To inspire a familiarity and interest in cybersecurity among girls, the Girl Scouts of the USA partnered with Palo Alto Networks to create 18 new cybersecurity badges.
The need for qualified cybersecurity professionals is on the rise. In fact, according to a Cybersecurity Jobs Report, there will be a shortage of 3.5 million cybersecurity professionals around the globe by 2021. Yet, women currently occupy just 11 percent of those jobs worldwide, according to the Global Information Security Workforce Study [PDF].
Those startling statistics are what drove a new partnership between the Girl Scouts of the USA and cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks. Starting in September 2018, GSUSA will offer 18 new cybersecurity badges for its scouts.
“Many girls—too many—are not aware of IT careers that they could find interesting,” said GSUSA STEM Strategy Lead Suzanne Harper. “We definitely want to give girls the opportunity to learn about those careers, especially since it’s a growing field.”
To that end, GSUSA will collaborate with Palo Alto Networks to create the cybersecurity badges and the accompanying education and skills requirements needed to obtain the badges. GSUSA has awarded tech-themed badges before, but this is the first time that they will offer cybersecurity-themed badges. While GSUSA and Palo Alto Networks are still in the research and discovery phase of this cybersecurity-badge initiative, Harper said that there will be badges for all Girl Scouts grade levels, from Daisies to high school seniors.
The badges will be progressive “so that girls continue to build on the skills they’ve learned as they move up through the Girl Scout grade levels” Harper said, and they will cover a range of topics. For instance, some of the skills Girl Scouts will master to obtain the badges will include ways to stay safe online and how to combat cyberbullying. They’ll also get an introduction to the work that cybersecurity professionals do in combating theft, extortion, espionage, data manipulation, and other criminal acts, Harper said.
“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,” said GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo in a press release. “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.”
Harper said that GSUSA wants to give its scouts the skills they need to stay safe in the digital world and to help other people, companies, or governments remain safe as well.
“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,” Acevedo said in a press release.