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18 Governors Are Encouraging More Women to Pursue Jobs in Cybersecurity

By Henry Kronk
March 09, 2019

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, women represent just 20% of the cybersecurity workforce. A coalition of U.S. state governors are trying to do something about that. The leaders announced recently that they are coming together to endorse Girls Go CyberStart, an online game and aptitude test intended to inspire women to pursue a job in cybersecurity.

Girls Go CyberStart

The game was developed by the SANS Institute and is comprised of a series of online challenges. It is intended for high school-age learners. Three stages of competition will occur. Cash prizes and college scholarships are on the table for winners. These funds vary state by state. What’s more, no experience is required to play. The game is designed to both foster skills in cybersecurity while also determining individual players’ aptitude for the field. In 2018, over 6,600 high school girls played. 

Girls Go CyberStart, along with governors from Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, Iowa, Indiana, Delaware, Nevada, Arkansas, North Dakota, Hawaii, West Virginia, Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont are hoping to triple that figure in 2019. 

“If Texas is to remain a global powerhouse in this 21st century economy and further enhance our national security, we must invest in educational programs that elevate our best and brightest to fields like cybersecurity,” said Governor Greg Abbott in a release. “That is why Texas’ partnership with the SANS Institute to recruit talented female students to this field is vital, and I look forward to our continued partnership.”

“The nation desperately needs more highly-skilled cyber professionals,” said SANS Director of Research, Alan Paller, in a release. “We have new evidence that CyberStart radically improves the quality and preparation of people entering the cybersecurity field. Women are woefully underrepresented in the technical side of cybersecurity, but by opening CyberStart to tens of thousands of high school girls, we may be able to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field.”

Knowledge About Cybersecurity, Scholarships, and Cash Prizes Are on the Table

Some states have allocated a huge amount of resources for the winners. Over $500,000 in scholarships are available in Vermont alone. 

Those who don’t win will still have the opportunity to learn valuable skills like cryptography, programming with Python and Linux, and forensics. 

The competition has already proven to be popular among high schools.

“Before I recruited girls to be a part of CyberStart, I struggled to get girls to realize they could be computer scientists,” said Jeff Johnson, Computer Science Teacher, Lee High School, Midland, Texas, according to a release. “I said, ‘Just try it’. I now have girls asking our counselor about computer science degrees at our local community college.”

“CyberStart is presented in a fun, interactive environment that encourages students to problem-solve, code and learn how Computer Science works,” Cassandra Bryning, a teacher at Thornton High School in Thornton, Col. in a statement. “My students loved the challenge. We heard them say, ‘I am so smart’, ‘Let me help you.’ over and over during the course of the week. It was awesome!”

Players are required to register to participate. Registration is currently open. The games will begin on March 20. 

Featured Image: Kevin Ku, Unsplash.

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