At school, Pooja Chandrashekar was discouraged to see her female classmates opt out of careers in computer science because of the field’s negative stereotypes and lack of female role models. Inspired by her own experiences with the technology gender gap as a high school sophomore, she founded ProjectCSGIRLS to teach girls to harness technology to drive social change. The organization’s flagship program is a national competition that challenges middle school girls to build a technology-based solution to a social problem in their own community. ProjectCSGIRLS also hosts hands-on computer science workshops and mentorship programs that pair girls with technical professionals, operating with 95 active chapters in 12 countries. ProjectCSGIRLS focuses on reaching girls from underrepresented backgrounds, and many chapters are based in inner cities or low-income countries.
Since launching in 2013, ProjectCSGIRLS has reached more than 15,000 girls worldwide, has advocated for computer science education reform as part of President Obama’s CSForAll initiative, and has united students, professionals and organizations in support of gender equity in STEM. Many ProjectCSGIRLS alumnae have gone on to receive patents, launch successful start-ups and publish their work in notable scientific journals. With Pooja at the helm, ProjectCSGIRLS is equipping girls with the confidence and knowledge needed to lead and transform the future of technology. Alongside leading ProjectCSGIRLS, Pooja is an MD/MBA student at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School.
Being a L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth honoree and joining this community of trailblazing women is such an incredible recognition of the near-decade of effort I’ve put into founding and nurturing ProjectCSGIRLS. Most importantly, it is a way for me to inspire the next generation of young women to see themselves in me and my story, pursue STEM, and use their voices to advocate for what matters to them.