Need a cybersecurity expert? No fear, Girl Scouts in training are here. Girl Scouts of the USA and Palo Alto Networks has announced a collaboration to introduce a series of 18 cybersecurity badges for girls, grades K-12. The badges, which will help Scouts explore opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) while building leadership skills, will be available to earn beginning in September 2018.
The aim of the badge certification process is to prevent cyberattacks and restore trust in digital operations by training “tomorrow’s diverse and innovative team of problem solvers equipped to counter emerging cyber threats,” Mark McLaughlin, chief executive officer of Palo Alto Networks, said in the press release.
Women remain vastly underrepresented in the cybersecurity industry, holding just 11% of jobs globally, according to a recent study by UMSA affiliate (ISC)2, an international nonprofit focused on cyber security. With the announcement of the series of cybersecurity badges, the hope is that this will help to eliminate barriers to cyber security employment, such as gender and geography, said Sylvia Acevedo, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA.
The sad reality about women in STEM:
- Women represent 24.7% of computer and mathematical occupations
- Women represent 15.1% of architecture and engineering occupations
- For women of color, the gap is even wider. Latinas, Asian and black women made up less than 10% of working scientists and engineers in the United States.
- Among the highest degree-holders working full time in science and engineering fields in the United States, women make 31.3% less than men in median annual salary: $55,000 for women compared to $80,000 for men
- Male students are over three times more likely to be interested in STEM majors and careers, compared to female students
- There has been a 79% decline in the number of first year undergraduate women interested in a computer science degree between 2000 and 2011.
Many former Girl Scouts have successful careers in STEM. Of the female tech leaders in Silicon Valley, quite a few were members of the organization, including YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz. Moreover, Scouts have flown on over one third of NASA’s space shuttle missions—including Eileen Collins, the first American woman to command a space shuttle.
What are your ideas for engaging more young girls in STEM activities and education? Are you a woman in STEM? What was your experiences growing up in this field? Let us know your thoughts.