As I looked around the crowded room of smiling faces, I realized how close the girls and I had gotten after only two months of intense coding training in the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program. I felt accomplished, a feeling that has stayed with me and helped me achieve things that I never anticipated.
I started thinking about other girls like me who wanted to learn more about computer science. I wondered what would happen if they could learn what I did over the summer. Then, I came across the CyberGirlz Club program.
A proverbial light bulb went off above my head. I had to do some research and find out more about it. Turns out, the CyberGirlz Club program gives girls in Israel the opportunity to develop computer science skills that are crucial in a technology-filled country. In a joint project between the Cyber Education Center (a Rashi Foundation organization), tech NGO Start-Up Nation Central (SNC) and The Ministry of Defense, the CyberGirlz Club teaches penetration testing and Python, as well as teamwork and problems solving methods in creative ways.
The Club addresses the “shortage of human capital in the Israeli high-tech industry, with women [as their] primary focus,” explained Start-Up Nation Central Human Capital Program Manager Shany Kfir, in an interview from Tel Aviv with Fresh Ink for Teens. Over time, technology-based jobs have exceeded supply and there aren’t enough tech professionals—specifically female—to fill these vacancies. Many programs around the world have made an effort to achieve what the CyberGirlz program aims to accomplish, getting more women into core software engineering jobs, but one main difference lies in the fact that Israel has more than just jobs and money to worry about.
Israel’s first priority is keeping their people safe. To do this, many measures have been taken to keep the military as advanced as possible. While the CyberGirlz Club has focused on filling the technological gap forming in Israel, the organization also prepares women for the Israeli military. This selective group of 10th and 11th grade girls learn specific skills they’ll need to pass the entrance exams to Israel Defense Forces technology and intelligence units like 8200—Israel’s version of the NSA—responsible for coding decryption and collecting signal intelligence. This unit consists mainly of 18-21-year-olds, further emphasizing the need for Israeli individuals who develop technological skills at a young age, which is exactly where the CyberGirlz Club comes in.
The CyberGirlz Club accepts the girls that pass the program’s screening process, which includes a test and an interview, but no technical background is needed. Girls who are interested in anything from theatre to biology are encouraged to participate, so as long as they are hardworking and dedicated to completing the curriculum. With the program becoming increasingly popular, we have yet to see all the amazing tasks the girls are sure to accomplish in the near future.
Sarit Alkadaa is a senior at Yeshivah of Flatbush. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.