The Girl Scouts of America have now added 23 new badges to their lineup with the intention of offering girls a more varied exposure to activities and interests. Many of those new badges are related to STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. All of those are fields where women have continued to be highly underrepresented.
Now Girl Scouts will be able to earn badges for activities such as learning how to be environmentally conscious, designing race cars, and writing code. Creating an interest in those topics at a young age is, of course, the best way to increase the number of women who choose to go into those fields as adults. Diversifying and expanding the type of people that exist in any field is one of the best ways to sustain those fields over the long term.
Some of the current rates of women in the STEM fields are a bit alarming. Only five percent of audio engineers are women across music, film, and any other creative media. Less than one-third of the people employed in scientific research and development are women. School aged boys and girls tend to show the same proficiency in subjects like math but girls are far less likely to stick with it as an interest or a career choice.
Some of this is fragmentation is blamed on societal expectations and pressures. Some of it is explained by the unsustainable environments that some women find themselves in when in when they enter predominantly male oriented work environments. The only way for the female immersion to increase is simply for it to increase, and showing young girls is the way to make that happen. It seems like an awesome opportunity to spread the awareness about some pretty cool hobbies and jobs.
The Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo feels particularly strongly about exposing girls to STEM concepts and spearheaded the change after coming into the CEO role permanently in May. Sylvia has worked as an engineer in NASA’s jet propulsion lab, as well as for IBM and Dell. She also created her own business startup and successfully sold it, rounding out her professional experience across the board.
In addition to the recent STEM additions to the badge lineup, the Girl Scouts also introduced cyber security badges to launch in the fall of 2018. The cyber security badges will offer lessons on everything from data privacy and cyberbullying, to getting around firewalls and ethical hacking tactics. Cyber security is one field that is growing and is expected to be short 1.5 people workers by the year 2020.
The Girls Scouts program currently has 1.8 million girls enrolled. Surely they won’t all be interested in working in cyber security, or math, or tech. But more exposure to what’s out there and an increasing awareness of what’s possible breeds the confidence and empowerment that everyone deserves to experience.