Blog post

Diversity in technology: a challenge from the NCSC

Created:  20 Jul 2017
Updated:  20 Jul 2017
Author:  Alison Whitney
Part of:  New talent
Alison Whitney

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.

 

Alison Whitney

NCSC Deputy Director for Digital Government

Topics

4 comments

Karen Frith - 21 Aug 2017
Hi Alison - fully support your comments - I am planning on doing some visits to a bunch of local schools to encourage girls into the industry using some of my experiences, and encourage a reduction in 'black art' rhetoric. We do however, need to ensure industry doesn't automatically reach for the 'positive discrimination approach' - I was (many years ago) positively discriminated for employment and promotion - it caused a number of knock on effects which required a lot of management and relationship building. I really look forward to seeing this theme at next years CyberUK Practice conference.
Alison - 23 Aug 2017
Hi Karen – your schools initiative sounds great. You might want to make sure they know about CyberFirst Girls. I attended the final last year and it was brilliant and inspiring to see enthusiasm of the entrants. Positive discrimination is (of course) illegal, but industry can consider taking positive action for example in recruitment processes. Planning is beginning for next year’s CyberUK event so do watch out for details over the next few months.
Eric - 03 Oct 2017
Hi Alison,

When speaking of diversity does that include older individuals? I've been working in IT for 20 odd years and do a lot of "on the ground" security work. Can NSC use someone like me?

Thanks,

Eric
NCSC Communications Team - 29 Aug 2018
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