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.