April 17 2024

DEI Spotlight: Girl Security

The security profession, public and private, is slowly changing from mostly male and white to a more diverse reflection of the communities it serves.

At the center of that transformation is Girl Security, the first nonprofit to focus on national security awareness and career training programs for underrepresented communities of girls, women and gender minority youth. The idea for such a novel—and needed—program had been percolating with Lauren Bean Buitta, Girl Security President and CEO, long before she founded the nonprofit in 2016.

Lauren Bean Buitta, founder, President and CEO, Girl Security

Graduating from college in the aftermath of 9/11, Buitta took a job with the National Security Think Tank. Often, she was the only woman in the room discussing issues of artificial intelligence, climate change and other security topics. In 2016, she began speaking across the country to audiences of audiences of girls and young women about cybersecurity and other issues.

What she discovered were future leaders—females, gender minorities and people of color—who wanted careers in security but lacked pathways. This sparked Girl Security’s mentoring network, which, to date, has supported 3,000 mentees from across the U.S. and its territories.

Girl Security Mentoring Programs

“There’s a common saying, ‘If you can see it, you can be it,’” says Buitta. “The importance of role models, first, has been extensively studied for the impact of instilling a sense of self-efficacy and self-confidence in girls with aspirations and interests in historically male-dominated sectors. Mentorship, done right and done well, also has studied impacts for girls and women in sectors such as sports and STEM, and now, national security.”

Girl Security’s robust mentoring program pairs women and gender minority national security mentors from all sectors and levels of experience with a mentee that shares a  professional interest, identity, and/or set of experiences. The program has beginner, intermediate and an Accelerator program to address career exploration to career-focus and entry.

“Aside from the measured impacts we see in our work every day, I am always moved by the transformative impact mentors have on girls in our communities whose physical reaction to seeing a woman who looks like them speak is visible,” Buitta adds. “They can barely sit in their seats. Conversely, at Girl Security, we also believe young women can mentor-up senior professionals for skill-building, bridging generational communication gaps and fostering a culture of mutuality and inclusion.”

Buitta herself benefitted from strong mentoring early in her career. Her workplace lacked women and there were no female-focused security mentorship programs. She fondly recalls the guidance of a male mentor, Al: “He gave me a lot of responsibility with very little oversight at a critical waypoint in my late twenties. He would always say, ‘Some have greatness thrust upon them, and you are some.’ He was imperfect as a mentor, but he always continuously sought to improve. He had no ego about creating space for me to lead. I have applied many lessons from his mentorship for Girl Security.”

Learn more about Girl Security’s mentorship programs.

Girl Security’s Workforce Training Program, funded through TSF’s Nonprofit Grants Program

Another flagship Girl Security program is its Workforce Training Program. One of the tracts in the program, the National Workforce Fellowship, is a first-time recipient of The Security Foundation’s Nonprofit Grant award in 2023.

Girl Security at the 2022 OSAC Middle East and North Africa Regional Committee event in Boston. Girl Security participated in a tabletop exercise with other women security leaders.

The only program of its kind for girls and young women (ages 16-20), the Workforce Training Program includes a hybrid workforce training program led by a diverse and interdisciplinary set of instructors; professional advancement including access to certificates for various paths, and a host of supportive services. The program is a 12-week, virtual Fellowship that includes workshops on Law and Setting Global Precedent, Economic Influence as a National Strength, Technological Influence in the Digital Ecosystem and more from such prominent female security leaders as Condoleezza Rice, Hon. Susan M. Gordon and Michele Flournoy. Each Fellow receives a $500 stipend, mentoring and a micro-internship to experience a “day in the life” of women in national security at Google or In-Q-Tel, for example.

“The model has been carefully curated and refined over the last six years to combine the most cutting-edge information about the most effective advancement models, mental health and social and emotional learning and measurable equity,” says Buitta. Girl Security’s respected and vast mentoring network allows the nonprofit to cast an extremely wide net across the country to meet girls where they are and connect them with leaders who can share their own journeys, sometimes from the towns where they live.

“This is extraordinarily powerful for a field whose dominant narrative has long-centered women in the backdrop,” she adds. “This program provides a wholly unique springboard into security that so many of us wish we could have had. It will never be perfect, but we’re always working to improve it with feedback from our amazing mentors and mentees. A big thanks to our team for their hard work on this.”

Learn about the Workforce Training Program.

Preparing Women for the Decision-Making Table, Board Room, White House and Beyond

On March 23, 2024, Girl Security participated in the White House Cyber Event for Girls and Women with Buitta moderating a panel of Girl Security participants talking about charting their paths in cybersecurity and sharing their experiences, insights and visions for the future. Girl Security continues to help shape and drive the needed, national conversation and initiatives to open pathways for women to lead and rise through the national security ranks.

Lauren (top left) moderates the 2024 virtual Women In Cyber Webinar

Buitta’s passion remains unflagging and infectious. Mentoring the next generation of female leaders is something everyone can do to increase the numbers of women in security, she says. “Mentoring does not need to be formalized, but it helps if it is,” Buitta notes. “It also helps to ensure there is structure and sustainability to allow for the most transformative outcomes. Peer-mentoring and reverse mentoring are also powerful, and Girl Security’s All Secure Alliance has created some amazing tools for industry and organizations to implement and measure.”

Thank you, Girl Security, for the real impact you are having across our profession and in the lives of thousands of girls and young women!

Check out Girl Security’s videos.

Podcasts, essays, resources and more by Girl Security.

Learn more about TSF’s DEI initiatives at