Teach girls bravery, not perfection – my favourite TED talk

I have to confess, I’ve not watched hundreds of TED talks, not even dozens, but most that I have watched have stayed with me for a long time – Simon Sinek, Ken Robinson, Rita F Pierson – to name but three.

My favourite TED talk by a long way is from 2016 “Teach girls bravery, not perfection” by Reshma Saujani, which by August has had 2.355 million views.

As with all the best TED talks, she gives us a bit of personal experience and insight, her career in the background of US politics and deciding to run for Congress as a Democrat in 2012 and in doing so she took what she considers to be her first brave step at 33 years old. To disrupt the status quo, to challenge herself in the New York City Primaries. Despite New York Daily News endorsements and sponsorship from hundreds of people.

Reshma Saujani was not successful – spending $1.2million to raise around 3000 votes – she says she felt ‘humiliated’…but this helped her to see that she hadn’t taken a real risk , done something truly brave…until she was 33 years old. With a broader perspective, she realized that as a girl she had never been taught to be brave – instead, her US upbringing has meant she was taught to be perfect and cautious.

In the US – and in other Western Countries – girls are taught to play it safe, be pretty and go for straight A grades, whereas generally, boys are taught to climb higher, hit harder and take risks.

Aside from the financial deficit, Saujani sees that the Bravery Deficit is affecting the population, womens’ career prospects and the economy.

This is also highlighted in her research into job applications where men apply for jobs with 60% of qualification requirements, women only if they have 100%. Men are much happier to push themselves forward, ‘wing it’ and throw their hats in the ring even if, on paper, they are not ready for the job.

At Columba University in digital coding classes boy students come in to the professor and will say ‘there’s a problem with my coding’ girls routinely say ‘there’s a problem with me’…despite the fact they are intelligent and able, their bravery deficit reduces their ability to progress.

In 2012 Saujani starts ‘Girls Who Code’ a not-for-profit company teaching girls to code computers, to learn new skills to balance the gender imbalance in computing. As well as the skills to code, girls also learn perseverance and how to deal with imperfection – because only through being wrong and perseverance can problems be solved – and we learn to be happy with imperfection and overcoming it.

Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, Pixar, Adobe and many other businesses are all involved in Girls Who Code as a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activity and the numbers of girls involved in the project have gone from 20 girls in 2012 up to 40,000 girls being taught to code in 2016.

Saujani found that women are 600% higher users of Social Media yet only build a fraction of the sites and tools used on the internet…this is changing thanks to her vision and the concerted activities of global businesses who want to help women to bridge the bravery deficit and take their rightful place in the economy and the world.

The TEDxWhitehaven talk I’m going to give will touch on these elements – young people and their life experiences, career aspirations and the ways in which everyone benefits when companies get involved with schools and colleges through CSR. Many of these interactions are random and – although life-changing – don’t happen without some thought and planning. I’ll be looking at how CSR activities can Engineer Random Interactions and shape futures.

Here’s the link to Reshma Saujani’s TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/reshma_saujani_teach_girls_bravery_not_perfection?language=en

See you on 7th September at TEDxWhitehaven!



Andrew Bernard, known to everyone as Bernie, is an Entrepreneur. Bernie’s company Innovative Enterprise has worked across all sectors to help more than 95,000 people to bring the Future to Life through enterprise and careers workshops. Bernie is well known for his involvement in the Dream Placement scheme. Bernie is creative and enthusiastic about his work and designs full-day workshops and keynotes that allow people to explore teamwork, enterprise, STEM careers and attitudes that will support and develop themselves and their teams. Bernie has worked with a range of companies including Kellogg’s, Rolls Royce and BAE Systems. In 2008 Bernie designed Enterprise Soapbox – a REAL soap making business in a box – to enable businesses and educational teams to work together to develop enterprise, creativity, innovation and teamwork skills as well as creating a new business. 2016 saw the launch of Your Enterprise Alphabet – a set of cards to help teams and individuals create positive vocabulary, acronyms and to use as a warm-up or fun activity. In 2015 Bernie visited Number 10 to discuss a project for young people and enterprise with Lord Young as the result of sending a Tweet to the Government’s Enterprise Advisor!