Young girls often show a keen interest in STEM areas, but if they have no role models, they may not see themselves as candidates for careers in these fields. Ontario Tech University set out to address this gap through their new Cyber Girls Ambassador Program – designed to spark the interest of female students between 11 and 14 years of age, who are keen to learn about the world of cyber security. The program launched with a summer session at the university in August, with 68 girls in attendance. Follow-up activities for participants are planned throughout the school year.
Working with corporate sponsors, Sun Life, Bank of Montreal and Herjavec Group, Ontario Tech created an environment of discovery, providing hands-on experience, coaching and fun, to give students a broad understanding of cybersecurity fundamentals, including digital citizenship, coding and critical thinking. Topics include the internet, social media risks and safe networking, cyberbullying, identity protection, theft, and online game development.
“The exciting aspect of this program is the conceptual learning that comes into real-life focus, through mentorship by women in various information technology careers,” explains Sheila Rhodes, Assistant Teaching Professor, Faculty of Education.
Cyber Girls is delivered by Ontario Tech educators specializing in STEM education, supported by participating teachers from Durham District School Board, Durham Catholic District School Board, Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Boards.
Sun Life volunteers were also happy to participate directly in the program and ran a series of leadership and educational activities for the young participants. “We’re excited to be a part of the Ontario Tech University Cyber Girls ambassador program. Our hope is to foster awareness, higher education and a meaningful interest in a future career in Cyber Security by creating opportunities for the girls to interact with Sun Life’s passionate, cyber security professionals. We are committed to creating future leaders.” Ann Dimkin, Cyber Women Society (CWS), Sun Life.
As the world becomes more digitally connected, the industry of cyber security will explode. This university is taking a bold step forward to engage the talent of the future. Through this new program, they will help young girls to understand their full potential, so they may aspire to rewarding careers in online safety and security in the future.