Reshma Saujani, Founder of the non-profit “Girls Who Code,” has one inspiring mission, close the gender gap in technology, and she is doing exactly that.
Reshma recently took the Ted stage to share her story and inspire others. Her message: we need to teach our girls and women to be brave. She explained to the audience that from a young age we teach our boys to take risks, and expect them to fail, while we teach our girls to be cautious and expect perfection.
Whether it be in the classroom, negotiating salaries, or taking that leap of faith and changing our career path, this fear of failure is hindering many women. While men will apply to jobs where they meet only 65 percent of the qualifications, women will typically only apply to a job when they meet 100 percent of those same qualifications. Because of it, we have created a deficit of six hundred thousand jobs, all in the technology industry, there for the taking.
If we can teach our girls to be brave, take risks, and challenge themselves, we have the opportunity to change this. We can teach them how to leverage these skills to be stronger negotiators, apply for that job, and ultimately give them the support they need to build and create amazing things.
Failure is not the end game, its just an opportunity for growth along the way. – Liz Holzman, Software Engineer at WeSpire
Lucky for us, WeSpire’s founder and CEO, Susan Hunt Stevens fully supports and promotes Reshma’s mission. Each year Hunt Stevens teaches scratch to students in the local community through an after school program. She is passionate about getting more women to join the technology industry and understands the positive impact these skills can have on a woman.
Liz Holzman, one of WeSpire’s software engineers talked with us about her own journey in learning how to code and echoed Reshma’s hopes for the future of women in technology and believes that a change is already well on its way.
Q: How did you find out about coding?
It was a right-place-right-time sort of thing. I was working in a completely unrelated field, but by chance the company I worked for needed a new platform for consumer tracking. I ended up working very closely with the lead developer (who also happened to be a woman!) The longer I worked with her, the more I realized that I didn’t want to be doing my own job – I wanted to do hers!
Q: Did you know when you first started that it wasn’t a field many women went into?
Yes, I did. It was a general idea, at first, but it didn’t take long to figure out what those numbers actually looked like.
Q: Did this deter you at all or make you rethink your decision?
That it’s mainly men? Not at all! I knew that this was something that would make me happy. For all of the things that went into my decision to make a career change, gender was no where close to that list. I also think I came into this career at a very good time. There is a growing awareness that men outnumber the women, and in my experience, the men already in the field have been very supportive.
Q: Can you speak to the challenges you faced when first starting out?
Starting over is always a challenge. I am constantly learning new things and trying to do it as quickly as possible. There are times where my brain just says “Nope. We’re done today,” and I just have to sort of accept that. But that’s something that I think anyone pursuing Software Engineering needs to be okay with. Technology and coding languages change so quickly that there will always be a need to keep learning.
Q: How did you deal with failure? Do you feel like you deal with failure differently now then when you were younger?
I think I’m just better at failing now! Failure happens. All the time. We will never stop failing. And we have to be okay with that, because it’s not what really matters. What matters is what you do next. Figure out where you went wrong. Change what you can, learn from it (that one is huge!), and make a plan for where to go next. Failure is not the end game, its just an opportunity for growth along the way.
Q: What is it like being a woman working in a technology company?
This one is tough to answer, because I don’t feel like I work with anyone that makes an issue out of me being a woman. The focus is so much more on the code, on learning, on the product, on anything other than my gender, that I’ve been able to really grow as a developer without having to worry about the fact that I’m a woman on my engineering team. It’s a wonderful thing.
Q: Do you have any advice for young girls interested in coding and technology? How about women professionals looking to make their next career change?
Do it! If you’re conflicted, try out some workshops or play around with some of the online courses or free games (that one goes for the younger crowd too!) It’s a great way to get exposure and see if coding is really something you’d enjoy. And when it comes down to the decision, I would only ask this. Please, don’t let gender play a part in your decision. If you want it, it’s yours.
For more information and additional resources visit Girls Who Code. Interested in learning more about Liz’s journey, reach out to her at lholzman[at]wespire[dot]com.