Founded before women even earned the right to vote, the Girl Scouts of the USA has come a long way since its inception. The organization that's known for selling addictive cookies has in the last few years been making a push to add STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education to its programming. Through a new partnership with Palo Alto Networks, Girl Scouts will be able to earn cybersecurity badges.
The cybersecurity badge will be counted among the 18 new skills that Girl Scouts will be able to master beginning in the fall of 2018.
The badges will be available to scouts in kindergarten through 12th grade, and will focus on different skills, depending on the age group: Younger scouts will learn about data privacy, cyberbullying, and Internet safety. Older scouts will focus on coding, ethical hacking, and firewalls.
This isn't the Girls Scouts' first foray into STEM. Back in 2011, the organization debuted Computer Expert and Digital Movie Maker badges to some scouts. Then, in 2015, an Orange County, California, Girl Scout chapter introduced a STEM badge for sixth- to eighth-grade girls. And just last fall, the Girl Scouts partnered with Netflix, which released an online resource to get girls interested in STEM called the STEM superstars Guide. Netflix also invited Silicon Valley-area scouts to its offices to meet with female leaders at Google, Instagram, Intel, and Twitter.
However, according to Mashable, the cybersecurity badges are the first STEM-based Girl Scout badges offered on a national level.
Back in May, the Girl Scouts welcomed a new CEO, Sylvia Acevedo. A former Girl Scout herself, Acevedo is also a rocket scientist. According to CNN, she was an engineer who worked at NASA's jet propulsion lab, which accomplished the 1979 Voyager mission to fly by Jupiter. After that, she worked for IBM and Dell, then created her own business software startup.
Teaching girls cybersecurity skills will help them get a leg up in an industry that's often not so welcoming to women. As Palo Alto News Networks stated in a press release:
According to the latest Cybersecurity Jobs Report by Cybersecurity Ventures, the worldwide deficit of qualified cybersecurity professionals will reach 3.5 million by 2021. A deficit of this magnitude can inhibit the industry's ability to prevent cyber breaches, and the challenge is compounded by the growing frequency and sophistication of cyber-attacks. Getting ahead of tomorrow's threats requires a larger, diverse and innovative team of problem solvers.
Yet, a study by (ISC)², Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity, shows that women remain vastly underrepresented in the cybersecurity industry, holding just 11 percent of jobs globally. Plus, according to research by the Computing Technology Industry Association, 69 percent of women who have not pursued careers in information technology attribute their choice to not knowing what opportunities are available to them.
The new badges will give Girl Scouts the opportunity to gain experience in an industry that they may be interested in, or do well in, but might not have been encouraged to explore previously. This decision by the Girl Scouts of the USA will make sure young girls will be a part of the future of STEM.