Quotes from me noting some of the difficulties that women working in technology can face appeared in the press this weekend. Yes, it can be tough, but the NCSC isn’t standing for that. I and all my colleagues, regardless of gender, are determined that we will not accept the current situation. We are committed to knocking down any barriers that could prevent talented people from prospering in the technological field.
We are determined that the NCSC and the field of technology in general will be a place where everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age and any other label, feels valued for their contribution.
The NCSC is already unusual for a technology-centric organisation in that half our senior leadership positions are filled by women. In total, 35% of our workforce is female. Part of this is down to the diversity-friendly policies which GCHQ, our parent organisation has introduced.
We’re also supporting a wide range of initiatives to encourage girls and women to take up careers in technology. This is a subject dear to my heart. It wasn’t until I left my single-sex secondary school that I realised how unusual it was for girls to study science. To me, it was perfectly normal and not something to give rise to comment, yet it did. I left school 35 years ago and it came as a profound shock to me earlier this year when I heard about the experiences of some of the 8,000 13 to 15-year-old girls who had entered our CyberFirst Girls’ competition. Whilst it’s great that thousands of girls are taking part in what could previously have been a niche interest, some reported that they were still viewed as ‘odd’ because they studied and enjoyed science subjects.
I was appalled that attitudes like that are still commonplace in the twenty first century. Frankly, I think it’s unacceptable and so do all my NCSC colleagues. We are doing our bit to try and change this – such as offering first-job placements for female graduates with STEM degrees.
Having talked to people in other technology companies and organisations, I know that they are appalled as well. But, individually, we aren’t making ourselves heard – so we need to start a more structured and very public conversation.
I’d therefore like to throw down a challenge to like-minded technology organisations. It’s a small thing, but if we all report our initiatives to encourage women into technology online and share weblinks to each other’s articles we can turn our individual statements into one loud shout that shows we are serious about change.
The role of women will be a major theme next year at the NCSC’s CyberUK In Practice 2018, so make sure you aren’t left behind and can join us in the discussion about the changes that are already happening.
NCSC Deputy Director for Digital Government