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Girls Who Code founder on rejecting Trump’s STEM push: ‘Resistance is not futile’

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President Trump signed a memo to boost government spending on STEM education this week. Girls Who Code wasn’t there.

Saying “resistance is not futile,” Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani explains in a New York Times op-ed why she declined an invitation by the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, to hop on board the initiative, which is being backed by tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

“To work with this administration in any capacity is to normalize it, and all of the hate and bigotry it represents,” Saujani wrote. “That is the very real danger we face as the months drag into years, and each successive outrage fades from memory.”

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Saujani, an attorney and activist who once ran for Congress, started the nonprofit Girls Who Code in 2012. Now a nationwide push to close the tech gender gap, Girls Who Code is backed by some of the companies that joined the Trump administration announcement this week.

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“While I have great respect for the partners participating in this program, many of whom support the work of Girls Who Code, I do not believe this initiative — nor any partnership with this White House — can reverse the harm this administration has already done in attempting to legitimize intolerance,” she wrote. “Indeed, collaborating with this administration, on any issue, emboldens it only further.”

Saujani wrote that some private sector and nonprofit leaders have already learned “the hard way” about teaming up with Trump or supporting parts of his agenda: “There was never a table in any meaningful sense, nor any seats to take.”

In Silicon Valley, the most high-profile example of that was Elon Musk’s departure from the president’s advisory councils in June after Trump announced he would be pulling the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. Before that, then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had quit Trump’s business advisory council over the administration’s initial travel ban proposal.

Since then, many business leaders and others have quit numerous presidential councils over Trump’s response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. He blamed “both sides.”

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Saujani acknowledged the argument that engaging with Trump could lead to finding “common ground.”

But to that, she responds: “I believe Girls Who Code sends a more powerful message — to the young women we aim to empower, to other organizations making strategic choices and to President Trump himself — by refusing to engage.

“Federal funding for increasing inclusion means little when coupled with policies like [Trump’s travel ban] and others that trample on the rights of immigrants, women, and L.G.B.T.Q. Americans,” Saujani wrote.

Saujani has long resisted the Trump administration. In May, she objected to being included in Ivanka Trump’s book, “Women Who Work.” She tweeted:

Photo courtesy of Girls Who Code

Tags: Donald Trump, education, gender gap, Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani, STEM

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