Rebel Spotlight

Reshma Saujani

Rebel Spotlight: A series where I decode why significant leaders stand out and appeal to the masses.

Reshma Saujani is a rebellious leader I have followed for a while. I was first introduced to her through her book, “Brave, Not Perfect,” which is all about how boys are raised to be brave, and girls are raised to be perfect, and how to break through those norms as an adult. 

From there, I was hooked. 

But there is a lot more to Reshma. As the founder of Girls Who Code, an international non-profit organization which focuses on increasing the number of women in the computer science field, she has sent ripples through the tech world. She challenges the norm of a predominantly male dominated industry and is working to shrink the gender gap. 

Even though she is focused on tech, her message is one all women need to hear. Which is why she has been selected for our next rebel spotlight. 

Reshma’s Rebel Approach

Saujani’s approach is data-driven and outcome-oriented. In a Medium blog, Reshma says, “Coding is an endless process of trial and error, trying to get the right command in the right place, with sometimes just a semicolon making the difference between success and failure. Code breaks and falls apart. It often takes many, many tries until that magical moment when what you’re trying to build comes to life. It requires perseverance. It requires imperfection.” 

Reshma asserts, highlighting her focus on creating not just coders, but leaders and innovators. In that same blog she continues with, “We have to begin to undo the socialization of perfection — and we have to combine it with a sisterhood that lets girls know that they are not alone, because trying harder is not gonna fix a broken system.” 

She started teaching women in the tech industry because she wanted to see a change in opportunity for women, but knew hopeful thinking wasn’t enough. So instead of standing by, she built a community that is valuable to the women around her and helped elevate them to a whole new potential. 

Notable Rebellious Actions

Girls Who Code has grown into a global movement under Reshma’s stewardship, and has reached hundreds of thousands of girls, fundamentally shifting the gender dynamics in tech education. By fostering coding skills, confidence, and leadership in young women, she has played a pivotal role in increasing female representation in technology and advocating for more inclusive and practical educational methodologies.

Expanding her impact beyond technology, Saujani launched the Marshall Plan for Moms in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate effects on American mothers. This campaign advocates for policies that recognize and value women’s labor, both in domestic and professional spheres. The initiative, which has influenced national conversations about supporting mothers, and has gained support from a wide range of influencers, including celebrities, activists, and business leaders, leading to the introduction of related legislation at the federal level. 

In addition to her advocacy and organizational work, Saujani’s influence is also evident in her literary contributions. Her book “Brave, Not Perfect” has been influential, and her latest work, “Pay Up: The Future of Women and Work,” extends her discourse on gender equality in the workplace. As a sought-after speaker, she continues to inspire a broader cultural shift towards embracing diversity and innovation in traditionally male-dominated industries. 

You can learn more about Reshma through her website

Criticisms and Impact

Every trailblazer faces resistance. For Reshma, it has come in the form of skepticism about the effectiveness of early coding education and the practicality of her ambitious goals. Yet, her response to such criticisms has been as bold as her actions, fueled by unwavering conviction and data-driven results.

“Innovation comes from not accepting the world as it is,” she argues, a philosophy that has helped her navigate through controversies and emerge stronger.

Reshma Saujani’s legacy extends far beyond the walls of Girls Who Code. She’s not just changing the gender dynamics in tech; she’s inspiring a seismic shift in how we approach education and empowerment in the digital age.

Lessons from Reshma’s Rebellious Leadership Style 

Her leadership style—a blend of audacity, empathy, and visionary thinking—serves as a beacon for those aspiring to make a difference. It tells us that true change requires more than just skill; it demands the courage to challenge, to dream, and to persist.

Here are some key lessons we can learn from Reshma’s rebellious leadership style: 

  • Champion Inclusivity: Her work with Girls Who Code underscores the value of inclusivity and diversity in traditionally male-dominated fields.
  • Advocate for Systemic Change: The Marshall Plan for Moms exemplifies how leaders can advocate for systemic changes that address broader societal issues.
  • Encourage Resilience: Through her initiatives and responses to challenges, Reshma embodies resilience, showing the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity.
  • Foster Confidence and Leadership: Reshma’s emphasis on instilling confidence and leadership skills in young women showcases the need to develop these qualities alongside technical skills.
  • Utilize Diverse Platforms for Advocacy: Reshma’s use of various platforms, from her books to speaking engagements, illustrates the power of using multiple channels to amplify a message and drive change.
  • Lead with Empathy: Her initiatives reflect an empathetic approach to leadership, considering the needs and challenges of underrepresented groups.
  • Cultivate a Culture of Innovation: Through her work, she encourages a culture of innovation that challenges the status quo and opens up new possibilities.

These lessons from Reshma Saujani’s leadership provide a blueprint for anyone aspiring to make a significant impact in their field, particularly when it comes to challenging norms. Which is why for aspiring rebellious leaders, her actions can become a blueprint you can follow for your own industry. 

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