Reshma Saujani speaks at 15th Annual Diversity Convocation

Photo by Danielle DeAngelis

To conclude Women’s Herstory Month, the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance (EDIC) hosted the 15th Annual Diversity Convocation featuring guest keynote speaker Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code. This virtual event was held via Webex on Wednesday, March 31 at noon.

Chief Equity and Diversity Officer Nicole Morgan Agard started the event, noting that while the event was delayed due to scheduling conflicts, it was fitting to be held at the end of this historic month. President Peter Mercer then introduced Brian Bridges for opening remarks.

Brian Bridges currently serves as the New Jersey secretary of higher education, and his opening statements highlighted his experiences as a minority in office and the importance of women in STEM. 

“We cannot put our state on the map without prioritizing our communities of color and women who are often left behind in economic growth,” Bridges said. 

From there, Agard introduced Saujani. Along with being the founder of her own nonprofit that focuses on training young girls in computer programs, Saujani is a lawyer, author and was the first Indian American woman to run for Congress. 

Agard encouraged the event to be held in a Q&A format, where panelists and attendees were able to ask Saujani any questions they may have had.

The first question came from Chief Of Staff and Board Liaison Brittany Williams-Goldstein, which was asking Saujani to expand more on the Marshall Plan for Moms, which was a proposal that she signed as a call to President Biden in January.

The Marshall Plan for Moms calls for mothers to receive the extra financial assistance they need to go back to work. Saujani was able to connect with this struggle as she was excited to go on maternity leave when the pandemic hit. 

It was during this time that she noticed moms like her becoming everything: caregiver, chef, housekeeper, personal driver and personal shopper are all roles that a mom has to fill while managing her full time job. The proposal that Saujani signed was published in the New York Times.

Title IX Coordinator Kat McGee mentioned the Ted Talk Saujani was featured in titled “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection.” This speech now has over one million views on YouTube, and McGee praised Saujani for the empowering ideas she raised. 

“As girls are growing up, we got confused between the things that we were good at and the things we liked," Saujani said regarding how girls commonly stray away from STEM fields in college and in work. "Because we were raised on perfection, we gravitated towards the things that we were good at even though we didn’t like them.” 

She claimed that the root of this issue is how girls are raised to be perfect, whereas boys are raised to be brave. Saujani wants to combat this by encouraging girls to not be afraid of failure.

“We never really faced failure or rejection because nobody really gave it to us because we didn’t want to get our feelings hurt,” she said. “Bravery is the solution to perfection.”

SGA President Anjali Patel asked what Saujani took away from running for Congress. Saujani was the first Indian woman to run for United States Congress in 2010. However, she lost the Democratic primary in New York with 19% of the vote.

“I always thought if I tried something and I failed, I would be broken, but I wasn’t,” Saujani said. “That was the beginning point of my life where I lived brave, not broken.”

The last question Saujani answered was for advice to all women, especially women of color, that were watching the presentation on how they can confront these gender norms placed by society.

“Use your voice, speak up, and speak out,” she said. “It’s time for us to share our voice into the conversation.”