Saujani ’02 J.D., advocate for women and girls, named Class Day speaker

Reshma Saujani has dedicated the past decade of her career to building movements that support women’s and girls’ economic and academic empowerment.
Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani ’02 J.D.

Reshma Saujani, a 2002 Yale Law School graduate who has dedicated the past decade of her career to building movements that support women’s and girls’ economic and academic empowerment, will deliver the 2022 Class Day address.

Class Day exercises will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 22, on Yale’s Old Campus. The ceremony, which will open with Saujani’s speech, recognizes achievements of the Yale College Class of 2022.

I am thrilled to return to campus and be inspired by the graduating class’ resilience, bravery, and determination,” Saujani said. “We are at a pivotal moment in history. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to radically reimagine business, culture, and advocacy, to redesign our systems and structures for a post-pandemic world. I already see Yale graduates stepping up and demanding better futures for themselves, our country, and our world. It is an honor to celebrate this milestone with them.”

As a part of Commencement Weekend for the Class of 2022, Class Day is open to graduates’ families, friends, and the wider community. Visit the Yale Commencement website for the latest information on Commencement events, including details about Commencement Weekend and an alumni ceremony for the Class of 2020 on Saturday, May 14. Guests attending any Commencement events must comply with the university’s latest COVID-19 policies.

Saujani, a first-generation American whose parents were Indian refugees from Uganda, grew up in Illinois and attended the University of Illinois (majoring in political science) and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government before earning her J.D. from Yale Law School. She began her career as an attorney and political organizer. In 2010 she ran for U.S. Congress, campaigning for the U.S. House of Representatives seat for New York’s 14th district. She later served as New York City’s deputy public advocate, creating new partnerships to support DREAMers and promote campaign finance reform, among other initiatives.

During her congressional campaign, Saujani witnessed the stark gender imbalance in computing classes while visiting local schools, inspiring her to start Girls Who Code, which equips girls and young women with computing skills to be competitive in the technology sector, in 2012. Ten years later, the organization has taught more than 500,000 girls through direct in-person and virtual computer science education programming and generated 14 billion engagements globally through marketing and advocacy campaigns. Girls Who Code, which is working toward a goal of closing the gender gap in new entry-level tech jobs by 2030, was named the most innovative nonprofit organization by Fast Company magazine in 2019.

Today Saujani is a leading activist and author of the bestseller “PAY UP: The Future of Women and Work (And Why It’s Different Than You Think),” published in 2022. Her 2016 TED Talk, “Teach girls bravery, not perfection,” has attracted more than five million views globally. In January 2021 she launched the Marshall Plan for Moms, which advocates for policies to address the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on American mothers. She has worked with federal lawmakers to introduce legislation focused on policies that value women’s labor in and out of the home and on changing the culture of support for mothers in the United States. In early 2022, Saujani was named Leader of the Year in the inaugural Anthem Awards for her work on the Marshall Plan for Moms.

Saujani, who serves on the boards of Harvard University, the Economic Club of New York, and mParticle, has been recognized among Fortune World’s “Greatest Leaders” by Fortune in its “40 Under 40” list, as the WSJ Magazine “Innovator of the Year,” as one of Forbes’s “Most Powerful Women Changing the World,” and in Fast Company’s listing of the “100 Most Creative People.” She is also the winner of the 2018 Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education, awarded annually by the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

She lives in New York City with her husband, Nihal; their sons, Shaan and Sai; and their bulldog, Stanley.

A committee of five members of the senior class — Jay Fife ’22 of Davenport College, Stefy Grau ’22 of Berkeley College, Christine Ho ’22 of Pauli Murray College, Yousra Omer ’22 of Davenport College, and Victoria Winter ’22 of Benjamin Franklin College — is organizing the 2022 Class Day ceremony.

Since graduating from Yale Law School,” the committee wrote in an email, Saujani “has used her career as an attorney, author, and leading activist to advocate for women’s economic empowerment, working to advance social missions that we Yalies care deeply about. We are excited to hear her deliver an inspiring and impassioned speech that our class will be sure to remember for years to come.”

Class Day dates to the 19th century, when members of the graduating class gathered in a circle on Old Campus to share memories of their time at Yale. Today, the ceremony includes speeches and reflections by members of the class, as well as many longstanding Yale College traditions — notably the wearing of funny, often creatively home-made, hats. Previous Class Day speakers have included the writer Chimamanda Adichie ’08 M.A.; gene therapy researcher Jean Bennett ’76; former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ’73 J.D.; former Major League Baseball executive Theo Epstein ’95; and Broadway, film, and television songwriter Robert Lopez ’97.

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Part of the In Focus Collection: Commencement 2022

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