In honor of International Women’s Day last March 8, Reshma Saujani delivered an inspiring TED talk that called out the importance of teaching girls to be brave, rather than perfect. Saujani, who is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that encourages young women to take up computer programming, says society has long dictated that young girls grow up to aspire for perfection, and think of themselves as failures if they don't achieve it.
Saujani illustrates the point by talking about the girls she and her company were teaching to code. Coding requires a lot of trial and error, and girls struggle with the fact they can't "perfect" their code the first or even second time. "My friend Lev Brie, who is a professor at the University of Columbia and teaches intro to Java tells me about his office hours with computer science students. When the guys are struggling with an assignment, they'll come in and they'll say, 'Professor, there's something wrong with my code.' The girls will come in and say, 'Professor, there's something wrong with me.'"
"Every Girls Who Code teacher tells me the same story. During the first week, when the girls are learning how to code, a student will call her over and she'll say, 'I don't know what code to write.' The teacher will look at her screen, and she'll see a blank text editor. If she didn't know any better, she'd think that her student spent the past 20 minutes just staring at the screen. But if she presses undo a few times, she'll see that her student wrote code and then deleted it. She tried, she came close, but she didn't get it exactly right. Instead of showing the progress that she made, she'd rather show nothing at all. Perfection or bust."
The experience has made Saujani realized that by teaching the girls to code, she was also helping them to be brave. "We have to begin to undo the socialization of perfection,but we've got to combine it with building a sisterhoodthat lets girls know that they are not alone," Saujani stresses. "'I'm afraid to raise my hand’, ‘I'm afraid to ask a question, because I don't want to be the only one who doesn't understand, the only one who is struggling.’ When we teach girls to be brave and we have a supportive network cheering them on, they will build incredible things, and I see this every day.”
Here are some reasons why teaching girls to be brave can lead to more benefits. You mom, may pick up a thing or two as well.
1. It encourages lifelong learning Trying out new hobbies and learning new skills can open up a whole new world of endless possibilties. Think of it as a form of brain exercise; learning new things even as adults can keep your mind sharp.
2. It helps you adapt, innovate, and be a leader Having the courage to leave your comfort zone is both scary and exciting. But it teaches your kids courage and resiliency.
3. It teaches perseverance. Being brave can be a series of trial and error--it requires imperfection so you can improve--just like in making computer codes, or finding that balance of flavors for the new recipe, or starting a new business.
4. It boosts confidence. Taking risks is even more rewarding. It makes you feel like you can do anything. Teach your daughters to be comfortable with imperfection. Making mistakes is life's best teacher, after all.