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June 19, 2017

Girl Scouts aren’t just selling cookies — they’re learning to code, too

by John_A

Why it matters to you

We could be making progress towards closing the gender gap in the tech industry thanks to the introduction of computer science into the Girl Scouts.

Girl Scouts will soon know how to do a lot more than sell a mean box of cookies. As the times change, so too are the skills being touted by the national organization, and now, young women across America can earn recognition for demonstrating mastery of a very topical subject — cybersecurity.

The 105-year-old organization has long offered “badges” to Girl Scouts who have shown their expertise in various topics. Historically, they’ve spanned a number of different fields, from first aid to outdoor activities; from cookie selling to science. And now, in a partnership with security firm Palo Alto Networks, cybersecurity will be added to the lengthy list.

Rolling out over the course of the next two years, these badges will become available to Girl Scouts from kindergarten through 12th grade. And according to Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo, the decision to add a cybersecurity badge was largely driven by the troops themselves. The executive told CNN that the Scouts were surveyed to determine which skills they were most interested in mastering.

“What we were really pleasantly surprised about is they wanted more computer science, specifically cybersecurity,” Acevedo said.

For younger Girl Scouts, getting a Cybersecurity badge will involved learning about data privacy, cyberbullying, and protecting themselves online. Older Scouts, on the other hand, will be able to learn how to code, become white hat (or ethical) hackers and create and work around firewalls, according to Acevedo.

And given that there are more than 1.8 million young women currently enrolled as Girl Scouts, this new badge could make a difference in terms of closing the gender gap in the tech industry.

“If the industry is going to tackle the cybersecurity problems of tomorrow, we’re going to need a robust and diverse talent pool,” said Rick Howard, chief security officer at Palo Alto Networks. The cybersecurity badge could be an important first step.

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