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Maryland Competes in GirlsGoCyberStart Cybersecurity Initiative for Second Year

Competition Encourages Young Women to Explore Careers in Cybersecurity

BALTIMORE (Feb. 18, 2019) – Governor Larry Hogan today announced that Maryland will once again participate in the GirlsGoCyberStart initiative. This innovative cybersecurity training partnership with the SANS Institute inspires the next generation of cybersecurity professionals and identifies talented youth in Maryland through a series of online challenges and puzzles. Open to female high school students, GirlsGoCyberStart encourages participants to explore their interests in cyber studies, learn core cybersecurity skills, and build confidence in problem-solving.

“Initiatives like GirlsGoCyberStart help ensure the next generation of Maryland women close the gender gap in science and technology occupations and become leaders in the 21st century workforce,” said Governor Hogan. “I wish the Maryland teams the best of luck and I know they will do a great job representing our state in this year’s competition.”

GirlsGoCyberStart is a free online game open to all female students in grades 9 through 12, regardless of their prior knowledge or experience with cybersecurity and information technology. Playing alone or in teams, participants solve challenges to gain points and advance levels, earning prizes along the way. In addition to individual prizes, such as trips, gift certificates, and computers, the three in-state schools with the most participants will win monetary prizes.

“Competition has been shown to increase motivation and interest in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Acting Labor Secretary James E. Rzepkowski. “GirlsGoCyberStart is one way we can empower young women to explore their interests in STEM and help ensure a diverse pipeline of talent, ready and able to fill the growing demand for cyber jobs in Maryland.”

Last year, 6,650 high school girls from 17 states and territories participated in the competition. In Maryland, 404 students from 23 high schools participated, and of the top 100 teams overall, Maryland took four of the top five positions – first, second, fourth, and fifth – proving the strength of Maryland’s future cybersecurity workforce.

“GirlsGoCyberStart provided an exciting and engaging platform to learn about cybersecurity and channel our interests and knowledge of computer science,” said Shreeya Khurana, a Montgomery Blair student whose 2018 team took fifth place in the competition. “Working as a team to solve the problems, which progressively increased in complexity as the game advanced, was challenging and satisfying. Even without any prior experience we were able to perform well and earned an award and a trip to Chicago to attend the Women in Cybersecurity conference.”

Following her success in the 2018 competition, Ms. Khurana began a program called MATHgirls to motivate and empower middle school girls, especially underserved and underprivileged girls, to pursue a career in STEM. By equipping middle school girls with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in standardized tests, the MATHgirls program enhances the competitiveness of girls to get accepted into highly competitive high school magnet and International Baccalaureate® (IB) programs in STEM fields, thus strengthening their confidence to pursue a career in STEM. By serving as mentors for other girls, MATHgirls also helps girls attain leadership skills.

“It was quite inspiring to see the accomplishments of women in the field of cybersecurity,” Ms. Khurana said. “The GirlsGoCyberStart competition motivated and empowered my fellow team members and me to continue participating in other cybersecurity-related activities and seriously consider a career in cybersecurity.”

With the growing importance of STEM on our nation’s workforce, the GirlsGoCyberStart initiative can help female students increase their understanding of science and technology and address the gender disparity in the STEM fields.

“The nation desperately needs more highly-skilled cyber professionals, and we have evidence that CyberStart improves the quality and preparation of people entering the cybersecurity field,” SANS Director of Research Alan Paller said. “Women are significantly underrepresented in the technical side of cybersecurity. By opening CyberStart to thousands of girls in high school, we hope to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field.”

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) will collaborate to encourage young women to register and participate in this exciting opportunity.

"GirlsGoCyberStart provides a great launch pad for some of our brightest minds to take the first step in cybersecurity," said Dr. Karen Salmon, state superintendent of schools. "Maryland's workforce offers limitless opportunities in the technology fields for our talented female students." 
How to Participate

To register, visit GirlsGoCyberStart. The site includes a full description of the game, answers to common questions, and a sample challenge. Registration begins today, February 18, and ends March 20, 2019. The game opens on March 20, 2019.

Students may explore sample GirlsGoCyberStart game challenges.

About the Maryland Department of Labor
The Maryland Department of Labor is committed to safeguarding and protecting Marylanders. We're proud to support the economic stability of the state by providing businesses, the workforce, and the consuming public with high-quality, customer-focused regulatory, employment, and training services. For updates and information, follow the Maryland Department of Labor on Twitter (@MD_Labor), Facebook and visit our website.

Theresa Blaner
Director, Communications and Media Relations

About the Maryland State Department of Education
The Maryland State Department of Education is dedicated to supporting a world-class educational system that prepares all students for college and career success in the 21st century. With excellent stewardship from our divisions, we oversee state and federal programs that support the needs of a diverse population–students, teachers, principals, and other educators–throughout Maryland. For updates and information, follow MSDE on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and visit our website.

State Department of Education
William Reinhard