Women who don’t wait in line lecture hits the Memorial Union

Jaki Cavins

Women and their advancements in the workforce were honored with a keynote speaker Thursday night at the Memorial Union.

Reshma Saujani, the first Indian American woman to run for U.S. Congress, author of “Women Who Don’t Wait in Line” and founder of the organization Girls Who Code, spoke in the Memorial Union at Iowa State University about the need for change in how females are viewed and involved in today’s world of computer science and technology. 

“I am a feminist with a capital F, but that is not why this issue is important.” Saujani said. “This issue is important as an American because the continuation of our nation is depending on it. Technology touches everything we do.” 

As a young girl Saujani had no intention of going into computer science, in fact math and science terrified her. She noted that when her father would ask her what two plus two was, she would respond with the answer five. 

Regardless, Saujani’s family had come into the U.S. as refugees and she always felt the need deep down to give something back to the country. 

Saujani wanted to accomplish this by going into politics. She went into law school and afterwards planned to work in a law firm to pay off her college debt over about two years. Two years turned into 10 and finally in 2008 Saujani hit a turning point.

Hilary Clinton had just lost her presidential campaign and had said, referring to women across the country, “Just because I failed, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try too.”

This line inspired Saujani. She felt as though Hilary Clinton had been speaking directly to her and Saujani quit her job at the law firm in aspirations to follow her dream of becoming a politician. 

“I had a 100 page policy book, a bank transcript and a one percent chance of winning,” Saujani said. 

She began raising money and her campaign began to take off. Suddenly she was on television doing interviews, was on the front page of the New York Times and was supported by people like John Legend and Jack Dorsey. 

When election day came Saujani lost and said she was crushed. 

After losing the election she could not stop thinking back to all of the schools she had visited during her campaign. 

“I would see hundreds of boys clamoring to be the next Steve Jobs and that’s when I thought, ‘Where are the girls?’” said Saujani.

This is when Saujani realized that young girls are not often given role models in tech to look up to and aspire to be.

The stereotype that the computer programer is an unkept man obsessing over a computer in his parent’s basement was one that Saujani said she knew needed to be changed.

“I am taking a class in MIS and decided to come to this lecture. It is so interesting learning about gender roles and how they can effect how people act and what [career] they go into,” said Anne Bultman, senior in liberal studies.

This is why Saujani created the Girls Who Code Program. The program hosts summer immersion programs as well as after school programs. Girls Who Code is meant to bring girls from all different backgrounds and areas of the country to come together and be inspired to learn to code. 

“It is important that through the Girls Who Code program young girls get to connect with other girls who they would have never interacted with otherwise,” said Kaitlin Stitz, junior in finance.

This bond and friendship is one of the three aspects of the program which Saujani believes are essential. These three aspects are sisterhood, exposure and role models. These three things are often left behind for young girls in the world of technology.

Girls Who Code gives girls a chance to get interested and involved in code and computer programing and girls are taught that trial and error is a good thing. Saujani hopes to break the idea that girls are supposed to be nothing more than pretty and perfect. 

“The whole process of learning code is trial and error,” Saujani said.

The program has grown and 30,000 girls are participating in it this year. The results of the program show that the program is working; 90 percent of Girls Who Code alumnae will declare a computer science major. 

Since 1984 the percent of female computer science graduates has dropped from 37 percent to 18 percent, and 71 percent of STEM jobs are in computer science. 

In five years there will be 1.4 million jobs open in the technology field and through her program, Girls Who Code, Saujani is pushing for a culture change which will more readily interest girls to pursue careers that will fill those jobs. 

“It’s so powerful to watch, when you teach these girls to code, what they really can do,” Saujani said