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Girls Who Code CEO Reshma Saujani on Kara Swisher podcast Recode Decode

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“That means that we have to support women, people of color, underserved groups to start their own companies.“If I’m saying that I don’t even know if I can change the culture of Facebook, I don’t know if I can change the culture of Sequoia,” Saujani added. You may know me as the woman who wishes she could code like a girl, but in my spare time I talk tech, and you’re listening to Recode Decode from the Vox Media Podcast Network.Today in the red chair is Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that’s working to close the gender gap in technology. This happens with TV, you know, in case you’re interested.Well, I also think it’s what happens when you don’t talk to the people who kind of are living and breathing this work, because it’s more complicated than that. So there’s all these amazing women and people of color that are trying to basically get at the problem in different places, and in different points of the pipeline, because we know it’s leaky all throughout.And so you all started this in ...2012.2012. And then in general, which other groups did, like, which was that there weren’t enough coders period and that they didn’t teach STEM in lots of schools.Yep.Where do you think it is now in that idea, in the concept? Like, how are we tracking?We just announced the first-ever access bill in Washington state to mandate that every single school and every single district has to actually tell you how many women, how many people of color, so that we can track the progress that we’re making, or quite frankly, not making.Right, right. And that’s what I’m saying.Because it’s gotten a lot more people interested in it.Yeah, so like some of these initiatives do a great job of, you know, when you see Mark Zuckerberg doing a video inspiring you to code, who does that appeal to?Right.And so when you’re watching these movements unfold, a lot more men are like, “Great, I want to be a coder.” And oftentimes those of us that are focused on women, people of color, get the least amount of resources, the least amount of attention, the least amount of platforms, i.e., 60 Minutes, to talk about our work. I have a lot of lines.You have to kind of present the data and say, “Well, if it’s a pipeline problem, how many women applied last year?” Let’s look at that data before you tell me that you can’t actually hire them. I’m seeing a lot more women and people of color saying, you know what, like, these cultures are not going to change. And we have to ask, I have to ask myself as a CEO of Girls Who Code, should I keep encouraging my students to actually go into these companies when they’re simply going to spit them back out?And so we have to kind of, I think, really encourage a culture of entrepreneurship and find those businesses. One, you have these cultures that are very male-dominated that, quite frankly, make women feel like they don’t belong.Right, and other people.Yeah.Not just women, but ...Yeah, women and people of ...... What should I be thinking about?” Oftentimes, we don’t share knowledge and information with each other, because we don’t want to feel like we’re dumb.Right.So it’s also ... I want Harvard to measure, what was the impact of that decision on women and people of color and underserved minorities?Meaning she liked being in the ...Yeah, a place where she can ask questions, and it wasn’t enough for her to just kind of be staring at a screen, just asking questions. They’re exercising bravery in using their power and their voice as a man to help change things, and I think that’s critical.So, once you get past the college point, it’s the job? It’s the job market?Yeah.Obviously, right now, a lot of the jobs are in the big companies more than the startups, and women don’t do startups as quickly as men do, at all, by massive numbers, actually, which is interesting. Talk a little bit about that, that shift: One, when you go into a big company, and the idea to start a startup, or to do that right out of the gate.Well, I think, for a lot of women, it’s that stability, right? It’s like, you want to go to a Facebook or a Microsoft or a Google, and I think the problem that we’re seeing is that these cultures are slow to change. They don’t change.They’re not changing, at all.Right.Maybe I was a little naïve when I started Girls Who Code, but I’m like, “Oh, these companies are created, oftentimes, by men that were raised by progressive women, that probably are self-described feminists in a moment in time where we have a lot more knowledge about why diversity is important, and a nerd is a nerd.”Right.”All nerds welcome.”Right.That isn’t what we are seeing happen with companies, and I think we’re falling back onto excuses. Yeah.I think both of those are false, and we have to really, really hold their feet to the fire to say, “Hey, if you think that this is happening, prove it,” because then nothing will change if we don’t.So talk about the qualification thing, because that’s something you hear a lot, that it’s ... Now, other people are saying, AI will solve that, because we will be able to sort people via AI.Yeah.Talk about that.Well, one, I think there’s a lot of elitism in terms of where we recruit from. What I have found, especially after the student loan crisis, is that I have a lot of students who got into MIT or Stanford, but they’re going to CUNY or Hunter because they can’t afford it.Yeah.So we really have to change where we’re looking for talent, because I think we’ll find a lot of women and people of color, underserved minorities, in places that we’re not looking at, one. Trust me, if Google really wanted to get to parity in the next five years, they could figure that out.Right.But that would mean that they would have to actually get up, go out in the country, in the world and find ...