While "cookies" is probably the first word that jumps to mind when many people think of the Girl Scouts, the organization has a lot more going on than convincing us all to buy way too many boxes of Thin Mints. Soon, the organization will be debuting a new Girl Scout badge in cybersecurity. It's an awesome idea, and definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to closing the gender gap in technical fields.
The badge system has long been a hallmark of the Girl Scouts. Participating girls and young women can earn badges to demonstrate their mastery of various subjects, covering everything from wilderness survival to community service to, of course, cookie selling. (Not to brag, but I totally earned a "Polar Bear" badge after a below-freezing camping adventure back in fifth grade.) After earning badges and patches, girls can display them on their scout vests, so that everyone can see all the cool things they've learned to do. Badges are the best.
The organization occasionally adds new badges for girls to earn, and this year, leaders found that when they asked girls what kinds of badges they wanted to see, a somewhat unexpected topic kept popping up. Turns out that many girls wanted to learn about science, technology, engineering and math subjects. The surveyed girls specifically mentioned cybersecurity. Go Girl Scouts, go!
The Girl Scouts will partner with cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks to develop the curriculum for the badge, which will be available to girls in kindergarten through 12th grade. According to CNN, younger Girl Scouts will focus on things like cyberbullying and protecting themselves online, while older girl scouts will learn about topics like coding and ethical hacking. The organization will be rolling out additional badges in the coming weeks and months, and it seems likely that others will also have to do with STEM topics.
As Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo told ABC News, this new badge will help girls prepare for their futures in a fast-changing world. "To be globally competitive," she said, "girls today need to know not just how to use computers but also how to program them."
The organization's new push for STEM education could work wonders in helping girls feel comfortable asserting their interest in these more traditionally male-dominated subjects from a young age. And given that over a million young girls take part in Girl Scouts of the USA, that could help to close what is currently a troubling gap in representation between men and women in STEM careers.
The Girl Scout motto is "Be Prepared." Thanks to this new badge, a whole generation of girls will be.