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Girl Scout badges are insignia Girl Scouts earn and display on their uniforms to demonstrate their mastery of a given topic, which in the case of cyber security includes being able to apply their knowledge under the guidance of mentors.
The knowledge and application requirements for the badges are under development, and the first of these badges are expected to be awarded in September 2018.
The introduction of the badges, she said, means that Girls Scouts of all ages will be able to explore opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem), while developing problem-solving and leadership skills.
Acevedo, who has a graduate engineering degree and has worked as a rocket scientist in the jet propulsion labs at Nasa, said the Girl Scouts has always focused on Stem subjects.
“When I was a young girl scout I got my interest in science and maths from earning those badges,” she said, adding that 90% of all female astronauts who have been in space were Girl Scouts, and 80% of female leaders in Silicon Valley were Girl Scouts.
“So we know how to create that Stem pipeline, and in the past two years we have had more than 1.8 million hands-on science activities, with computer science and cyber security being the top two things that Girl Scouts wanted to learn more about,” said Acevedo.
According to the latest cyber security jobs report by Cybersecurity Ventures, the worldwide deficit of qualified cyber security professionals will reach 3.5 million by 2021, and the latest Global information security workforce study by (ISC)² shows that women hold just 11% of cyber security jobs globally.
In addition, research by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) shows that 69% of women who have not pursued careers in information technology attribute their choice to not knowing what opportunities are available to them.
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“If you look around this room, there is not a lot of diversity in this crowd,” said Mark Anderson, president of Palto Alto Networks. “Being the father of two daughters, we can do a lot more to help diversity in the cyber security profession.”
Acevedo said GSUSA sees the need for more women to be in the field of cyber security, and the partnership with Palo Alto Networks is “vital” for the industry.
The partnership between Palo Alto Networks and GSUSA is aimed at introducing cyber security education to millions of girls across the US to increase their interest and instill valuable skillset, starting with girls as young as five years old and continuing all through high school.
The GSUSA said the new badges will deepen the existing commitment that the organisation has made to Stem subjects through its “fun with purpose” K-12 curriculum aimed at inspiring girls to embrace and celebrate scientific discovery.
“At Girl Scouts of the USA, we recognise 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 Acevedo.
“We look to empower our girls to address this reality through the launch of our national cyber security badge initiative, and our partnership with Palo Alto Networks makes a natural fit for our efforts.
“It is our hope that this collaboration will serve to cultivate our troops’ budding interest in cyber security by providing access to invaluable knowledge that may not otherwise be available to girls in many communities across the US,” she said.