As CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, I know the importance of having a cybersecurity workforce that protects our personal information, the systems that we depend on, and our national defense. This workforce must have the technical skills and a spirit of civic responsibility to be the STEM visionaries our society needs.
The stats on the cybersecurity workforce shortage are well known. By 2021, there will be 3.5 million unfilled jobs, while attacks are increasing every day. We also know that women are significantly underrepresented in the field, making up only 20 percent.
The industry, and our nation, need solutions to close this workforce gap—and Girl Scouts is ready with programs that reach into every corner of America.
We launched our cybersecurity curriculum last fall, because girls themselves were asking for cybersecurity skills. More than 44,000 cybersecurity badges have been earned in just the first six months by girls in K–5, preparing them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to pursue their interest in STEM, and cybersecurity in particular.
The secret sauce in our formula is that the Girl Scout experience is infused with a spirit of patriotism and civic responsibility. Girls learn that they are an important part of their community and that they have the power to protect it. They can create opportunities and fight for causes they believe in.
Girls want to know how to protect themselves online, how to protect their homes, families, and communities. They know what's going on in the world, they want to know how things work, and they want to be part of the solution. They are digital natives—this is the world they live in and move through, and they want to understand the systems undergirding it.
Almost every day, there’s another news story about a cyber-attack that ranges from extortion and theft to espionage and data manipulation. Not only do girls see this in the news, but they also watch TV shows and movies with plots that involve hacking.
The eagerly anticipated next round of cybersecurity badges will launch this summer for girls in grade 6–12. In total, we’ll have 18 cybersecurity badges along with “white hat” hacking opportunities for girls in every community across the nation. That is the power of Girl Scouts—our scale, our reach, and the amazing life outcomes for girls.
It’s critical that we cultivate a diverse talent pool and that we encourage girls from a young age to embrace STEM and all the opportunities available in these fields, especially cybersecurity. We’re proud to be on the front lines ensuring that girls are prepared to be the cybersecurity experts that our nation needs.
Any company or organization worried about the workforce shortage should be partnering with Girl Scouts, because we’re fueling that pipeline with STEM superstars. We work with STEM content experts to develop engaging and timely activities, and we pilot all the badges with girls and volunteers, then revise based on their feedback. We invite you to bring your expertise to Girl Scouts and join us in building the next generation of cybersecurity leaders.
So how can you get involved?
- Become a member, volunteer your time, and make a real impact.
- Invest in Girl Scouts so we can continue to deliver a strong, diverse STEM workforce in the 21st century.
- Encourage your companies to partner with us to support the development of more cyber programming.
- Volunteer to run a workshop or a booth at a STEM event, or to augment our program by providing real-world examples and adding additional relevant content.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of Girl Scouts; they are role models and mentors who can really change the trajectory of a girl’s life. That’s what my troop leader did when she pointed out the constellations to me on a camping trip with my troop. I discovered I had a passion for space and astronomy, so I started taking math and science courses. I ultimately became an engineer, worked at NASA, and pursued a career in tech.
STEM mentors are indispensable for girls, and they don’t all have to be women either. Girls will work with men in the future, and it’s a powerful message when a man takes them and their ambitions seriously. For any man out there who wants to step up, we’ve even got a “Man Enough to be a Girl Scout” t-shirt for you!
At Girl Scouts, we see it as our patriotic duty to prepare the American workforce for the challenges of tomorrow. Visit girlscouts.org, find your local council, and let them know you want to help us build tomorrow’s cybersecurity go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders—what we at Girl Scouts call G.I.R.L.s.
The future of American cybersecurity is Girl Scouts.