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By Eric Lieberman
The National Security Agency (NSA) is sponsoring an all-girls summer camp program in an attempt to help spark cybersecurity intrigue among the younger generation and diversify the general tech industry.
“With hacking stories appearing daily in global news headlines, and a world that’s more interconnected than ever, we need sharp minds focused on safeguarding online communities and capabilities,” reads the official website for the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, which is one of the host campuses for the program. “Girls will love this all-girls hands-on camp that emphasizes cyber ethics, online safety, cyber security and defense.”
The Dakota State University is also hosting the summer camp.
Girls in grades 9 to 12 can attend the program, known as GenCyber, free of charge because the NSA and the National Science Foundation are funding the initiative.
The curriculum includes core sessions like cybersecurity, programming, networking, and robotics. There are also specialty electives, such as password cracking, web hacking, 3D Printing, and multimedia forensics.
The program seems to be popular since the camp is “now full,” according to the website.
The federal government, specifically the NSA and NSF, is trying to help foster interest in tech-related issues, specifically among younger females, in hopes to make the tech community more gender balanced. (RELATED: White House Suddenly Removes Head Cybersecurity Officer)
Fifty-six percent of people holding professional jobs in the U.S. are women, but only 25 percent of IT jobs are held by women, according to The Muse, which cites multiple studies. Five percent of tech startups are reportedly owned by women, who also only earn 28 percent of computer science degrees.
An account of Silicon Valley’s “affirmative action” policies published in January shows that tech companies adamantly trying to diversify their workforce are failing to meet their own apparently lofty standards. (RELATED: Uber’s ‘Diversity Report’ Shows Mostly Asian, White Men)
The NSA is also trying to develop more cybersecurity expertise in general by focusing on the youth, or the workforce of the future.
“The supply of cybersecurity professionals has fallen far short of demand, with some studies estimating the gap being as large as 600,000 professionals needed to meet the Nations demand,” the GenCyber website’s FAQ page reads. “We hope to help turn that around.”