Every so often, Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, will have a conversation with her 3-year-old son in which he’ll ask her why she has to go to work. Saujani loves her job and wants to ensure that her son has a good relationship to work. “Mommy’s helping girls,” she tells him.
Saujani wasn’t always helping girls. Having taken on around $300,000 of student-loan debt to attend Yale Law School, Saujani felt stuck in a private-sector role because it allowed her to make enough money to pay off part of her loans. Her job in finance made her miserable and depressed, but it also made it possible for her to help her family pay their mortgage. Her parents had come to the United States as refugees and trained engineers, but in the U.S. her father worked as a machinist. After a decade of making a dent in her debt, Saujani left her job and eventually went on to found Girls Who Code.
I recently spoke with Saujani about her parents’ relationship to work, taking on student-loan debt, and familial responsibility. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Lolade Fadulu: How often were your parents working while you were growing up?
Reshma Saujani: My parents worked all the time. In the morning, we woke up, we were dropped off at a babysitter before school who lived across the street from our school. My parents were busy and they were working to put food on the table, so we didn’t have all these activities after school. We went to school, then we came home and made ourselves a snack and put on the TV and waited until our parents came home for dinner.