Reshma Saujani is an Indian-American lawyer and politician. She is the founder of the tech organization Girls Who Code. She was previously the Deputy Public Advocate at the Office of the New York City Public Advocate. Saujani lost the 2010 Democratic primary (19%-81%) for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York's 14th congressional district against incumbent Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. Saujani was the first Indian-American woman (and the first South Asian American woman) to run for Congress. She ran as a Democratic candidate for New York City Public Advocate in 2013, coming third in the primary.
Saujani was born in Illinois. She is of Gujarati descent. Saujani's parents lived in Uganda, prior to being expelled along with other persons of Indian descent in the early 1970s by Idi Amin. They settled in Chicago.
Saujani attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she graduated in 1997 with majors in Political Science and Speech Communication. She attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where she received a Master of Public Policy in 1999, and Yale Law School, where she received her Juris Doctor in 2002.
Legal and business career
Saujani worked at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, where she defended securities fraud cases, and on a pro bono basis handled asylum cases. In 2005, she joined the investment firm Carret Asset Management. After Saujani left Carret, its principal owner, financier Hassan Nemazee, was convicted on felony charges relating to bank fraud carried out over the course of several years at Carret, including during Saujani's time at Carret; she later told the news media that she had had no knowledge of any illicit conduct at Carret. Subsequently, she joined Blue Wave Partners Management, a subsidiary of the Carlyle Group, the global alternative asset management firm specializing in private equity. She was an associate general counsel at Blue Wave, an equity multi-strategy hedge fund; it was closed in the aftermath of the 2008 market collapse. Immediately prior to running for Congress, Saujani was a deputy general counsel at Fortress Investment Group. In 2012, Saujani founded Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization which works to close the gender gap in technology.
Saujani founded "South Asians for Kerry" during the 2004 presidential election.
Saujani served on the National Finance Board for Hillary Clinton during Clinton's campaign for president in 2008. Following the primaries, she was named Vice-Chair of the New York delegation at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
2010 House election
Saujani challenged incumbent Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney in the 2010 House elections. Saujani's previous work for and link to Wall Street firms was seen as a liability to her credibility and acceptance by Democratic primary voters. Saujani won the support of Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chairman of Twitter; Randi Zuckerberg, director of market development for Facebook and sister of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg; Alexis Maybank, co-founder of Gilt Groupe; and Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook. Saujani outraised Maloney by almost a 2-to-1 margin in the last quarter of 2009, when Maloney had ceased fundraising following the death of her husband, Clifton Maloney, who in September had died unexpectedly on a mountain-climbing expedition in the Himalayas. Saujani's candidacy received the backing of prominent Upper East Side political fundraisers, including Cathy Lasry, Maureen White, and White's husband, financier Steven Rattner.
A poll commissioned in the spring of 2010 by the Maloney campaign showed Saujani trailing Maloney by more than 68 points. The same poll found Maloney to hold a favorable rating of 86%. Saujani's campaign mailed a flyer to voters implicating Maloney as one of eight House members investigated for taking donations from special interests, which was not the case. Maloney won the primary by receiving 81% of the vote to Saujani's 19%, winning the Manhattan, Queens, and Roosevelt Island portions of the district across the board by decisive margins. Saujani received 6,231 votes, despite her campaign's expenditure of $1.3 million, spending more than $213 for every vote she received.
2013 NYPA election
In January 2013, Saujani's Wikipedia page was heavily edited to remove traces of Saujani working for Wall Street firms such as hedge funds. Her campaign admitted to this, arguing they did it because they disagreed with the stated facts.
Saujani is the author of Women Who Don't Wait in Line: Break the Mold, Lead the Way, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2013.
Saujani is married to entrepreneur Nihal Mehta, who is a co-founder of ad tech startup LocalResponse. Saujani is a practicing Hindu. The two have a son named Shaan who was born in February 2015.
- Bilton, Nick (June 26, 2012). "Tech Companies Announce ‘Girls Who Code’ Initiative". The New York Times.
- Halbfinger, David. "Pro-Wall Street Democrat Takes On a House Veteran", The New York Times, January 26, 2010.
- Wendy (March 2010). "First South Asian American Woman to run for Congress.". Asiance Magazine. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
- Paybarah, Azi (2012-11-20). "Gillibrand headlines a fund-raiser for Reshma Saujani". Capital New York. Retrieved 2013-10-09.
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- Paybarah, Azi. "Reshma Saujani, Challenger to Carolyn Maloney, Hires a Campaign Manager". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
- "Gujarati Woman Aims for House", The Times of India, January 1, 2010.
- Paybarah, Azi. "Hillary Lawyer Reshma Saujani to Challenge Maloney", New York Observer, October 21, 2009.
- Shontell, Alyson (August 23, 2013). "RESHMA: How A Daughter Of Refugees Taught Girls To Code, Won Over Tech Millionaires, And Pushed Her Way Into Politics". Business Insider.
- Robbins, Tom. "Wall Street Runs for Congress", Village Voice, May 18, 2010.
- Halbfinger, David. "Pro-Wall St. Democrat Takes on Veteran", The New York Times, January 24, 2010.
- Pillifant, Reid. "Hassan Nemazee Pleads Guilty", New York Observer, March 18, 2010.
- "The Immigrant Connection", Forbes, February 8, 2008.
- Shontell, Alyson. "RESHMA: How A Daughter Of Refugees Taught Girls To Code, Won Over Tech Millionaires, And Pushed Her Way Into Politics". Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- Paybarah, Azi (January 3, 2011). "Public Advocate hires Maloney Challenger". WNYC.
- "Rising Stars 40 Under 40: Reshma Saujani", City & State, September 19, 2011.
- Halbfinger, David. "Links to Wall St. Become Liability in Primary Races", The New York Times, September 8, 2010.
- "NY Tech Scene Gets Political With Cocktail Benefit For Reshma Saujani", GuestofaGuest.com, January 14, 2010.
- Tweet, Twitter account of Randi Zuckerberg, March 19, 2010.
- Resto-Montero, Gabriela, "Reshma Saujani Breakfast Fundraiser Brings Out Big Female Backers", DNAinfo, March 8, 2010.
- Video of Chris Hughes Endorsing Reshma Saujani on Start-Up America, Reshma2010 website, March 8, 2010.
- Haberman, Maggie. "Maloney Challenger Brings In $403G", New York Post, January 19, 2010.
- Healy, Jack, "Rep. Maloney's Husband Dies on Tibet Trek," The New York Times, September 26, 2009.
- Saul, Michael Howard. "Rep. Carolyn Maloney's Poll Shows Big Lead", Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2010
- "BREAKING NEWS: CAROLYN MALONEY TAKES MONEY from the Special Interests She Is Supposed to Regulate," Saujani flyer sent to voters Sept. 2010.
- "New York 14th District Race Profile - Election 2010", The New York Times, September 15, 2010.
- Reshma M. Saujani (D) Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org website as viewed on December 12, 2010
- "Square Now Being Used For Mobile Payments At Political Fundraisers". TechCrunch. 2010-03-18. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
- Hernández, Javier C. (September 11, 2013). "Democratic Runoff Is Likely in Contest for Public Advocate". The New York Times.
- Wall Street Dem covers up her past and runs again Salon, April 11, 2013
- Saujani's campaign wipes hedge fund history from her Wiki page Crain's New York Business, February 11, 2013
- Garcia, Alfredo. "Is Converting a Part of Politics?" Albany Times-Union, July 3, 2010.
- Liriel Higa (July 10, 2015). "How Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code, Spends Her Sundays". New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2015.