Reshma Saujani On Prioritizing Yourself and Your Mission
Reshma Saujani is a leading activist and the founder of Girls Who Code and founder and CEO of Moms First (formerly Marshall Plan for moms).

You are always activating in new spaces. What is your big priority going into 2024?

I want to activate the Moms First community to win paid leave and child care for as many people as possible in as many places as possible. When it comes to gender equality, for too long, we have focused on fixing the wrong things. We tell women to get a mentor, to color code their calendar, to get rid of their imposter syndrome. We tell them, “If only we can fix you, we’d get to equality.” But in the past 30 years, despite being the most educated population, and with more women in the workforce than ever before, we’re still not making gains that mirror how far we’ve come — because we are focused on the wrong things. We have to stop trying to fix women and fix the structure — the broken structure of care, which, in Moms First’s case going into 2024 is child care and paid leave.

I am ruthless about my schedule and calendar. I am always learning how to say no and am working to better value my own time.

Your book, Pay Up, was a catalyst for opening up conversations further about women in the workplace. What do you want to see as the next step in the fair pay effort?

We need to get rid of the Motherhood Penalty. In America, we don’t value moms’ time. When you become a mother, for every child you have in the U.S. you lose 4% of your income. When you become a dad you gain 6%. It’s not that our country doesn’t value care, it's that we don't value mothers — the person who is providing the care. The next step in closing this gender pay gap is recognizing it is fundamentally not about gender, it's about caregiving and valuing moms’ time.

You wear many hats. Do you have time management or leadership tricks that help you to continue to scale?

I am ruthless about my schedule and calendar. I am always learning how to say no and am working to better value my own time.

What have you learned in running and scaling your organizations that you think many other leaders don’t talk about?

Living your purpose and building and scaling organizations is lonely. Oftentimes as you’re trying to live your purpose, you will also encounter suffering, sacrifice, and pain. Sometimes, not a lot of people are in the fight with you day to day, and you don’t have people to talk to about what you’re struggling with. Leaders don’t talk enough about the pain you uncover along the way and how deeply it impacts you.

Who is a woman you admire?

I have the utmost respect and admiration for Hillary Clinton. She’s a true mentor and friend. Her resilience in the face of adversity is something I can only hope to replicate in my life. No matter what comes her way, she has never given up. She represents to women of all generations how strength and determination can show up in all aspects of your life. 

What’s a trend you see coming in 2024 that inspires you?

This year brought us Barbie and a cultural awakening of women icons in Taylor Swift and Beyonce. These women are the role models for the next generation. It has been incredible to see these cultural icons speak their truth. Women are drawn to these modern representations of how women can and should be, and they are putting their time and dollars behind it. I am so inspired by what’s to come next year, building off these women and the marks they are leaving on our culture. I think 2024 is the year where all of the women who have been looking up to Barbie to Taylor Swift to Beyonce start to recognize their own power, find their voices, and begin to use them to shift our culture and make lasting change in the way women show up in their homes, in their workplaces, and in the government. We’ve seen so much momentum from our Moms First community activating to call for child care funding this fall. It’s clear they won’t be ignored. I think we are about to see a lot more of that progress.

What’s one thing you cannot live without?
I can’t live without my dog. My dog, Stan, is dying from cancer and six months ago the vet gave her three weeks to live. And here we are, over six months later, and she is alive and doing so well. Caring for her has made me slow down and given me a routine. I am fast, I talk fast, I move fast. But when you are taking care of a dying dog, you know that you cannot move fast with them. Stan has made me slow down and live in the moment, two things I am always failing to do. It’s a real blessing to have this time with her.


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