"I Was Broke and I Had No Plan"— Now She's the CEO of a Tech Company

Sacha Strebe

What does it take to be the first? From the numerous interviews we’ve conducted with successful disrupters, there seems to be a formula of key attributes, personality traits, and, yes, failures that pave the way for female pioneers, or as we like to call them, Womaneers. By definition, she’s a woman who defies societal norms with heroism and tenacity to become a pioneering voice in her field. Each month, we will share a new womaneer’s story to uncover their vision, grit, persistence, grace, and drive to keep going despite the odds. The time of the womaneer is now.

Failure isn't something many of us are used to. In fact, accepting defeat is definitely a sentiment I personally struggle with. However, despite that innate feeling to resist it, deep down, I know there's always a teachable moment that could only be delivered through that mishap. It's not always easy, but if there's one resounding piece of advice we've learned through the myriad of interviews we've covered on inspiring women, it's that making mistakes is crucial to success. Reshma Saujani can attest to that.

The founder and CEO of Girls Who Code—the nonprofit that is closing the gender gap in technology—tells me she "fell into this work by accident" after she ran for Congress in 2010 and "lost, miserably." And while the sting of that loss was deeply felt, it ended up being the catalyst that propelled Saujani to embark on her mission to achieve gender parity in entry-level tech jobs by 2027. And she's well on her way.

"I'm not the person you'd expect to start an organisation about coding," she says. "Even though I lost the election, I realised that I could do things that scared me, so I started thinking about how I could make a difference. I thought about all of the classrooms I had visited on the campaign trail and realised that something was missing from the computer classes: the girls."

After some extensive research and talking to people about the problem, Saujani realised "nobody was doing anything about it," so she started Girls Who Code with a class of 20 girls in a borrowed conference room. Now the organisation has helped 90,000 girls across the U.S. to code. Read on to discover more about this womaneer's nontraditional path to success and why Saujani celebrates her failures every Friday with the hashtag #FailureFriday.

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