With a visionary nonprofit, Reshma Saujani hopes to grow the next crop of tech superstars.
When running for congress in 2010, Reshma Saujani campaigned in "some of the country's wealthiest zip codes and some of the poorest," she says. She eventually lost the race, but not before noticing the awfully small number of female students with access to computer science classes, no matter the neighborhood. "In America, girls typically don't score as high in math and science as boys," says Saujani, 37. "But in many other countries, that is not the case. I can still buy a pink T-shirt here that says 'Math Sucks.'"
She knew that young women should be prepared to enter the tech industry, especially since IT jobs are forecast to jump about 22 percent by 2020. So in 2011 she founded Girls Who Code, asking: "If you give girls technology, how can they change the world?"
Last summer she got her answer. For eight weeks Girls Who Code hosted 20 New York City high schoolers, who learned robotics, HTML, and app design. She realized that with these tools, girls excel in computer science and tend to develop technology with an altruistic mind-set: an algorithm to detect cancer; a Web site to teach computer skills in 32 languages.
This summer the nonprofit—now partnered with tech giants like Google and Twitter—also held programs in San Francisco and Detroit, inching Saujani closer to what she dreams of: "a woman to build the next Facebook." Or, perhaps, her campaign website. Saujani is running for office again, this time for New York City public advocate.