Three hundred young women (middle-school students) filed into the Riggs Alumni Center on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 for the Cool Careers in Cyber Security for Girls Workshop. Sitting at tables covered with computer parts, padlocks, cryptology puzzles and other cybersecurity paraphernalia, the girls tried to pick locks with shims made from soda cans, decrypt a secret message, and identify missing parts in a disassembled computer. Women who work in cybersecurity and computer science guided the girls through these activities and introduced concepts such as penetration testing, cryptography, and cell phone forensics while answering questions from the students about college and life as a computer scientist.
Research shows that women role models and early hands-on exposure to computing concepts can help significantly to increase the number of women entering cybersecurity and other computing fields. The Cool Careers in Cyber Security for Girls Workshop aims to “significantly contribute to increasing the number of women in this critical field, which is [also] one of the core goals of the education activities led by the Maryland Cybersecurity Center,” says Michel Cukier, Associate Director for Education at the Maryland Cybersecurity Center and Director of the Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students, the nation’s first undergraduate honors program in cybersecurity.