Women in cybersecurity are still the exception rather than the rule, but their ranks are growing. The emergence of groups such as Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) and similar initiatives are helping to raise awareness.
However, a pipeline problem remains: How can organizations get women involved in security and other STEM fields earlier? One potential solution is cybersecurity badges for Girl Scouts.
Scouting New Talent to Fill the Cybersecurity Skills Gap
Girl Scouts and cybersecurity might not seem like a natural fit, but there’s actually quite a bit of overlap. The goal of Girl Scouts is to empower young women by teaching them valuable skills — everything from camping and sewing to helping others and advocating for themselves.
According to NBC News, the Girl Scouts partnered with Palo Alto Networks to develop an 18-badge program to teach young women the basics of cybersecurity. Demand for the program came from within as girls sought ways to protect their identity online and discover more about the underlying functionality of traditional and mobile devices.
Infusing New Perspectives Into Cybersecurity
Despite a predicted shortfall of 3.5 million cybersecurity professionals by 2021, according to Cybersecurity Ventures’ “2017 Cybersecurity Jobs Report,” women are still in the minority, accounting for just 11 percent of security experts worldwide. As noted by IT-Online, companies struggle to find enough staff to fill vacancies and to zero in on employees with the right skill set. The Girl Scouts’ initiative aims to help bridge the cybersecurity skills gap by giving women the tools and tracks to access STEM options from a young age.
ComputerWeekly likened the efficacy of cybercrime defense to that of a team sport: Effective communication, delegation of tasks and regular practice are all critical to improved outcomes. In addition, teams need a diversity of skills and perspectives. A hockey team with all forwards on the ice or a football team that puts only receivers on the field will succeed some of the time but fail miserably more often than not. Women bring unique perspective and abilities to cybersecurity, making security teams stronger.
As female technology experts look to carve out their own niche and drive STEM interest, efforts such as the Girl Scouts’ badge program can help raise the profile of talented women in security and inspire the next generation of IT professionals.