By AMY S. CHOI
Saujani, an Indian-American child of political refugees, launched her underdog campaign in 2010, motivated by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential run. While she didn't win, the support she received from other women pushed her to "pay it forward." During her campaign, she’d learned that job growthcame from technology – but only a small, mostly male fraction of the U.S. work force could fill those jobs. "As a nation, we're missing out not just on innovation, but the innovation of an entire gender," she says. "Our country depends on teaching girls to get into these fields."
Taking her renewed passion for public service, Saujani last summer launched Girls Who Code, training underprivileged teenage girls in computer science. She recruited executives at Twitter, GE and eBay to support the program. This year, with a $435,000 grant by the Knight Foundation, she plans to expand Girls Who Code to three cities, and eventually launch Girls Who Code clubs in schools.
Saujani was recently named a Next MAKER by Makers.com, which honors trailblazing women leaders across the globe, joining the ranks of Madeleine Albright, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and her mentor, Clinton. She’s now a candidate for New York City Public Advocate, running on a platform focused on supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Edited interview excerpts follow.
Entrepreneur: Will training and mentoring girls in tech have more of a social impact or economic impact?
Saujani: They’re intertwined. If we teach a million girls to code by 2020, there will be a tangible change in the economic future – more jobs, less pay inequity. There’s an access issue in this country. In NYC, 76 percent of public school students don’t have access to a computer in school. So students are missing a fundamental language that we use in business. Socially, there is a huge impact. When girls build, they make things to improve their community.
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