Reshma Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code, a national non-profit organization that seeks to close the gender gap in computing fields. The Indian-American attorney was inspired to start Girls Who Code after running for congress. Though she didn’t win, she received support from other women during her campaign. She also learned that there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings by 2020, yet US universities are expected to produce enough qualified graduates to fill just less than 30 percent of those jobs. And while 74 percent of girls in middle school are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), only 0.3 percent of girls who graduate from high school choose computer science as their college major.
“If we teach a million girls to code by 2020, there will be a tangible change in the economic future – more jobs, less pay inequity,” says Saujani. “Socially, there is a huge impact. When girls build, they make things to improve their community.”
Saujani launched Girls Who Code in spring 2012 and the organization’s inaugural program educated and empowered disadvantaged young women from all over New York City. This year, Saujani plans to launch programs in Detroit, San Francisco, and San Jose using a $435,000 grant by the Knight Foundation. She also wants to start Girls Who Code clubs in schools eventually.
According to Saujani, both men and women support Girls Who Code. Men also back the organization because they have daughters and see the lack of computer science education in schools. Saujani herself doesn’t know how to code, saying she has always been intimidated by math and science. But she doesn’t want other girls to feel the same way, and says that the young women who join Girls Who Code gain a tremendous amount of self-confidence over the course of the eight-week program.