From the left: Jill Zelmanovits, CEO of Girl Guides of Canada; Sarah Tatsis, VP of BlackBerry Advanced Technology Development Labs; Karen Clyne, VP of BlackBerry Communications

Published: November 7th, 2019

TORONTO — At the BlackBerry World Tour event held on Nov. 7, BlackBerry and Girl Guides of Canada launched the Digital Defenders girl guides program to increase cybersecurity interests in young girls.

This new girl guides program is tailored for guides between five to 17 years old. Through it, girl guides will be able to learn the fundamentals of data travel paths, how a computer works, and common security practices.

The Digital Defenders badge.

Each of the eight learning programs is geared towards an age group. The younger audiences can participate in crafting exercises like making a binary bracelet. The older girls may choose to play games that expose the inner workings of malware and what happens when they manifest.

The girls also get a chance to learn from BlackBerry security experts. According to Sarah Tatsis, vice-president of BlackBerry Advanced Technology Development Labs, there’s a potential for girls to tour BlackBerry offices and experience centers.

Jill Zelmanovits gifting a trophy to Sarah Tatsis for their collaboration.

Completing the courses earn the guides a badge. The program has no rigid requirements on which courses to take, leaving the activity selection entirely up to the participant’s interests. Jill Zelmanovits, chief executive officer of Girl Guides of Canada, said that omitting a rigid regimen removes the policing aspect of some cybersecurity education. Enforcing a curriculum could feel too much like schooling and reduce girls’ appetite for learning.

The panel underscored the gender gap between men and women in the technology field, noting that girls as young as 11 could perceive gender inequality. In addition, the panelists highlighted that one-fourth of the girls don’t see a role model in their dream career.

“There’s a talent shortage in cybersecurity,” said Tatsis, alluding to the three million unfilled cybersecurity roles in today’s industry. “If we can get more people–and I mean half the population is more people–interested in cybersecurity roles, then maybe [they can] hopefully come back and actually enter the workforce.”

The Digital Defenders program is ready today and can be accessed online.