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Girl Scouts to Offer Cybersecurity Badges

Girls Scouts USA (GSUSA) is ready to turn out some budding white-hats along with those delicious cookies: The group will soon begin offering badges on cybersecurity.

As most of us know, Girl Scout badges are insignia that participants earn and display on their uniforms to demonstrate their mastery of a given topic. GSUSA is partnering with Palo Alto Networks on a national badge system that aims to help girls explore opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) while developing problem-solving and leadership skills. There will be 18 new badges in all, to be made available to its 1.8 million participants in grades K-12 (ages 5 to 18). The first in the series will debut in September 2018.

According to the latest Cybersecurity Jobs Report by Cybersecurity Ventures, the worldwide deficit of qualified cybersecurity professionals will reach 3.5 million by 2021. A deficit of this magnitude can inhibit the industry's ability to prevent cyber breaches, and the challenge is compounded by the growing frequency and sophistication of cyber-attacks. Getting ahead of tomorrow's threats requires a larger, diverse and innovative team of problem solvers—and more diversity.

A study by (ISC)², Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity, shows that women remain vastly underrepresented in the cybersecurity industry, holding just 11% of jobs globally. Plus, according to research by the Computing Technology Industry Association, 69% of women who have not pursued careers in information technology attribute their choice to not knowing what opportunities are available to them.

"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 Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of GSUSA, which recently marked its 100-year anniversary. “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. 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."

The national effort is meant to be a step toward eliminating traditional barriers to industry access, such as gender and geography, but the new badges also will deepen the existing commitment that Girl Scouts has made to STEM by using the organization's "fun with purpose" K–12 curriculum that inspires girls to embrace and celebrate scientific discovery in their lives at all ages.

"Our mission to prevent cyberattacks and restore trust in the digital age is only achievable if we make meaningful investments not just in technology but also in people,” said Mark McLaughlin, chairman and CEO at Palo Alto Networks. “Our collaboration with Girl Scouts of the USA to develop curriculum for the first-ever national cybersecurity badges will positively influence the future of our industry by helping build tomorrow's diverse and innovative team of problem solvers equipped to counter emerging cyberthreats." 

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