2016-17 Leader in Residence: Reshma Saujani at Chatham Hall

2016-17 Leader in Residence: Reshma Saujani at Chatham Hall

— by Chatham Hall  |  November 15, 2016

Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code (a national nonprofit dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology) and author of Women Who Don’t Wait in Line (where she posits that aversion to risk and failure is a hurdle holding back women in leadership roles) visited Chatham Hall November 14 & 15 as the 2016-17 Polly Wheeler Guth ’44 Leader in Residence. Academic Dean Martha Griswold noted of her selection, “Reshma Saujani was invited because she saw a gender gap in technology fields, with women filling only a fraction of these jobs. The lessons she left behind go beyond ‘Learn about technology’ and were the important life lessons of ‘It's okay to fail!’ and ‘You don't have to be an expert to have a great idea!’ And most importantly, those lessons of grit, determination, not quitting - all  pertinent for our students to hear as they process recent election results and begin to move forward in support of one another.”

Saujani’s tenure on campus began with small group work with students - engaging them in dialogue about her life and work as well as encouraging discussion about topics relating to technology and leadership in Chatham Hall students’ individual lives. Saujani’s organization runs a wildly popular and impactful summer immersion program for girls that teaches them coding and gives exposure to tech jobs by partnering with major tech companies, including twitter and facebook - as well as cultivating sisterhood and connection through project based learning. Additionally, Girls Who Code operates affiliate clubs that grow computer science opportunities for 6th-12th grade girls across the country. Saujani also spent time with the Chatham Hall Robotics team and learning about the school’s burgeoning Computer Science offerings.

Rector Suzanne Buck saw connections between Saujani’s work and the Chatham Hall experience, “The theme of Chatham Hall's strategic plan is ‘empowering girls to better the world.’ This mission is indeed shared by Reshma Saujani. Saujani believes that by educating girls (specifically through coding), they will be armed with the knowledge and tools to impact positive change on a global scale. Saujani spoke to the importance of girls becoming fearless, neither hindered by fear, nor by the drive to be perfect. She espoused the need for strong female role models and she shared that ‘you can't be what you can't see.’ How grateful we are for the example set by Reshma Saujani. She personifies intellect, resilience, thoughtful leadership, civic engagement, and making a difference in the world at large.”

Saujani is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Yale Law School. She was recently named to CNBC’s Next List; Crain’s 40 Under 40; FORTUNE’s 40 Under 40; Forbes’ Most Powerful Women Changing the World; Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People; Ad Age’s Creativity 50; and Business Insider’s 50 Women Who are Changing the World. She has also been recognized as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in New York by the New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal Technology Innovator of the Year, and an AOL/PBS Next MAKER.

Of her time at the school Saujani remarked, “I had an incredible time. I came here in low spirits and I really feel like the girls lifted me up. These girls are just incredibly compassionate, and they’re leaders. They are thoughtful and they are smart. I hope to vote for them one day - or invest in their companies, donate to their nonprofits, and see them because I think you have just trained a generation of leaders. We’re in good hands.”

The Leader in Residence program is endowed by the Polly Wheeler Guth ’44 Leaders in Residence Fund and brings exceptional female leaders to the Chatham Hall campus.