Teach Bravery Not Perfection
Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code believe that we are raising our girls to be perfect, and our boys to be brave.
So Reshma has taken up the charge to socialise young girls to take risk and learn to program, two skills they need to move society forward.
To truly innovate, we cannot leave behind half of our population :
"I need each of you to tell every young woman you know to be comfortable with imperfection."
At the age of 33, Reshma Saujani had a moment of bravery: Against all odds of winning, she ran for Congress. It was a serious long shot: People called her crazy, and said there was no way that she would win.
And, well, she didn’t. Reshma's speech at TED talk in Vancouver, Canada earnt her a standing ovation.
But through her recklessness, the founder of Girls who Code learned an unexpected lesson.
“It was the first time in my entire life where I had done something that was truly brave. Where I didn’t worry about being perfect.”
This was the moment where she realised she was truly brave, and Reshma now wants more women to have this experience from a young age.
“We’re raising our girls to be perfect and we’re raising our boys to be brave.” - Reshma
Little boys are taught to climb high and take risks, while little girls are taught to be pretty, not take risks and get A's. We're teaching our girls to play it safe instead of taking risks and competing on the same platform as the boys - as equals.
Reshma points out the cliche about Silicon Valley : No one takes you seriously unless you have two failed startups. If we want to ensure women can fill some of the 600,000 tech and computing jobs that are open right now, we have to change the way we approach and encourage girls to embrace risks. We need a society where it is acceptable for girls to strive for their dreams, to fail and then to get right back up and push themselves into achieving their goals.
In 2012, Reshma found that the girls who attended her program had knee-jerking anxiety about failing.
Coding is a process of trial and error, therefore success is achieved only through perseverance and imperfection. During the first week many of the students would ask for help during the session, but they would show a blank screen. You would almost think that the student spend 20 minutes doing nothing, but when the teacher hit undo a few times it uncovered many attempts to write codes.
"Instead of showing the progress that she made, she'd rather show nothing at all. Perfect or bust."
Another example Reshma uses is students at Columbia University where male students who struggled would say: "Professor, there's something wrong with the code." But when female students come in, they say: "Professor, there is something wrong with me."
It is not enough to socialise girls that it is okay to be imperfect - we need to build a supportive network to cheer them on, to tell them that they're not alone.
Lets not wait for girls to be brave when they're 33 (Reshma jokes) :
"I need each of you to tell every young woman you know to be comfortable with imperfects... We will raise a generation of women that is fierce."