Well, dreams do come true. Affinity got the absolute pleasure to sit with the amazing, Reshma Saujani. Girls Who Code‘s renowned CEO and Founder took a few minutes for a Q&A with Affinity to discuss her fears and cheers experienced through her legacy as “ReshMom” to many, like me, opening doors to technology, programming, and professionalism. Nothing to shock here as Mrs. Saujani was more than welcome for Affinity’s press and welcomed us with grace and a barrage of wisdom.
Where do you think all of GWC’s success came from?
The girls. I mean, you guys are amazing and I think that you are all so great about being vocal about your experiences. The girls are a part of a program that is changing the world and made great friends doing it. You guys are such a big part in the motivation and the movement and that makes it all the better.
Where do you see GWC going in 5 years?
I don’t see GWC being a legacy nonprofit. We’re not trying to be around forever. We’re not trying to solve the problem and then the org will become one that supports girls in the field. So, we’ve had incredible growth. This year we’re reaching 40,000 girls in all 50 states. Next year we want to reach 100,000, so we’re trying to solve this problem. I really believe that we can have gender parody in computer science in my lifetime and that is what we’re looking at.
What would you consider GWC’s end-goal?
Part of it is about changing culture. If I ask any girl in the country someone who knows computer science, she would describe some guy, in his basement, in a hoodie somewhere. So, we do a lot of advocating using media, productions and televisions to get the image of girls as programmers and hackers. We need to change that image. Also, as computer science becomes more popularized and boys raise their hands to learn how to code, we need to make sure that this reaches both genders. I read a report recently that said the age for girls to turn girls to computer science is middle school. In high school, if you don’t have a teacher that supports you, you don’t see role models, or friends that are interested you don’t get attracted to computer science. These are all tracks that turn girls off from computer science, and we’re going to change that.
Do you think the relatable-factor is where the inspiration comes from?
Yes, I think that every girl has something she’s passionate about and something she wants to change. For you, you found that and that’s how you got lead to a program like GWC. It’s an organization that helps you make that connection of passion and reality and that’s something you wouldn’t usually get out of a classroom setting.
What is your leadership motto, as the code mom?
Like I said in my TED talk I try to be imperfect and I know I can’t do it all at the same time. I live life as authentically as possible and I’m not afraid of typos. I totally believe I try to pay it forward. It won’t always come out 100%, but I always try.
Tell me a time you were told no, and refused to take it?
OMG, all the time. So, when I applied to law school, I had always wanted to go to Yale. I applied three times and kept getting rejected. So, I got in a train, went to the school, knocked on the dean’s door, and told him, “You have to let me in.” When he saw me he said, “Okay, go to whatever law school you got into, get in the top 10%, I’ll let you in. And he did. I refused to take it because this was something in my head that I needed to do and I kept trying.
What is your relationship with your alumna and where do you want for them to take the message?
It’s a sisterhood. I always thought I was going to change the world by being elected into office. I always say that I win, but you never know where your journey leads you. If I won, I would have been one woman in congress, but now all of you girls are going to go do incredible things. Try to cure cancer, do something about climate change. You’re going to solve every problem that I never thought I could serve as one person in Washington. That’s powerful and I feel blessed.
If you could bring GWC in any other country/region, where would it be?
The powerful thing about GWC is that a lot of the girls in the program come from underserved communities with no computers in school/home. I believe technology can be a Great Equalizer. I want to reach some of the poorest countries in the world. If I had to say a region, it would probably be Africa.
If you could change one thing about GWC as an organization or an alumna base, what would it be?
I wish we would get a million dollars. I could teach every girl that wants to code. I mean, that’s the problem, we can’t work fast enough. There’s so much interest and GWC is such a competative program. I wish we could just help every girl that is willing to raise her hand and is willing to learn.
Mrs. Saujani then went on to ask me what I’ve been up to recently. I told her about my work with Affinity and other publications. Inadvertently, we began talking about what GWC meant to me, as an alumna as NYC World Trade Moody’s Financial 2015 Girls (shoutout!) So, to be honest. It’s a game changer. Not only does this program teach you the tracks of computation and how to do it, they teach you why your interest is important. The number of incredible women (and men) that support each girl in the field is the most inspirational thing you can have as a young adult. A respect for your interests and your motivation. Everyone values it and reaches out a hand. Everyone, including the CEO, treasures each girl the way we should be, equally.