CXO

Girl Scouts to train next generation of cybersecurity, AI, and robotics professionals

Girl Scouts of the USA and Raytheon are partnering to create a national computer science program for middle and high school girls, in efforts to diversify the STEM workforce.

The Girls Scouts are continuing their quest to prepare young women for careers in STEM: On Monday, Girls Scouts of the USA and Raytheon announced the launch of the organization's first national computer science program for middle and high school girls, aiming to prepare students for careers in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and data science.

"The progress to diversify the STEM workforce needs to be accelerated," Raytheon chairman and CEO Thomas A. Kennedy said in a press release. "At a time when technology is transforming the way we live and work, we can - and should - show young women a clear path to taking an active role in this transformation. Working together, Raytheon and Girl Scouts will help girls build confidence to see themselves as the robotics engineers, data scientists and cybersecurity professionals who will create a better tomorrow."

Raytheon will create age-appropriate content and STEM experiences for Girls Scouts. Girls will learn key computer science concepts and complete activities to gain problem-solving and leadership skills. And participants will be able to apply their new coding skills in a Cyber Challenge.

SEE: The state of women in computer science: An investigative report (PDF)

Earlier this year, the Girl Scouts announced that the first-ever national Girl Scout Cybersecurity training badges will roll out in 2018 which will teach girls grades K-12 programming, ethical hacking, and how to avoid security incidents.

The organization has ramped up the number of STEM badges and programs offered in recent years, including new robotics badges, Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo told TechRepublic upon announcing the cybersecurity badges.

"As we were in the final stages of testing and piloting badges coming out, we asked girls what they might want," Acevedo said. "Loud and clear, one of the big areas of interest was computer science, and, specifically, cybersecurity."

Some 74% of teen girls report that they are interested in STEM fields and subjects, but their interest fades as they move through middle and high school, according to the Girl Scout Research Institute's Generation STEM report. This is due in part to a lack of exposure to STEM in ways that connect with young women and inspire their career ambitions, the report found.

Introducing young women to STEM careers at an early age and helping maintain their interest in those subjects through their K-12 career can help create a pipeline of female STEM leaders, the Girl Scouts noted.

The first phase of the computer science program will run as a pilot in select areas in early 2018, with full nationwide implementation planned to begin in fall 2018. Select Girl Scout councils will pilot the Cyber Challenge in 2019.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. Girls Scouts of the USA and Raytheon will launch the organization's first national computer science program for middle and high school girls, aiming to prepare students for careers in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, robotics, and data science.

2. Girls will learn key computer science concepts and complete activities to gain problem-solving and leadership skills.

3. The goal is to maintain young women's interest in STEM subjects through their K-12 career, and create a pipeline of female STEM leaders.

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Image: Girls Scouts of the USA

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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