Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani rejected Ivanka Trump’s invitation to talk about her computer science education initiative and she wants the world to understand why.
Collaborating would mean normalizing the “hate and bigotry” she believes the Trump administration represents, Saujani wrote in an op-ed published by The New York Times on Thursday.
According to Saujani, she received a call from Ivanka Trump’s office in late January to invite her to meet and discuss a new computer science education initiative for which Saujani’s nonprofit Girls Who Code could be a good partner.
Her organization gives free coding classes to grade school and high school girls and is projected to reach 40,000 girls in all 50 U.S. states by the end of this year. Saujani said she was prepared to collaborate with Trump’s White House “in the interest of furthering our mission,” similar to how she had engaged with the Obama administration.
Three days later, Trump signed an executive order, the so-called “Muslim travel ban,” and Saujani, who is the daughter of refugees expelled from Uganda, changed her mind.
“If I agreed to work with his administration, how could I look these girls in the eye?” she wrote, referring to the young girls who benefit from her nonprofit’s work and which include “many young immigrants — including Syrian refugees.”
This week, President Trump directed the Education Department to invest a minimum of $200 million in grant funding annually to STEM and computer science education, an effort led by Ivanka Trump. Ivanka Trump met with corporate partners and nonprofits in Detroit; Saujani notes that Girls Who Code was not in attendance.
“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,” wrote Saujani. “Indeed, collaborating with this administration, on any issue, emboldens it only further.”
Saujani suggests that Girls Who Code is sending “a more powerful message” to the young girls it works with and to other organizations by taking this stance. She encourages others to also resist “on behalf of our fellow Americans who deserve nothing less than equality.” “…. We must draw the line. We must do it here and now,” she added.
The White House’s Office of American Innovation did not immediately respond to an email from CNN Tech seeking comment on the op-ed.
It’s not the first time that Saujani has spoken out against Ivanka Trump. In May, Saujani sent a pointed tweet to the president’s daughter after Ivanka Trump referenced Saujani’s success story in her book, “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success.” In the tweet, Saujani said: “.@ivankatrump don’t use my story in #WomenWhoWork unless you are going to stop being #complicit #askivanka.”
Last month, Saujani and her organization were hit with some criticism of their own for teaming up with embattled startup Uber. The news didn’t sit well with those concerned that Uber has yet to prove itself a welcoming place for women after its months-long internal investigation following shocking sexual harassment and sexism claims.