What's next for the Girl Scouts? Oh, you know, defeating hackers. No biggie.
Five fearless girls in New York City this March. Photo from Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
The 105-year-old, 1.8 million-scout-strong organization announced that, in addition to badges for public speaking, first aid, mechanics (and, yes, selling cookies), young scouts can now expect to earn laurels for cybersecurity as well.
The announcement is part of a team-up between the Girl Scouts and cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks. Led by an expert panel, the groups will be rolling out the first in a series of 18 different badges in September 2018.
"It is our hope that our collaboration will serve to cultivate our troops’ budding interest in cybersecurity," said Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo in a press release.
The Girl Scouts say the exact curriculum's still being decided, but the topics would build on each other and could touch on areas such as protecting privacy, combating cyberbullying, and more high-level skills like data manipulation.
Today's girls are growing up in a world where cyber smarts are just as important as street smarts.
Smartphones, smart watches, smart televisions — heck, we even have smart clothes!
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Combine that with social media and it's astounding how much information each of us is uploading every single day. Knowing how to keep your information safe is becoming a necessary life skill.
This is also about showing the girls how to take cybersecurity by the horns and make it work for them.
Women are seriously underrepresented in many STEM industries, including cybersecurity. One report found they made up just 11% of cybersecurity jobs. But we're going to need them. Forbes wrote that in 2016 there were over 200,000 unfilled cybersecurity roles in the United States, and there seems to be no end to the recent data leaks and security concerns.
One possible reason for this gender gap, and the gender gap in many STEM fields, might be the "broken pipeline" problem — a lack of mentors and female role models, combined with gender stereotypes, could discourage even very young girls from exploring STEM subjects.
"A woman's interest in STEM-related fields happens when she is a young girl, playing with games and toys, developing her creativity, and using her imagination," said Acevedo in an email.
By connecting with young girls and showing them that, yes, you can do this, the Girl Scouts might be able to help patch the pipeline.
Girl Scouts have already run accessible summer camps, created vaccination kits, and written legislation to stop child marriage (which, by God, if that scout didn't get a badge for that, she should have). It's cool to see them out to fix the internet as well.