Friday, November 1, 2019

3 Takeaways from October’s Girl Scout Cyber Challenge brought to you by Raytheon

It was a sunny October morning in Los Angeles, California. You could feel the excitement in the air. Girl Scouts, volunteers, and parents lined up in front of UCLA’s engineering building in anticipation of something BIG. The moment the door opened, Girl Scouts from the Greater Los Angeles council rushed through, including some who’d been on a waiting list for weeks.

It was clear: these young STEM leaders were 100% ready to take a “byte” out of cybercrime, show off their skills, and have fun with new friends at Girl Scouts’ inaugural Cyber Challenge.

The event was one of ten that took place across the country as part of Girl Scouts’ first-ever national cyber competition, made possible by our collaboration with Raytheon to close the STEM gender gap. Throughout the day, Girl Scouts participated in a series of action-packed cybersecurity-related tasks. The girls worked in teams and with Girl Scout and Raytheon volunteers to save a simulated moon colony that had been hacked, applying and honing skills in cryptography, forensics, and encryption. Like the pros they are, they used their know-how to make the world (or, more accurately, the moon!) a better and safer place.

In the end, Girl Scouts’ mission was accomplished. We rallied more middle and high school girls to learn about cybersecurity and pursue careers in STEM.

Check out our three standout takeaways from the Cyber Challenge and related research:

1. The fastest-growing industries worldwide require engineering and tech training.

Rosa Campos, STEM program manager at Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, summed up why programs like the Cyber Challenge are essential: “We want this to become a program [that prepares] girls to make their way toward STEM careers. We know that only 26% of STEM-related jobs are held by women, and we’re out to change that!”

Well said, Rosa! Especially given that cybersecurity roles are on track to outpace candidates by 1.8 million by 2022. And even if your girl doesn’t choose a career in STEM, it’s highly likely that she’ll need to use technology to make a difference in today’s fast-paced economy.

2. Girls L-O-V-E making a difference in their communities and world through STEM.

Girl Scout Cadette Anna told us why she wanted to participate in the Cyber Challenge: “I signed up because I love to spend time on the internet, especially on YouTube, and playing video games. I want to learn how to keep myself safe—and how to keep others safe!”

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute report Generation STEM, girls want to learn about STEM because they want to help people and make a difference in the world—and 74% of high school girls across the country are interested in the fields and subjects of STEM. However, girls continue to perceive associated gender barriers, which may help explain why STEM fields aren’t their top career choices. Sylvia Acevedo (CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA) and Rebecca Rhoads (president of Global Business Services at Raytheon) in their recent op-ed for the Arizona Daily Star suggest that “research tells us that if girls had been given a better understanding of the impact that math and science can make and more exposure to relevant STEM learning while they were in middle and high school, they would have been more interested in pursuing STEM careers.”

3. The Girl Scout Cyber Challenge is just the beginning!

“I’ve been in this environment for 27 years. It’s so important that young women are fostered in this STEM environment because there aren’t enough women in our industry.” Tammy Redl, Raytheon Volunteer and Cyber Engineer.

The Cyber Challenge was a pilot event at 10 Girl Scout councils and the first-ever national event of its kind. It was a unique opportunity for girls to join together for an immersive, hands-on day of learning about cybersecurity. And to reiterate, one of our goals with events like this is to expose more girls in middle and high school to potential careers in computer science, including in cybersecurity, robotics, data science, and artificial intelligence.

Rest assured, this is not the last Cyber Challenge! We’re hoping to in time roll out the unique event to more and more Girl Scouts nationwide. And of course, at Girl Scouts, we’ll continue to bring you all sorts of state-of-the-art programs that put your girl squarely on a path to success.

The Cyber Challenge and the launch of the first national computer science program by Girl Scouts of the USA is made possible through a multiyear commitment from Raytheon. Together, Raytheon and Girl Scouts are reaching girls during their formative school years, when research shows peer pressure can sometimes deter girls from pursuing their interest in STEM.