“Reshma, it’s hard.”I know.It’s always hard when it’s something that’s not hard.But here’s the thing. I think millennials care about this, and I think that Google and Microsoft have a potential of becoming like Goldman Sachs, where a lot of people just don’t want to work there because they don’t want to be affiliated with that brand.I was surprised when I read that Google had filed something with the National Labor Relations Board to say that people can’t organize on their emails. I mean, that’s the kind of thing that millennials are like, “What?”Right.So they’ve got to shift, because they’re going to have a huge problem finding talent.Among different people?Yes.Yeah, yeah. 100 percent.Their engineers don’t know how to behave, and they almost need to have training to learn how to interact with women, quite frankly, because Silicon Valley can’t be like Hollywood, where it feels like, “Listen, if you’re someone who’s bringing in a lot of money, we’re going to let you do whatever you want.”Right.That seems to be the attitude there, and that has to change. It’s like the basics, like basics.Right.So it’s not, to me ...Do you think #MeToo has had an impact or not? I think it’s, again, a lot of what they consider high performers, talented people, who are engaged in these behaviors, and they don’t want to risk them walking away or having to fire them. I am highly thinking about creating an incubator, because that’s kind of the conclusion I’m potentially coming to, is that maybe culture only happens from inception, that you have to start a company out with a diverse team and build a culture where, actually, you want to have diverse talent. That means that we have to support women, people of color, underserved groups to start their own companies.How does that happen, from a capital point of view?I think you need to have more people actually writing checks. I think once they get through that, of like, “Wow, I can actually create something that I didn’t think that I could,” I think the next stage is really having belief in their idea, knowing how to work with a team to actually create it, and then asking somebody for money.I tell people all the time, “Have your daughters sell Girl Scout cookies,” because this idea of asking someone to invest in you is something that sometimes is a challenge for us as women, because it’s not what we’ve been raised to do.Right.And to also be able to stand up and speak and present your idea. I’m not being facetious.No, no.It’s just you’ve got to move people along the pipeline, so ...Well, there’s an amazing organization called Women Who Code.Yes. Okay.But I think it’s important, as an entrepreneur, to stay in my lane.Right.I feel like there are still millions of girls that I want to teach. It’s like, “Hey, teach me how to code so I can build this website to do something about climate change.” Right. I do think in the future having more humanities background, having more other things as you’ve seen through some of these problems like Facebook and other companies, one of the reasons is, the people making these products have no conception of either their users or anything else. That great article today in the New York Times where you have to think about these CEOs. It’s almost like too much capitalism, right? The only way you change is to get the whole culture to think like that.Yes.Or to have more people like that in the larger business culture. And everybody feels that it’s leaking out into the culture at large.Yeah.I don’t think it’s a male thing. Most of us didn’t even know that that happened, that hundreds and thousands of kids got displaced and are not going to go to school and that most kids haven’t gone to school in Syria for the past nine years and 15-year-olds can’t read.Right.We are so detached from what is happening in the rest of the world and I think a lot of that has to do with what we see on our social media feeds.Mm-hmm.And it’s really, really, really problematic, and I think that having a diverse set of innovators and creators and entrepreneurs would change some of this.Mm-hmm. I think that we are still reading about, when we think about, in technology, these CEOs — and I don’t think that people are looking to them necessarily as role models — and we need ...Right now. I’m speaking at Bill Gates’s summit next week and one of the things I want to say is that, listen, people look up to you as CEOs and so, you actually could make a lot of difference once a week by thinking about, “Who’s a woman I’m going to highlight on my team? Use your platform for good.And we often don’t think about, I sometimes feel like I don’t hear from these CEOs unless there’s a walk-out happening or a protest happening or a sexual harassment allegation.Mm-hmm.I want to hear about what you think about gender equity on a weekly basis because you come from a place where you are loudly proclaiming that you are a feminist and it’s something that you’ve ...Well, not all of them. I think it’s not necessarily a hostility with all of them, and some of them it’s a hostility, for sure, or a defensiveness, like, “Not my fault,” kind of thing. I had a lot of very senior Uber engineers after that went down, men, because 40 percent of Girls Who Code’s teachers are men, say, “I can’t stay here.” Same thing that happened at Google, same thing that happens at Microsoft, so I do think that the men who have talent and who are brilliant and smart, but who are feminists, who aren’t going to put up with this, you need to leave when those things happen.And just to finish up, what would you like to do in the next version of Girls Who Code, I mean the next couple of years for Girls Who Code? You have people thinking about code and it’s all across the country. I don’t want to teach all these girls and nobody hires them.Mm-hmm.And it’s interesting, tech still has a pipeline problem all throughout, right? I think every week, people have a different opinion about where the industry is actually going, but our mission right now is to simply just teach computational thinking, so you actually feel comfortable with the languages that are coming at you, and that’s really our goal. It’s not like “we want everyone to go into robotics or into AI or into being data scientists.” I want you to feel comfortable understanding technology and computational thinking in terms of, “I can go in and solve a problem.” That’s my goal.Mm-hmm. You’re listening right now to me and Kara.Yeah, I know Shonda will be.But look, I think that culture can actually shape this and change this very quickly, and you’ve seen this in other ways.

As said here by Eric Johnson