Reshma Suajani has strong views on how striving for perfection and achieving credentials can be a dead end for women. What’s her alternative? Allowing female students to ‘fail well’ and teaching them to be brave.
“Let girls fail.” was the advice she gave at her Harvard commencement speech in late May. Activist and founder of Girls Who Code told graduates the story of her failures and how they’ve built the person she’s become.
“In our society, we train boys to be brave; to throw caution to the wind and follow their passions. And we train girls to be perfect; to please and play it safe, to follow the rules, and to always get straight A’s. The result? Girls are kicking butt in the classroom, but they’re falling behind in the real world. And that’s because, in the real world, success is a product of bravery and not perfection.”
Reshma set up Girls Who Code, a charity dedicated to closing the gender gap in the tech industry. GWC’s after-school clubs have gone from twenty girls in New York to 40,000 girls across America.
She asks people to look beyond the structural problems such as workplace discrimination and systematic sexism and address the cultural problems that fuel gender inequality.
“If we don’t start teaching our girls to be brave, they’re going to miss their chance to code the future in Silicon Valley, to build the future in the C-suite and to legislate the future in Congress. And women are going to, once again, find themselves and their ideas on the sidelines of the revolution, and we can’t let that happen. Nothing is more important than solving this problem.”
Her closing request to graduates:
“Don’t let our girls play it safe. Don’t let them limit themselves to the thing they’re best at, or the thing they think they should do. Push them to be brave. Push them to take risks. Reward them for trying. If you do your part — if we all do our part — then we will unleash the most badass generation of women leaders the world has ever seen.”