Ask an activist: Why do we need more women and girls in technology fields, and how can we inspire girls to pursue tech opportunities?

Date: Thursday, June 20, 2019

About the author

Reshma Saujani.
Reshma Saujani. Courtesy of Girls Who Code

Reshma Saujani is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, which aims to support and increase the number of women in computer science. In 2010, Saujani became 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. In April 2019, Saujani, also a best-selling author, visited UN Women to discuss her work.

“I think that girls are change-makers. They will heal us; they will save us. They will be our future leaders. And technology is changing everything about the way that we live and work and we're leaving our girls behind.

We need to make sure that girls are learning how to code so they have access to future jobs. And, we need to give them the power of code, so they can create things and solve big problems like climate change or poverty.

But when you look at most computer science classrooms today, they're still 80 per cent boys and 20 per cent girls. We're not doing enough to pull our girls in. One of the things we've done at Girls Who Code is to introduce women in technology spotlights, to tell girls about Ada Lovelace and Katherine Johnson and other incredible women, including women of colour, that are in technology. We want girls to say: ‘you know what, I can do that too’.

Changing culture is also important. You can turn on almost any television show or movie and we're almost celebrating that girls are 'not good at math'! When the culture is telling us, this is not for [girls], why are we surprised when girls are opting out?

We need to change and disrupt culture, to make coding cool.

At Girls who Code, I want to make sure that half the girls we teach are under the poverty line— girls who don't have access to Wi-Fi, who may only have one meal a day, girls who are desperate to have a shot at a middle-class job, a working wage. If we can meet that challenge, if we can teach every single girl how to code, then we will have succeeded.

I am optimistic about closing the gender gap. We are in the throes of a movement right now where girls are brave, women are brave and they're really ready to take on institutions and change them, and make sure that we're sitting at the table. I think it's incumbent upon us to do it as fast as we can and leave nobody behind.”