Law School Graduate and Women’s Rights Advocate Reshma Saujani Chosen as 2022 Class Day Speaker
On April 4, Yale announced that Reshma Saujani LAW ’02, an advocate for women’s economic and academic empowerment and founder of Girls Who Code, will speak at this year’s class day.
Reshma Saujani LAW ’02, founder of Girls Who Code and a strong advocate for women’s economic and academic empowerment, will be this year’s Class Day speaker, the University announced Monday.
Saujani, who has spent most of her career as a women’s rights advocate, will speak at the annual event May 22 at 2 p.m. on Old Campus to celebrate Yale College’s Class of 2022. The start will be May 23 for the Class of 2022 and May 14 for the Class of 2020. In the announcement, Saujani said she looks forward to her return to Yale and is excited about the future that the Class of 2022 graduates will be part of building.
“I am thrilled to return to campus and be inspired by the resilience, bravery and determination of graduates,” Saujani said. “We are at a pivotal moment in history. We have a unique opportunity to radically reinvent business, culture and advocacy, to rethink our systems and structures for a post-pandemic world. I already see Yale graduates stepping up and demanding a better future for themselves, our country, and our world. It is an honor to celebrate this milestone with them.
A first-generation American, Saujani grew up in Illinois. She attended the University of Illinois and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government before arriving in New Haven to attend Yale Law School. After graduating, Saujani worked as a lawyer and political organizer, before running for the United States Congress in 2010 and serving as New York City’s Deputy Public Advocate.
In 2012, Saujani founded the organization Girls Who Code after noticing gender imbalances in computer science lessons while visiting schools during her campaign for the House of Representatives. The organization aims to support young women in tech and has so far taught over 500,000 girls computer programming virtually and in person. Girls Who Code is striving to achieve its goal of closing the gender gap in new entry-level tech jobs by 2030. In 2019, Girls Who Code was named by Forbes as the company to most innovative nonprofit.
Now Saujani has served on the Supervisory Board at Harvard University since 2019 and has been recognized as one of Fortune’s “Greatest Leaders” in his “40 under 40” list. Additionally, WSJ Magazine named her the “Innovator of the Year” and Forbes named her one of “The most powerful women changing the world.”
According to a Monday morning Tweeter of Saujani, university president Peter Salovey asked him to speak at the event late last winter. Saujani noted that she had been working on her speech for six months.
Saujani described the personal importance of being asked to speak, as a mother who grew up “a brown, working-class kid in the Midwest” where no one she knew had attended Yale.
“My path to Yale was non-traditional, to say the least,” Saujani tweeted. “I went to Yale Law School as a TRANSFER STUDENT. I applied 3 times before entering. Ever since I was a kid, all I wanted was a degree from Yale… So for me, that’s huge. And it’s huge because of the obligation I feel towards these graduates when I go on stage.
Stefanie Grau ’22, a member of the Class Day committee, wrote in an email to the News that the committee has no influence on who is chosen, but she is excited about the choice.
“I think Reshma is a very inspiring lawyer, activist and author whose determination to champion women’s empowerment is both remarkable and admirable,” Grau wrote in an email to the News. “I think she will bring and embody a spirit of caring, selflessness and hope to Class Day that will be especially refreshing for a class that has had a few pandemic years at Yale.”
The Class Day committee, made up of Christine Ho ’22, Yousra Omer ’22, Jay Fife ’22, Victoria Winter ’22 and Grau, also shared their collective excitement during the announcement. The committee is led by Alison Coleman, Director of Special Projects and English Language Instructor.
“Since graduating from Yale Law School, Saujani has used her career as a leading lawyer, author and activist to advocate for women’s economic empowerment, working to advance the missions that are close to our hearts,” the committee wrote in an email. “We are thrilled to hear him deliver an inspiring and passionate speech that our class is sure to remember for years to come.”
Saujani is also the author of the best-selling “PAY UP: The Future of Women And Work (And Why It’s Different Than You Think”, published in March. She gave a Ted Talk titled “Teaching Girls Courage, Not Perfection” in 2016 which has been viewed over five million times. She also founded the Marshall Plan for Moms in January 2021, for which she was named Leader of the Year at the inaugural Anthem Awards. The Marshall Plan for Moms aims to help advocate for policy to support women’s work at home and on the go.
On Twitter, congratulations for Saujani poured in, ranging from fellow authors to people who had already seen one of Saujani’s speeches to New York Congresswoman Grace Meng.
“They’re lucky to have you,” Meng wrote on Twitter in response to Saujani’s own tweets.
Past Class Day speakers include writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie GRD ’08 and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton LAW ’73.