Reshma Saujani is the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, the international nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a computer programmer looks like and does. She is the author of the international bestseller Brave, Not Perfect and the New York Times bestseller Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World.
Reshma’s TED talk, “Teach girls, bravery not perfection,” has more than four million views and has sparked a worldwide conversation about how we’re raising our girls. She is the host of the award-winning podcast “Brave, Not Perfect.”
Reshma began her career as an attorney and activist. In 2010, she surged onto the political scene as the first Indian American woman to run for U.S. Congress. During the race, Reshma visited local schools and saw the gender gap in computing classes firsthand, which led her to start Girls Who Code.
Girls Who Code is leading the movement to inspire, educate, and equip young women with the computing skills to pursue 21st-century opportunities. By the end of the 2019 academic year, Girls Who Code will have reached over 185,000 girls across all 50 states, Canada, and the United Kingdom. In 2019, Girls Who Code was awarded Most Innovative Non-Profit by Fast Company.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Reshma and ask her to share with our Branders readers her Brand Story and her thoughts on the importance of having a clear Brand vision!
Reshma, what is your brand story?
My brand story is my lived experience. I founded Girls Who Code in 2012 because I saw the gender disparity in coding and the lack of support or options for women to enter the space. I started the Marshall Plan for Moms because I saw firsthand the way our system around motherhood is broken. We need policies embedded in our society that support moms and families, and it’s absurd that we even have to fight for that. Advocating for young girls and women is my passion, my life's work. I hope they are inspired and empowered by my continued fight to make a difference.
Looking back at your life journey, why do you think having a clear brand vision of your entrepreneurial project is important?
A clear brand vision guides the journey even if you don’t know the end result. When I started the Marshall Plan for Moms, I had no idea that it would end up as a resolution in the Senate. This brand vision of a world where moms are valued for their unpaid and unseen labor created a national movement. Other people won’t get on board with your project if you can’t explain the vision.
What are some of the lessons you have learned throughout the years while building amazing and inspiring brands and initiatives?
I’ve learned that failure cannot be avoided and it can actually be the first step on the road to success. There’s such a stigma around failure, no one wants to talk about it, but I’ve found that talking about failure is instrumental to achieving success. That’s why I started doing #FailureFriday on my Instagram. I wanted to create a space for people to fail together. Also everyone is not going to like you or your mission. Be you and do it anyway. Never let the world silence you. Be an advocate for yourself and then spread that energy throughout the world. Always fight for what you believe in.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs wanting to start a brand and are afraid? And, why should they bet on social good and/or non-profit initiatives that benefit communities and not just a few?
To be confident in their abilities. Believe in their mission. Set very precise, realistic goals. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, Gravitate towards that thing that sets their soul on fire. Do something that they’re passionate about. Become a changemaker by becoming a voice to those communities around that world that need and can benefit from their passion, presence and skills. Be the change they want to see. Be bold. Be resilient. Be brave, not perfect.
Are there any other brands and/or initiatives that you admire? From colleagues, former students or anyone else?
There’s no one I admire more than working moms. This past year has been brutal for moms, and especially moms of color. When schools closed, we became teachers, cooks, tech support, nannies, everything. Working moms don’t stop working when their “job” ends, and it’s time society values their unseen labor and builds a system that works for them. That’s why I created the Marshall Plan for Moms, and that’s why I won’t stop until moms get the structural, financial, and social support they deserve.