Women in Tech: Girl Scouts to Provide Cyber Security Badges

July 2, 2017 | Views: 3950

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You may not be surprised to know that women only make up 11% of cybersecurity workers globally, according to an ISC2 report. This staggering underrepresentation is reflective across all STEM careers, a fact that is only adding to the skills gap in the technology industry.

Many women who are in the field, such as Magda CHELLY, Cybrary SME, Cyber Feminist and Managing Director of Responsible Cyber, take direct action to make young women more aware of the opportunities available to them. Even with their efforts, there is a missing piece.

Now, major organizations are taking notice, and taking action. One organization in particular, is the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), a youth organization of over 1.8 million girls with a mission to build courage, confidence, and character in young women who will make the world a better place. Recently, Girls Scouts announced that they will be offering members the opportunity to earn Cyber Security badges in partnership with Palo Alto Networks.

For those unfamiliar, Girl Scout badges are insignia Girl Scouts earn and display on their uniforms to demonstrate their mastery of a given topic. With the GSUSA and Palo Alto Networks partnership, there will be a series of 18 cyber security badges for young women grades K-12, beginning in September 2018.

As a former Girl Scout myself, I can attest to some of the valuable life skills taught to me during my experience with GSUSA, and feel this is an incredible venture that could change the career paths of some young women, as well as the organizational mindset, charging other groups to provide opportunities to minorities in the workforce.

According to Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo, the desire for the cyber security skills came from the girls themselves. “Young girls wanted to know how to make sure they don’t get bullied online … older girls want to know how you can prevent cyber-attacks. We recognize that in our increasingly tech-driven world, future generations must possess the skills to navigate the complexities and inherent challenges of the cyber-realm.”

The plan is for the new badges to integrate with the existing ‘fun with purpose’ K–12 curriculum that inspires girls to celebrate scientific discovery in their lives at any age, increasing their interest in technology and instilling a valuable skill set for the 21st century.

Acevedo continued further, saying “Research shows that women who learn STEM skills in women-only environments tend to continue studying it for longer than those who do not. We have the national reach, we can scale, and we have a girls-only environment that helps girls persist in these technical skills.”

CEO of Palo Alto Networks, Mark D. McLaughlin says, “Our mission to prevent cyberattacks and restore trust in the digital age is only achievable if we make meaningful investments not just in technology but also in people. Our collaboration with Girl Scouts of the USA to develop curriculum for the first-ever national Cybersecurity badges will positively influence the future of our industry by helping build tomorrow’s diverse and innovative team of problem solvers equipped to counter emerging cyberthreats.”

The badge program will begin with those as young as the kindergarten level, teaching them how to establish and protect a digital identity, focusing on more complex topics like programming, as girls progress into middle and high school.

While the curriculum is still in development, the plan is to initially focus on online safety education and skills development. The GSUSA also plans to collaborate with additional tech companies for mentorship and support.

In the meantime, Cybrary has plans to expand their course selection to include a course designed to appeal to the female demographic of young cyber learners. For those interested in contributing in these efforts, please visit this page.

You can view all currently available courses, here.

Olivia Lynch (@Cybrary_Olivia) is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the field of cyber security. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog.
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  1. I enjoy reading your articles and to date have never been disappointed with your subject matter. Thanks for all your hard work to date. However, I recently read an article in one of our local magazines which pretty much echoed your article, obviously without any reference to the Girl Scouts angle you wrote about. Overall, I am unimpressed with the accuracy of most surveys that give “alarming” statistics, and I feel that on this particular subject matter, the figures supplied may need another hashing over. For example, most industries tend to have a lower female representation, from mechanics to rocket science. Further, giving young girls an all female environment to study in seems a little misleading as this could hardly be training for a real world scenario. Lastly, due to the nature of my work, I liaise with many SMEs all over the world. Many of which are women in this specific field. YouTube has many IT channels, again, many with female representation. Shannon Morse is a good example of this. I find that although there are more men in this field, the women that are present seem to be significantly more professional, unlike the many little boys that are wannabes. In other words, what the women lack in numbers, they make up in quality. And to top that, CybraryIT has its share of women SMEs. Aside from all that, any survey that claims a global aspect, when looking and counting the numbers in Africa alone would just automatically tip the scales in favor of the view that women are unfairly represented in anything. Africa is grossly overpopulated and a majority third world continent. A significant number of IT specialists are imported from first world countries. Training facilities in Africa are largely non existent, hence my membership with CybraryIT. I thoroughly enjoy your articles, and look forward to reading many more.

    • Thanks so much for your feedback, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my articles so far. As for the statistics I’ve presented, they are what I’ve encopuntered during my research, and while I do agree there are plenty of female SMEs, including those on Cybrary, I could not find figures to dispute the lack of women in technology. While I did not look into statistics relating to Africa specifically, it was mainly my intention to present the idea that organizations and female SMEs alike are working to provide girls with more opportunity. Perhaps some further investigation in the future. Thanks again!

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