Although I never thought I would find myself writing about the Girl Scouts on a blog about cybersecurity and managed IT services, I’m actually quite excited to say that I have a good reason to do so. This fall, the Girl Scouts of America will debut their 18 newest merit badges, which participants can receive when they master skills or knowledge of certain topics. And as a part of a partnership with a network and enterprise security company, the 106-year-old organization will begin offering a cybersecurity badge to participants who are between kindergarten age and seniors in high school.
The program, which is designed to encourage young girls to pursue careers in a typically male-run field, will focus on different topic areas for different age groups. The older Girl Scouts, who will have opportunities to engage with mentors, will learn how to code so they can create and navigate firewalls. Their younger counterparts, who will engage in hands-on activities and games, will learn about cyberbullying, online safety best practices, and data privacy.
Growing Concerns in IT Security
Cybercrime, cybersecurity attacks, and data breaches continue to grow at record levels each year. As such, the importance of inspiring interest in ethical approaches to cybersecurity in today’s youth can’t be understated. According to the 2018 Data Breach Category Summary by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), there were 159 data breaches reported that left nearly 3.4 million records exposed between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28.
The Girl Scouts’ cyber-education program provides a unique opportunity to encourage girls to pursue careers in the cybersecurity field and other computer-related industries. Considering that the organization has more than 1.8 million girls enrolled, this means that the program can reach a large number of girls to introduce them to a world of IT security and other related technical training opportunities starting at a young age.
Women in Computer Sciences
As the founder and CEO of Los Angeles’ premier IT Managed Services provider, I am glad to see that a diverse pipeline of future talent is being created that we can tap into when they become adults and start seeking employment. Hopefully, it will help fuel renewed interest for females who are interested in working in what has traditionally been a male-dominated field.
According to the National Science Board Science & Engineering Indicators 2018 report :
- The number of women earning associate’s degrees in computer sciences dropped from 42% in 2000 to 21% in 2015;
- The number of women earning bachelor’s degrees in computer sciences declined from 28% to 18% since 2000; and
- Women constituted only 28% of workers in science and engineering fields as of 2015, although they accounted for half of the college-educated workforce overall.
The shrinking global cybersecurity workforce also is a growing concern. The Global Information Security Workforce Study by Frost & Sullivan for the Center for Cyber Safety and Education and (ISC)² shows that the cybersecurity workforce gap has increased by 20% since 2015. This gap, which is believed to be due to a shortage of qualified IT professionals, means that the gap is on track to reach 1.8 million by 2022.
One of the takeaways from the survey, which sought input from 19,641 information security professionals from more 170 countries, is that “90% of the workforce is male with the majority having technical backgrounds, highlighting the issue that recruitment channels and tactics need to change.”
In a press release from (ISC)², CEO David Shearer says:
“There is a definite concern that jobs remain unfilled, ultimately resulting in a lack of resources to face current industry threats — of the information security workers surveyed, 66% report having too few workers to address current threats.”
At FPA, we want to be a part of the solution to this problem. Our team is always seeking diverse talent to help fill our ranks as well as to help complement our clients’ businesses through our IT staffing and recruiting services.
While we can all continue to enjoy our Thin Mints, Samoas, and other Girl Scout cookies each year, it’s good to know that this beloved organization is actively trying to help girls break stereotypes and develop skills and interests in more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-related fields.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this new Girl Scout badge and how this can affect IT and computer-related business in the years to come. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below or send me an email to discuss this topic in depth.