Thirty-eight middle school girls from San Jose State University’s CyberGirlz program took part in a unique experience this summer that may ultimately be a life changing experience for them. They went to cybersecurity camp at Facebook. For months, students from SJSU’s Jay Pinson STEM Education program taught the girls basic coding and cybersecurity skills in after-school programs made possible through funding from Symantec, Intel, AT&T and Facebook.
At Facebook, the girls advanced those skills and learned more about malware, firewalls and cyber-ethics. They also heard from Facebook’s chief security officer, and a panel of female employees who shared their personal career stories and advice on getting into the cybersecurity field.
Facebook, along with the Jay Pinson STEM Education program and several non-profit groups are working together to get young girls interested in STEM fields, especially computer science.
They hope to pique their interest early on since some researchers believe girls loose interest in STEM subjects around 12 or 13 years of age. Facebook hopes to keep the interest going. They gave each girl a new laptop computer to make sure they continue to hone their cyber sleuthing skills.
The Jay Pinson STEM Education program is also gearing up for a new year of providing classroom instruction to elementary and middle school students in the San Jose area.
“We feel there’s a need to provide a safe space for girls to explore their curiosity and skills in cybersecurity, so in ten years we see a workforce that resembles our community with at least 50 percent men and 50 percent women participating,” said Virginia Lehmkuhl-Dakhwe, director of the Jay Pinson STEM Education program.