TheBridge profile: Reshma Saujani
Name: Reshma Saujani
Current city: New York, NY
Current job: Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
Past job: Deputy in the Office of New York City Public Advocate
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? My local coffee shop in NYC
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. Failure. I lost two races for Congress, and yet those losses led me to start Girls Who Code. Not only am I incredibly happy, but I'm making maybe more of a difference than I ever could have in Congress. Today, I talk to my girls about failure all the time - about how it can actually be a good thing, and open up tons of opportunities. If we aren't brave enough to try and fail, we become paralyzed in our careers and our lives.
Q. Job advice in three words? Brave not perfect.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech / innovation and regulation? Girls Who Code recently released a comprehensive policy agenda outlining policy recommendations designed specifically to attract girls in K-12 to, and retain them in, computer science. They include recommendations to: 1) Track and Report Data on Computer Science Participation; 2) Expand Computer Science Courses to all Middle Schools; 3) Increase Exposure To Women And Other Underrepresented Minorities In Tech; and, 4) Fund Professional Development With A Focus On Gender Inclusion.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are interested in using policy to solve for the gender gap in tech. Many already are. With the release of our Policy Agenda, we’re thrilled to be able to share what we’ve learned and offer a path forward on an issue that – by working together – we can solve within a generation.
Q. What can innovators learn from policymakers? Right now, I think there's a new generation of policymakers in Congress - many of them women - who are incredibly brave. They are progressive, and are speaking out against longstanding institutions and ways of governing that maybe aren't serving their constituents and their communities. I think we can all learn from that kind of bravery, from what it means to take those kinds of risks in order to make real progress and real change.
Q. What can policymakers learn from innovators? There is a lot that policymakers can learn from innovators in the non-profit space, especially those doing work with communities most deeply impacted by policies. For instance, we always talk at Girls Who Code about how expanding access to computer science isn't enough to increase the proportion of girls in computer science classrooms - and research tells us as much. We need policies that are designed specifically to bring girls into computer science.
Q. Favorite book/podcast/long-form article you recommend? Well, I can't pass up an opportunity to say I've just released my book Brave not Perfect - and have a podcast with the same name. Both are all about how women everywhere struggle with this idea that we have to be perfect, that if we fail our lives or our careers are over. The reality is the opposite - the real world rewards bravery - not perfection. A 4.0 and an impeccable outfit may get us in the door, but it’s bravery and a willingness to take risks that will get our work recognized and help us advance. I believe the “perfect or bust” mentality is a big part of why women are underrepresented in C-suites, boardrooms, Congress, and pretty much everywhere.
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