Iʼm incredibly proud to be partnering with Girl Guides of Canada to promote important new programming introduced for girls of all ages in Guiding across the country!
The program, Digital Defenders, was developed in collaboration with BlackBerry, a global leader in cybersecurity and privacy technology. It will introduce girls aged 5 ‒ 17 to cybersecurity and discusses important topics on everything from how computers work, to the kinds of malware that exist, how to protect your data online, and career opportunities in cybersecurity! All of this is presented through discovery-based learning: activities, challenges and interactive discussions and games. Girls that complete the program receive their very own, specially-designed badge ‒ a key accomplishment for every Girl Guide!
I love that the programs, games and learning activities in Digital Defenders cater to girls at every age and life stage of Girl Guides. Girls aged 5-8 in Sparks and Brownies are taught how computers work and the ways technology keeps the world connected. As these girls progress through Girl Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers (ages 9-17), theyʼre taught about how social media companies gather information about them, how they can protect themselves online, and jobs that exist in different areas of the cybersecurity industry.
As a former member of Girl Guides, this initiative makes me so excited! My parents enrolled me in Girl Guides back in 1995 (where I met one of my best friends). Back then, of course, we didnʼt have the exposure to learning about computers or possible career opportunities and a focus on women in STEM. Y2K hadnʼt hit, and it just wasnʼt a consideration in the mid-nineties. We learned other important life and communication skills, and I still have my t-shirts stored safely in a plastic bin in my mumʼs basement.
This shift toward promoting women in STEM from such a young age, however, is something truly special. In Canada, I rarely meet another woman who wasnʼt a member of either Sparks, Brownies or Girl Guides or who doesnʼt plan to enroll her own daughters when they reach age 5.
As a young girl, I had a keen interest in computers and technology, but little exposure to where and how to grow my skills and develop a career in Computer Science. Guidance counsellors insisted that a degree in Computer Science was a “glorified math degree that would never involve actually writing code, but only working in academia.” Now, there was nothing wrong with that of course, but I wanted to write code! It wasnʼt until my first year of university, listening to a video game developer named Jade Raymond speak about her experiences as a Computer Science graduate, that I realized that was the degree I needed to pursue!
Iʼve heard it countless times from other women in the industry: they had little to no exposure to Computer Science (and certainly not cybersecurity), had no visible role models (other women in roles they aspired to) and very little direction toward STEM subjects. This initiative between BlackBerry and Girl Guides is vitally important to increasing awareness for young girls of opportunities in STEM, allowing them to see other women who are already in these roles, and showing them that they can do the same!
In addition to the new Digital Defenders program, Girl Guides programming also includes important discussions around positive body image, exploration of topics in science, engineering, technology and math, developing an appreciation for nature and the environment, and promoting kindness and leadership.
The Girl Guide Vision: A better world, by girls
The Girl Guide Mission: To be a catalyst for girls empowering girls
You can join, support or learn more about Girl Guides of Canada at girlguides.ca.