Now in addition to earning badges for camping, gardening, and making music, starting in 2018 Girl Scouts will be able to earn badges for their cybersecurity knowledge.
The Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) has partnered with Palo Alto Networks to roll out the series of 18 cybersecurity badges in September 2018.
For those unfamiliar, Girl Scouts can earn badges to display on their uniforms once they have mastered a certain activity. Over the years the Girl Scouts organization has added various badges around technology topics as part of a broader initiative to engage girls as young as five-years-old in STEM.
With the widening gender gap in technology, and the skills gap in cybersecurity in particular, initiatives like the partnership between Palo Alto and GSUSA could have a real impact. Even if every current Girl Scout eventually got a job in cybersecurity, it still wouldn’t be enough to fill the worldwide deficit of qualified cybersecurity professionals, which is expected to reach 3.5 million by 2021 according to research by Cybersecurity Ventures, and may be even more significant by the time many of these Girl Scouts join the workforce.
According to the Computing Technology Industry Association, 69 percent of women who have not pursued careers in IT attribute their choice to not knowing what opportunities are available to them. And once they are working in IT, they are likely to be paid less than men, even if they have the same level of education.
A blog post by Palo Alto Networks senior director of security operations and strategy Rinki Sethi back in March said, “While the younger generation has seen more female role models in science and technology than I remember seeing as a kid, I still think there is more encouragement that can be done and more we can do to inspire young female students to enter these career fields. Making kids feel that these jobs are ‘cool’ and impactful is going to improve the number of women that enter science, technology and cybersecurity in general.”
According to Sylvia Acevedo, chief executive officer, Girl Scouts of the USA, who has a graduate engineering degree and has worked for NASA, computer science and cybersecurity are two top areas that have been in demand from Girl Scouts. Speaking at Palo Alto Networks’ Ignite ’17 conference this week, Acevedo also noted that 80 percent of female leaders in Silicon Valley were Girl Scouts.
“At Girl Scouts of the USA, 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,” Sylvia Acevedo, chief executive officer, Girl Scouts of the USA said. “From arming our older girls with the tools to address this reality to helping younger girls protect their identities via internet safety, the launch of our national cybersecurity badge initiative represents our advocacy of cyber preparedness―and our partnership with Palo Alto Networks makes a natural fit for our efforts. It is our hope that our collaboration will serve to cultivate our troops' budding interest in cybersecurity by providing access to invaluable knowledge that may otherwise not be available to girls―in communities across the United States."
"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,” Mark D. McLaughlin, chairman and chief executive officer, Palo Alto Networks said. “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."