In 2010 while campaigning unsuccessfully for a seat in Congress from New York State, Reshma Saujani visited a lot of schools. That gave her a chance to observe the gender gap in technology education. At one school she saw dozens of boys in a robotics classroom, as well as a lone girl in a makeshift computer lab.
â€œI really saw the technology divide, up close and personal,â€ says Ms. Saujani, a former deputy public advocate for New York City. Galvanized by a newfound drive to increase opportunities for girls in computer science, she went to work to find a solution.
Two years later Saujani founded Girls Who Code. Its mission is to inspire and educate girls while equipping them with the computing skills they need to pursue 21st-century careers.
She has drawn on her own life experiences. â€œI come from a family of engineers and technical people, [but] I was terrified of math and science growing up,â€ Saujani concedes. â€œThat fear of math really haunted me my whole life.â€
When she became involved in politics and public policy, she wanted to make sure other girls did not miss out on opportunities because of similar apprehensions.
â€œI didnâ€™t want any girl to feel that insecurity or that lack of confidence,â€ she says.
Girls Who Code has an ambitious agenda. US Department of Labor projections indicate that there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings by 2020. And anecdotal data suggests some 4.6 million adolescent girls will need a computer science education if women are to occupy half of those jobs, notes Saujani in a recent interview at her offices in New York City.