Putting cookies in perspective, Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) will offer cyber security badges starting in 2018. In a two-pronged approach, GSUSA embraces their growing concern for the safety of its young Scouts online. They also take aim with the significant lack of career focus for girls and women in IT and other sciences. Girl Scouts from 5 to 12 years old will be poised to pin on those 18 new badges in the coming year.

In 2011, the GSUSA challenged the future of its Scouts by reforming their current curriculum. They are partnering with Palo Alto Networks for release of the September 2018 badges. The need to address and empower girls regarding the latest social media websites and how to navigate dangerous pitfalls safely and securely is key. As the Scouts continue to move up the awareness chain with age, programs reflect realistic concerns they face. The Daisy’s at age 5 have fun learning with games and how to use a computer. The older Girl Scouts get involved much more directly with current cyber security, ultimately keeping themselves safer online.

The second prong of the cyber security program brings to light the statistics involving the alarming lack of women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. Earlier this year, a report from the Center for Cyber Safety and Education had some striking news. Only 11% of women currently hold positions involving cyber security and other STEM professions. With 51% of women holding master’s degrees compared to 45% of their diploma-wielding male counterparts, the numbers make even less sense. The GSUSA decided to do something about that.

With Palo Alto’s assistance, Scout STEM training for girls up 12 years old involves more diverse learning methods. Senior Scouts enjoy community involvement, trips involving cybersecurity and all-important mentorships. Knowing what’s behind the psychological “how and why” of threats like phishing work as well as they do ranks right up there with the Car Care badge.

The Girl Scouts are taking on the reality and importance of cyber security head-on. In a year from now, the girls will be proudly boasting their sashes, aware or not that their new security badges may open the door to more than just fun. Their impact on society and women’s equality in STEM professions may alter the world and its perception forever. Adding a new dimension to its ongoing relevance, GSUSA proudly forges into a cyber-scary world. The next time you stop to order a box of troop treats, don’t be surprised to hear “How many boxes would you like, and do you have an anti-virus program on your computer?”

Donovan B. Fox © Copyright 2017 SDFCU.org