Fresh off the launch of its all-woman games hackathon last month, Girl Geek Academy has partnered with NAB to launch a cybersecurity workshop for primary school girls in the upcoming school holidays in Melbourne.
Developed in conjunction with NAB’s Cyber Security team, the workshop will have participants tackle real world cybersecurity problems by taking them through activities including robotics, programming, code breaking, and online safety.
Sarah Moran, cofounder and CEO of Girl Geek Academy, said the program looks to leverage the fact that “young girls make the best hackers” and get them interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths).
“They’re naturally curious, challenging and you can see them becoming stronger and more resilient with every problem they solve. This program aims to take that energy and harness it for both learning technical skills and building friendships,” she said.
“We hope that by engaging upper primary students we can ignite their passion for STEM before they hit high school – as we know these are the key ages where girls will fall in love with STEM-based studies.”
The importance of engaging girls in STEM at this age was underscored by the Office of the Chief Scientist, which in 2016 released a report, Busting Myths About Women in STEM, that found two thirds of children aged nine to eleven draw a man when asked to draw a scientist, while girls in year four are less confident in their maths abilities than boys.
According to the report, this belief that there is an innate gap in ability has broad ramifications, as maths is a gateway subject for science. This belief and resulting difference in societal expectations for male and female students can then develop into a different experience of teaching and learning, further exacerbating the problem.
This goes beyond the classroom to the home, with a survey of parents in 10 OECD countries finding that they were more likely to expect their sons to work in a STEM field than their daughters.
Meanwhile, Girls Who Code found 74 percent of US girls express interest in STEM while in middle school, but just 0.4 percent of high school girls choose computer science when choosing their college major. Furthermore, while 57 percent of Bachelor’s degrees are earned by women, just 12 percent of computer science degrees are awarded to women.
Tracey Edwards, head of technology, security engagement at NAB, agreed it is important to make kids aware of “the fun of technology” at an early age. NAB cybersecurity staff will attend the workshop to give participants a look at what working as an information security professional looks like.
“We are facing a talent shortage in this high-growth area that sees no sign of stopping any time soon. By investing in education programs we can engage young people in STEM so that when electives come round they are choosing to study these areas,” Edwards said.
“We aim to increase the number of people aware of cybersecurity as a profession, to increase the number of STEM and cybersecurity grads, and ultimately increase the numbers in the workforce.”
The workshop will run on April 10 at The Arcade in Melbourne.
Girl Geek Academy has been working with NAB for some time; the organisations partnered last year to create the ‘Girl Geek in Residence’ program, which saw Moran join NAB’s tech team throughout 2017 to help them apply their skills to innovate for customers, and help NAB build its Connecting Women in Technology program.
Image: the Girl Geek Academy team. Source: Supplied.