Founder of Moms First & Girls Who Code
Reshma Saujani is a leading activist and founder and CEO of Moms First. She is also the founder and former CEO of Girls Who Code. She has spent more than a decade building movements to fight for women and girls’ economic empowerment, working to close the gender gap in the tech sector, and most recently advocating for policies to support moms impacted by the pandemic. Reshma’s newest book Pay Up: The Future of Women and Work (and Why It's Different Than You Think) presents a bold plan to address the burnout and inequity harming America’s working women today. She is also the author of the international bestseller Brave, Not Perfect, and her influential TED talk, “Teach girls, bravery not perfection,” has more than five million views globally.
Reshma began her career as an attorney and Democratic organizer. 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. She also served as New York City’s Deputy Public Advocate, where she created innovative partnerships to support DREAMers and promote campaign finance reform, among other initiatives.
In her nine-year tenure as the CEO of Girls Who Code, Reshma grew the organization to one of the largest and most prestigious non-profits in the country. Today, Girls Who Code has taught 300,000 girls through direct in-person computer science education programming, and reached 500 million people worldwide through its New York Times-bestselling book series and award-winning campaigns. In 2019, Girls Who Code was awarded Most Innovative Non-Profit by Fast Company.
In response to the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on America’s moms, Reshma launched the Marshall Plan for Moms to advocate for policies that value women’s labor in and out of the home. Reshma has successfully worked with House and Senate leaders to introduce “Marshall Plan for Moms” legislation at the federal level and is continuing to act as an outside agitator to change culture through creative awareness campaigns. In 2023, Marshall Plan for Moms became Moms First, a reflection of the progress made in the last two years and a rallying cry to expand the movement we’re building together.
Reshma is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Yale Law School. Her innovative approach to movement building has earned her broad recognition on lists including: Fortune World’s Greatest Leaders; Fortune 40 Under 40; WSJ Magazine Innovator of the Year; Forbes Most Powerful Women Changing the World; and Fast Company 100 Most Creative People, among others. She is the winner of the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.
Reshma serves on the Board of Overseers for Harvard University and on the Board of Overseers for the International Rescue Committee, which provides aid to refugees and those impacted by humanitarian crises. In addition, she serves on the Board of Trustees of the Economic Club of New York, and as an ex-officio Trustee of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Reshma lives in New York City with her husband, Nihal, their sons, Shaan and Sai, and their bulldog, Stanley.
Imposter Syndrome describes the self-doubt that creeps in, making women in particular feel inadequate or unworthy to speak up in a boardroom or a classroom. From running for office and founding Girls Who Code to building an advocacy movement for moms, Reshma Saujani is all too familiar with the feeling that you’re not prepared or “good enough.”
In this talk, however, Reshma isn’t going to tell you how to overcome imposter syndrome. Instead, she’ll explain why it’s not a syndrome at all. Reshma dissects the myth of imposter syndrome, explaining that the idea is one rooted in misogyny in order to make women feel unworthy of their progress and success. Reshma expertly details the negative impact of the myth of imposter syndrome and explains the systemic changes needed to dispel this invisible construct, leaving audiences feeling empowered and encouraged to take big swings.
Do you run yourself ragged trying to not just do it all, but do it all flawlessly? Do you lose sleep ruminating over small mistakes or worrying that something you said or did might have offended someone? Have you ever passed up a big opportunity - a relationship, job, or a personal challenge - for fear you wouldn't nail it right away or look foolish trying? For you, is failure simply not an option?
You're not alone. As women, we've been taught from an early age to play it safe. Well-meaning parents and teachers rewarded us for being quiet and polite, urged us to be careful so we didn't get hurt, and steered us to activities at which we could shine. Meanwhile, boys were encouraged to speak up, get dirty, take risks and get right back up again if they fell. In short, boys are taught to be brave, while girls are taught to be perfect.
In a moderated Q&A, drawing from her book, Brave, Not Perfect, Saujani shares powerful insights and practices to make bravery a lifelong habit. Key takeaways include:
It’s no secret that the tech industry has a serious gender imbalance. We live in an era in which girls are told they can do anything, so why aren’t there more women in leadership roles to look up to? In 2012, Reshma Saujani founded Girls Who Code with the mission of correcting this disparity. Since then, she has sparked a national conversation about increasing the number of women in tech, and Girls Who Code has reached nearly 40,000 young girls, 90 percent of whom have declared or intend to declare a major or minor in computer science. With Google and Twitter as backers, and Facebook and AT&T (among others) signed on as mentors, the program aims to enroll 1 million women by 2020.
Drawing from her book, Women Who Don’t Wait in Line, Saujani will advocate a new model of female leadership focused on embracing risk and failure, promoting mentorship and sponsorship, and boldly charting your own course, both personally and professionally.
Reshma Saujani is a serial failed politician. Strikingly, it is because of her failures she has built a national movement that is changing the conversation about women and technology. Recounting her personal narrative and lessons learned in this compelling, dynamic and earnest presentation, Saujani also weaves in stories of other accomplished women who have overcome roadblocks and forged new paths—women who have similarly learned to live an authentic life by taking risks and choosing to seek failure rather than fear it. Offering tools to improve resiliency and embark on new ideas, she ignites and inspires audience members to pursue risk and help reshape the country.
We told women that to break glass ceilings and succeed in their careers, all they needed to do is dream big, raise their hands, and lean in. But data tells a different story.
In this urgent and rousing conversation, Reshma Saujani dismantles the myth of “having it all” and lifts the burden we place on individual women to be primary caregivers and to work around a system built for and by men. Through powerful data and personal narrative, Saujani shows the cost of inaction and lays out four key steps for creating lasting change: empower working women, educate corporate leaders, revise our narratives about what it means to be successful, and advocate for policy reform.
She’s just so lovely and personable and all of her points were spot on. It was a really great conversation and I think many folks needed to hear her message about being brave, not perfect.