Why we should aim to be brave and not perfect: Learning through role models

Do something that scares you.

Fake it till you make it.

Embrace failure.

We’ve all heard these expressions so many times that they’ve become almost meaningless catch phrases rather than pieces of advice. They’re also much easier said than done, especially for women.

Do you recall ever wanting to do something but holding back because you thought you weren’t good enough? Have you ever tried something new and immediately stopped, thinking you were bad at it? And then of course, never attempted it again?

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Reshma Saujani, the Founder of Girls Who Code, had similar thoughts about herself. As a Yale Law School graduate, she had always wanted to serve the public, but was afraid to take the first step. Finally, in 2010 at the age of 33, she decided to run for Congress. She was the first Indian-American woman to do that. She launched an election campaign, which for her felt like  jumping off a cliff but in fact she was set for victory.

The end result? She lost. Big time. It was a loss she referred to as “humiliating”. But it taught her a lesson, and it wasn’t one about failure – it was a lesson in bravery.

It became clear to her that very few women take a leap of faith and pick a career that they’re unsure of. Many of us go for roles that we know we are going to be good at, as we’re always worried that we’d under-deliver. We also very often think we lack the knowledge or the natural ability to accomplish something. Reshma understood that the desire to be perfect is instilled in girls from a young age and we grow up thinking that multiple attempts at something are a defeat.

“We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave.” – Reshma Saujani.

She had given an inspirational TED Talk about how the quest for perfection (not lack of ability) is responsible for the gender gap. By pursuing her desire to serve the society and help increase women’s share of the computing workforce, she founded Girls Who Code. Reshma thought that alongside teaching girls problem-solving, team work and confidence, programming would help them learn that imperfection is okay. Coding is all about trial and error; it’s hard, but extremely rewarding. It emphasises the importance of perseverance and self-belief.

Since 2012 when Girls Who Code was established, they’ve taught over 40,000 girls and operate in all 50 states of the U.S. They have partnered up with many Universities and major IT companies that support the program. But most importantly, they have given thousands of girls new-found confidence in their own ability and potential.

“..when we teach girls to be imperfect, and we help them leverage it, we will build a movement of young women who are brave and who will build a better world for themselves and for each and every one of us.”

At DevelopHer, we’re in awe of Reshma, who has done so much to help elevate women in technology. The way she’s mitigating the gender gap issue is just genius – she teaches girls the in-demand skill of programming and, at the same time, equips them in self-belief. Since losing in the first election in 2010, she’s founded a successful non-profit and ran as a Democratic candidate for New York City Public Advocate in 2013.

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If there is one learning we can tell you to do based on Reshma’s experience is  –
Do something that scares you.
Because you can, and you will!

If you’re interested in also inspiring others and doing something out of your comfort zone, sign up to our speaker list here.

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