“Some people worry about our federal deficit, but I worry about our bravery deficit,” Girls Who Code founder, Reshma Saujani, says, her eyes tracking around the room at Vancouver’s Tedx conference. “The bravery deficit is why women are underrepresented in STEM, in C-suites, in boardrooms, in Congress, and pretty much everywhere you look.” But what does the term “bravery deficit” even mean, and how do we, as leaders, fix it? Saujani has ideas.
On its surface, Girls Who Code provides a space for 3rd to 12th grade girls, who might not otherwise have the opportunity, to learn about computer programming. And, while the non-profit has given more than 300,000 girls the coding foundation they need to be competitive in college and beyond, Saujani says it’s the hidden magic of the program that makes the real difference. “I started a company to teach girls to code,” she says, “and what I found is that by teaching them to code, I had socialized them to be brave.” The process, however, wasn’t seamless.
This isn’t simply a problem for girls. A recent study by Hewlett Packard revealed that while men will apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, women won’t apply unless they meet 100%. The same numbers apply when considering promotions or projects within a company. Saujani argues this is the direct result of socializing women to aspire to perfection instead of bravery. But, it isn’t simply a matter of encouraging women to take more chances. Women, she discovered, need certain criteria—what she calls the Three Pillars—to step beyond this socialized caution, and she has placed them at the center of the Girls Who Code curriculum.
International Women’s Day falls on March 8, 2021. As we consider this year’s theme, #ChooseToChallenge, we are reminded of the leaders we’ve had the privilege to teach, and of your tireless efforts to create a fairer world for those you lead. Thank you for all you do, and for making us your partner in this fight.
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