By Jill Zelmanovits, CEO and Chief Listening Officer, Girl Guides of Canada
Hackers, encryption and cyber threats were once ideas relegated to dark basements and IT talk. Today, cybersecurity impacts every industry, every level of government and everyone with personal information stored online (that’s pretty much all of us). And one day in the near future, a Girl Guide might just be the one that protects you from a cyber attack.
At Girl Guides of Canada, we’ve always empowered girls with the relevant skills they need to excel. So it’s only natural we’d launch Digital Defenders, a new cybersecurity program developed in partnership with BlackBerry, to ensure girls are equipped for the tech landscape they live in – and the tech careers they aspire to. Through Digital Defenders, girls will understand the technology behind how to protect their devices and information online while also discovering how they can make their mark as future cybersecurity innovators.
Today’s tech-know girls, tomorrow’s tech heroes
Think a Girl Guide cybersecurity badge is a radical idea? Think again. Girls are tech savvy and early adopters of technology – and probably more creative than a lot of adults in adapting how they use technology. With tech embedded into their daily lives, learning about cyber threats is a necessary everyday skill for girls. In short, learning about cybersecurity, malware, and hacking is just as relevant as learning how to change a tire or how to save money.
Just as important as empowering girls to navigate their world today is setting girls up to grab hold of the infinite opportunities that await them. By giving girls a chance to develop their tech know-how, Digital Defenders also offers an important entry point to ignite girls’ interest in different cybersecurity career fields. It’s not an encrypted secret that there is a skills and gender gap in high tech fields. Jobs are going unfilled and yet, according to Women in Cybersecurity Canada, women make up only 10% of the cybersecurity workforce.
From Girl Guides’ own research, we know there are still a lot of obstacles and perceptions that can hold girls back from exploring STEM careers. 16% of girls hide the fact that they like science, technology, engineering and math for fear of being rejected by their peers. One quarter of young people aged 12-18 agree with the statement that boys are more capable than girls of doing things in society such as learning math and science, playing sports, and taking on leadership roles. Programs like Digital Defenders that encourage girls to dive in, ask curious questions, problem-solve and explore how technology works can serve as an important incubator for fostering girls’ confidence that technology can be a pretty rewarding career path.
Building her network of tech mentors
Many girls have told us they want careers where they can be creative and make the world a better place. Digital Defenders enables girls to discover exactly what they can carve out for themselves in a cybersecurity or tech career, and if it’s the right fit for them. These are jobs that combine finding innovative solutions, creatively tackling puzzles, relentlessly attacking a problem until it’s solved – all to keep invaluable information, technology and people safe. Talk about making a difference.
Of course, it’s worth repeating that girls can’t be what they don’t see, and they often don’t see enough women in high-tech jobs. Programs like Digital Defenders (created with the expert input of women cybersecurity experts at BlackBerry), introduce girls to the infinite possibilities that await them and serve as an important launch pad for girls to make a difference in their world through technology. If we want technology to have a positive impact on our world, then it is critical that girls are positioned to be the changemakers and tech-heroes of tomorrow.