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Indian American Activist and Author Reshma Saujani to Deliver Yale’s Class Day Address

Indian American Activist and Author Reshma Saujani to Deliver Yale’s Class Day Address

  • Founder of Girls Who Code, she has dedicated the past decade of her career to building movements that support women’s and girls’ economic and academic empowerment.

Indian American lawyer and activist Reshma Saujani will deliver this year’s Class Day address on May 22, which recognizes the achievements of the Yale College Class of 2022. A 2002 Yale Law School graduate, Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, has dedicated the past decade of her career to building movements that support women’s and girls’ economic and academic empowerment.

“I am thrilled to return to campus and be inspired by the graduating class’ resilience, bravery, and determination,” Saujani, 46, said in a Yale press release. “We are at a pivotal moment in history. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to radically reimagine business, culture, and advocacy, to redesign our systems and structures for a post-pandemic world. I already see Yale graduates stepping up and demanding better futures for themselves, our country, and our world. It is an honor to celebrate this milestone with them.”

In a Facebook post, Saujani wrote that she want to Yale Law School as a transfer student. “I applied three times before I got in,” she says, adding that she wanted a Yale degree ever since she was a kid. ”As a working class brown kid from the Midwest, everyone I knew went to state school or community college (which are all great options). I literally did not even know anyone who went to Yale. And to this day, I don’t really know if that was an Indian auntie pipe dream to make us do our homework or a real-life human.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Reshma Saujani’s book launch in New York in march. Photo courtesy, Reshma Saujani’s Facebook.

A first-generation American whose parents were Indian refugees from Uganda, Saujani grew up in Illinois and attended the University of Illinois (majoring in political science) and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government before earning her J.D. from Yale Law School. She began her career as an attorney and political organizer.

In 2010 she ran for U.S. Congress, campaigning for the U.S. House of Representatives seat for New York’s 14th district. She later served as New York City’s deputy public advocate, creating new partnerships to support DREAMers and promote campaign finance reform, among other initiatives.

 “We’ve created these two separate systems where the men are still at the water cooler talking about deals and doing the thing, you know, and, and we’re still at home doing laundry in between Zoom calls.” 

During her congressional campaign, Saujani witnessed the stark gender imbalance in computing classes while visiting local schools, inspiring her to start Girls Who Code, which equips girls and young women with computing skills to be competitive in the technology sector, in 2012. Ten years later, the organization has taught more than 500,000 girls through direct in-person and virtual computer science education programming and generated 14 billion engagements globally through marketing and advocacy campaigns. Girls Who Code, which is working toward a goal of closing the gender gap in new entry-level tech jobs by 2030, was named the most innovative nonprofit organization by Fast Company magazine in 2019.

Her second book, “PAY UP: The Future of Women and Work (And Why It’s Different Than You Think),” talks about the “big lie” of corporate feminism and presents a bold plan to address burnout and inequity harming America’s working women today. She dismantles the myth of “having it all” and lifts the burden we place on individual women to be primary caregivers and to work around a system built for and by men. The time has come, she argues, for innovative corporate leadership, government intervention, and a sweeping culture shift; it’s time to Pay Up.

In a recent discussion with Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the New York launch of the book, the two discussed the impact of a return to the office on women. “We’ve created these two separate systems where the men are still at the water cooler talking about deals and doing the thing, you know, and, and we’re still at home doing laundry in between Zoom calls,” Saujani said.

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Her previous book, “Brave, Not Perfect,” was inspired by her2016 TED Talk, where she urges women to embrace imperfection and live a bolder, more authentic life.

Last January, she launched the Marshall Plan for Moms, which advocates for policies to address the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on American mothers. She has worked with federal lawmakers to introduce legislation focused on policies that value women’s labor in and out of the home and on changing the culture of support for mothers in the United States. Early this year, she was named Leader of the Year in the inaugural Anthem Awards for her work on the Marshall Plan for Moms.

She serves on the boards of Harvard University, the Economic Club of New York, and mParticle. She has been recognized among Fortune World’s “Greatest Leaders” by Fortune in its “40 Under 40” list, as the WSJ Magazine “Innovator of the Year,” as one of Forbes’s “Most Powerful Women Changing the World,” and in Fast Company’s listing of the “100 Most Creative People.” She is also the winner of the 2018 Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education, awarded annually by the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

Saujani lives in New York City with her husband, Nihal; their sons, Shaan and Sai; and their bulldog, Stanley.

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