Girls Who Code's Reshma Saujani
Reshma Saujani doesn’t believe in perfection. She believes we need to teach ourselves and the next generation of women how to be brave, take risks, and embrace fear—all of which she details in her New York Times bestseller, Brave Not Perfect.
Saujani is no stranger to risk and fear—she has run for public office twice in New York City, first for a congressional seat, and three years later, for public advocate. In 2012, she founded the non-profit Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that aims to close the gender gap in technology by equipping young women with STEM skills. Her 2016 TED talk on teaching girls bravery went viral, with nearly five million views.
Saujani, her husband Nihal, and their four-year old son Shaan begin a new adventure this January when they welcome a baby boy via gestational carrier.
We sat down with Reshma to hear more about how failure has changed her life.
Reshma Saujani in the Stefania sleeveless turtleneck and Farley dickey jacket
That it’s glamorous, easy and fun. It’s often times none of these things. It’s incredibly lonely. And I don’t think anyone is born to be a founder. When I founded and became the CEO of Girls Who Code, I had never managed a group of people before. I made a lot of mistakes and I finally had the courage to say to my team that I’m human, and making mistakes. I was honest with my team and I think it really helped that they felt that they were part of this journey of being a founder with me.
That I would let the girls who we were helping down. I wanted to solve a problem, and I had really big goals and I wanted to make sure I could achieve them. Every time we didn’t get a funder or lost a big opportunity, I took it personally. I felt like I was letting the girls and the movement down.
My husband, Nihal Mehta. He’s the closest person to me that is a founder and entrepreneur. He founded his first business in college and I think his authenticity and honesty as a CEO and founder shows in how his teams feel about him. He’s always thinking about what’s right for his team and employees.
Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. I think success isn’t about material wealth. In Hinduism, we talk about Dharma, which is finding what you are meant to do. I think success is leaving the world a little better than when you inherited it. I think, Did I make the world a little bit more compassionate and or equitable?
Losing political office were my biggest failures. I thought that being in politics was what I was meant to do. I thought it was my Dharma. Losing a race is so public. When it didn’t work out, I hated that people were feeling sorry for me. At the time, I realized this was my first real failure, and the best thing that happened is that when I lost; it didn’t break me. It made me recognize that I can go after something I really want, and that it may not work out and I would still be ok. That revelation shifted my choices and the things that I started to value.
How do I get there faster? Growing up as a Desi girl in predominantly white neighborhood, I had issues with confidence. I was chubby and I was always trying to look and feel perfect. In doing that I missed out on life and didn’t have real bravery. Now I don’t feel like I do that anymore. I’ve now lived my life 100 percent authentically and I don’t put up with any BS. Cardi B says, “No Fucks Given,” and that’s how I live my life. What’s true for you is way better than being liked.
Kids are watching you. Everything you do, they are watching you and replicating you.
Success is leaving the world a little better than when you inherited it.
I unplug by working out, by walking my dog and playing with my son. After eight years of fertility treatments, I felt dead inside. I didn’t feel like I was actually having fun. Now unplugging for me is just having fun with my family.
Have your billion dollar slide ready. It’s so important for women to think big and tell people who you are going to be, not just who you are now. When I pitched Girls Who Code, I told people that I’m going to teach a million girls how to code.
I believe in doing something for you and doing it at a time that’s convenient for you. We are martyrs as moms and it comes back to perfectionism. We push ourselves to take the red-eye flight back to make it time for your kids. We bake cookies and make meals, but moms really need to make time for themselves. You need to have the time to read a book, watch TV, have dinner with your girlfriends.
I’m a little street and a little elite. My go-to look is jeans, a blazer, a pair of hoops and red lipstick, always.