12 January 2023 |

Meet Girls Who Code Founder Reshma Saujani

By Nicole Casperson

Since 1995 the number of women in computing has gone from 37% to 22%.

The gender gap is getting worse, not better, despite *trending* inclusion initiatives.

Meet the woman worth betting on who has raised $100 million to turn things around by 2030.

Reshma Saujani is the founder of 2 women-focused organizations: Girls Who Code and Marshall Plan for Moms.

She’s a 2x founder, activist, and public figure appearing on stage next to Lizzo and mentored by Hilary Clinton. 

But before doing it all, she rose from nothing.

Her parents fled Uganda in the 70s to escape the rule of dictator Idi Amin, who expelled all people of Indian descent from the country.

They came to the states as refugees and Reshma was born in a small Midwestern town in white American suburbia, AKA Schaumburg, Illinois.

She endured horrible bullying & racism from her classmates and members of her community.

Reshma recalls an incident before her high school graduation where she was beaten with a baseball bat. WTF.

She attended the ceremony despite her concussion. (Phoenix from the ashes🔥🔥🔥).

That trauma catalyzed something in her.

Reshma decided at a very early age that she would never be silent, and that she would dedicate her life to making change.

And she meant business. At the age of 13, Reshma organized her first march.

Another thing Reshma was certain of at 13 was that she would attend law school at Yale.

In her mind, a law degree from Yale meant:

  1. Nobody could doubt her credibility
  2. Opportunities she would never otherwise be considered for as a brown woman in America

After applying multiple times & being denied, our girl got in on the third try.

Before being admitted, she had to prove to the dean that she could make it into the top 10% of her class at another law school. Hoops I just can’t imagine her white brethren were subjected to. SMH. 

Yale, despite the hoops, gave her the pedigree and credibility she had hoped for. After graduating she took a job at a fancy Wall Street law firm, which allowed her to pay down her ridiculous mountain of debt from school, and to support her parents.

But…something was off. 

The 13-year-old girl committed to making change didn’t recognize herself.

So, Reshma quit & became the first Indian woman to run for Congress.

Though she lost, she kept running for office.

During these races, she visited local schools and saw the gender gap in coding firsthand.

In a 2016 interview, Reshma shares, “In that journey, I was going to classrooms full of boys. Whether it was a robotics class, or a computer science class, I looked around and asked myself, ‘Where are the girls?’” 

The answer to this question was the genesis for Girls Who Code.

Teaching girls computing went from being the backbone of her political campaign, to the mission of Reshma’s first organization: To close the gender gap in tech by 2030 by teaching girls & women how to code. 

So far, GWC has:

  • Taught 500,000 girls, women & nonbinary coding
  • 50% from historically underrepresented groups
  • Surveyed 90,000 alumni to help solve the gender-gap
  • Driven 14 billion engagements globally through online resources, campaigns, books & advocacy work.

Had Reshma been victorious in the 2013 Democratic primary for New York City public advocate, it is improbable that hundreds of thousands of high school girls would be taking up computer science through the organization she established.

After spending 10 years building Girls Who Code, Reshma got the urge to do more.

Which she pointed out, “If I was a man and was like ‘I’ve got another idea,’ the checks would be flying in. I wouldn’t have to strap my second baby to my back and hustle for every $50,000 check.

​​When Covid-19 hit, many of her students were unable to major in computer science because they became caregivers at home.

So, she launched Marshall Plan for Moms: “A national movement advocating for economic policies that could aid millions of women pushed out of the workforce.”

In her words:

We’ve always lived in a society where two thirds of the caregiving work is done by women, so what we really need is structural support and to redesign workplaces to work for working women.”

The organization is already having legislative success, passing a package in NYC that will create a Marshall Plan for Moms task force.

Providing recs to city council members on a variety of issues facing working mothers and caregivers. We love to see it in writing. 

Reshma’s sense of worth in the face of an unkind world is a light for all women.

She says, “Women have to constantly prove themselves. This is why impostor syndrome is a lie we’ve bought into. We’ve been made to feel that we’re not good enough. We’ve always been good enough.”