For those of you who don't know, Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer program in 1843 (a century before the modern computer age) and is widely regarded as the first computer programmer. The NCSC would like to thank the organisers of Ada Lovelace Day for giving us a chance to reflect on her work, including her best known quote: "Your best and wisest refuge from all troubles is in your science."
However, barriers have prevented generations of women from finding their "best and wisest refuge from all troubles" through science, despite the fact that it was a woman who first recognised the full potential of a computing machine. I'm pleased to say that we at the NCSC are absolutely committed to removing these barriers and giving every woman the opportunity to take her sage advice.
This year's Frost and Sullivan report (PDF) estimated that for every woman working in cyber security globally, you will find nine men. Women in technology face huge difficulties, with 40% giving up their jobs in high-tech companies, compared to fewer than 20% of men. More than a third of women leaving STEM roles have said the working environment is the cause of their disaffection.
I’m proud that the NCSC is fully committed to rectifying these facts (described as 'scandalous' by our Chief Executive Ciaran Martin), and building a truly gender-diverse workforce. We are practicing what we preach - half of our senior leadership are female, and we are determined to improve the figure of one third of our staff being female.
The gender-diverse senior leadership is fully behind the NCSC drive to help women enter (and remain in) technology roles. For example, we are:
- working with the private sector to provide first-job placements for female STEM graduates
- pioneering a ‘cyber code of conduct’ to make sure women working in the field feel respected and equal
- ensuring women returning to technological roles after a career break receive mentoring and sponsorship
These approaches are unusual for a technology-centric organisation. Without them, we run the risk of missing out on a huge pool of untapped talent. But we want to do more than just influence the debate; we want to set the agenda that will realise our goal of a truly representative workforce.
I’m pleased to say we are already making a huge impact. Take, for example, our CyberFirst Girls competition, which is helping to lay the foundations for greater diversity in the cyber industry. More than 8,000 teenage girls demonstrated their enthusiasm for the technical complexities of our digital world. Perhaps more importantly, they displayed outstanding abilities to solve incredibly difficult technical challenges and puzzles. We fully expect the CyberFirst Girls Competition 2018 to be even bigger and better, and that in years to come we’ll see many of the participants enjoying challenging and rewarding roles within the cyber security industry.
CyberUK 2018: Women in cyber security
We are proud of what we have achieved so far, but there is so much more to do. Off the back of CyberUK 2017 (which is our annual cyber security summit), the NCSC's technical director Ian Levy issued a challenge to "make the cyber security industry an exemplar for diversity and inclusion." You can expect us to address the themes of diversity - including women in technology - at our next CyberUK event in April 2018.
Deputy Director Economy & Society, NCSC