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Girl Scouts Promotes Women in STEM With New National Program

An unlikely partnership has formed to help close the gender gap in STEM fields.

U.S. defense contractor Raytheon and Girl Scouts of the USA are launching a national computer science program and Cyber Challenge for middle and high school girls.

Together, the organizations aim to prepare and encourage students to pursue careers in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, robotics, and data science.

“The progress to diversify the STEM workforce needs to be accelerated,” Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy said in a statement. “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.”

More than 70 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM fields and subjects, the Girl Scout Research Institute reported. So why do women account for only 29 percent of science and engineering occupations?

Early enthusiasm often wanes as they grow older—because girls aren’t exposed to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics “in ways that speak to them and inspire their career ambition,” according to a joint press release.

But Girl Scouts and Raytheon—inaugural sponsor of GSUSA’s computational thinking program—are determined to change that.

Plans for a multi-year partnership include introducing young girls to related careers, providing them with STEM programming, and hosting events that help maintain their interest. And, eventually, applying new coding skills during Girl Scouts’ first Cyber Challenge.

“We are excited to be working with Raytheon and tapping into its expertise in computer science and cybersecurity to develop this important new content for our middle and high school-age girls,” GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said. “With Raytheon’s support, we will inspire millions of girls to explore STEM careers and realize their full potential.”

Phase one of the new national computer science program for middle and high school girls will run as a pilot in select areas in early 2018; nationwide implementation is expected next fall.

Select Girl Scout councils will pilot the Cyber Challenge in 2019.

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“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,” Kennedy said.

GSUSA previously teamed up with security firm Palo Alto Network to premiere 18 national Girl Scout cybersecurity badges. The first in the series will roll out in September 2018 to girls in grades K-12.

Source: GEEK