Girl Scouts Can Now Earn Merit Badges In Hacking, Just As It Should Be

Hack like a girl. 

Hack like a girl. 

Why stick to cookies when you could learn coding? 

Today’s Girl Scouts of the USA could be tomorrow’s badass computer hackers, with the organization announcing that 18 new cybersecurity-themed badges will debut next year. 

Launched in partnership with security firm Palo Alto Networks, the badges will be available to girls anywhere between kindergarten (a.k.a. adorable Daisies) to 12th graders—effectively encouraging all 1.8 million enrolled Girl Scouts to consider careers in computer science.

While younger Girl Scouts will learn about cyberbullying and data privacy in the courses, older members will gain coding skills, learn to create (and bypass) firewalls, and become “white hat” hackers, as in the ethical kind. 

The coolest part? The course was created because the Girl Scouts themselves demanded it. Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo says the organization’s members were surveyed to find out what skills they wanted to acquire, and were surprised to learn that cyber education was high on their list. Which makes total sense, considering it's 2017.

"We recognize that in our increasingly tech-driven world, future generations must possess the skills to navigate the complexities and inherent challenges of the cyber realm,” Acevedo said in a statement.

“From arming our older girls with the tools to address this reality to helping younger girls protect their identities via Internet safety, the launch of our national cybersecurity badge initiative represents our advocacy of cyber preparedness.”

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that in the cybersecurity industry today, women remain vastly underrepresented . A 2017 study by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education found women currently hold just 11 percent of jobs in the field, worldwide. Pretty grim, especially since the same study notes that by 2020, they'll be an additional 1.5 million jobs in cybersecurity that will desperately need filling.

It’s also sobering to learn that according to Computing Technology Industry Association, 69 percent of women who haven’t pursued careers in information technology say it’s because they simply didn’t know what opportunities were available to them. Hence, the potentially awesome ripple effect Girl Scouts’ new curriculum could launch.

For his part, chairman and CEO of Palo Alto Networks, Mark D. McLaughlin, says, “Our collaboration with Girl Scouts of the USA to develop curriculum for the first-ever national Cybersecurity badges will positively influence the future of our industry by helping build tomorrow's diverse and innovative team of problem solvers equipped to counter emerging cyberthreats." 

Commence cookie-filled hackathon!

Words: Jerico Mandybur
Photos: Stocksy/GSUSA