma Saujani spoke about her journey with Girls Who Code after school on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Senior Molly Mueller began a Girl Who Code chapter at Prospect in December, and the club meets every Friday to teach girls how to code.
IMG_8130 copySaujani started the organization in 2012 with twenty girls, and now it is a 16 million dollar organization that teaches 10,000 girls across the country how to code.
“It was like lightning in a bottle,” Saujani said. “It was idea that people were like ‘This makes sense. This is awesome. How can I help you?’”
However, Saujani herself is not a coder and was “terrified of math and science growing up.” Instead, she always knew she wanted to go to Yale Law School, become a lawyer, and then run for public office.
At age 33, she had done the first two, but she hated her job working as a lawyer in the New York City financial services industry.
“Every day I was coming home in the fetal position,” Saujani said.
But when she drove to Washington D.C. to hear Hillary Clinton’s speech during the 2008 presidential race, Clinton spoke a line that stuck with Saujani.
“[Clinton] said, ‘Just because I failed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try too,’ and I literally felt she was talking to me,” Saujani said. “While I was watching her speech, she was talking about her failures, and I thought to myself ‘What am I doing with my life?””
IMG_8171 copyAnd so Saujani quit her job and became the first South Asian woman to run for Congress in 2010. She raised 2 million dollars, gained the support of people like Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and singer John Legend. Come election time, she lost badly, earning only 19 percent of the vote, but she those were still “the best ten months of [her] life.”
But it was that failure that led her to founding Girls Who Code. During Saujani’s campaign New York City was going through a tech boom, and she noticed the STEM gender gap in tech companies and schools.
“Girls Who Code was an experiment that I was able to do because I had just suffered this humiliating loss and that made me feel like I could do anything because I had survived,” Saujani said. “And so that inspired a girl who doesn’t code to start an organization called Girls Who Code.”
Saujani believes teaching coding is “the most important thing in the world” because it is a part of a 21st century skill set.
That is the reason Mueller began the club at Prospect after participating in a Girls Who Code 7-week summer program, and it was special for her to host Saujani at Prospect.
“[Girls Who Code] is a movement and so with the movement you want to keep passing it on,” Mueller said. “It’s an experience that everyone can benefit from, and having Reshma here was the most exciting thing.”
Through the program, Saujani and Mueller want to get more girls involved in STEM. Saujani, the daughter of Indian refugees from Uganda, believes a big reason for the gap is because “boys are taught to be brave and girls are taught to be perfect.”IMG_8240 copy
She believes that mindset holds girls back from taking risks, and will deliver a TED talk on that topic on Feb. 17. As someone who believes the best things in her life have been because of failure, Saujani encouraged Prospect students to help her break that expectation of perfection.
“In life it’s about failing as much as you can and constantly trying to be imperfect,” Saujani said. “And if you do that you’ll succeed.”

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  • C

    CadenOct 15, 2016 at 8:51 am

    An inegtlilent answer – no BS – which makes a pleasant change

    Reply