News

Government challenges cyber women of the future

Created:  10 Dec 2018
Updated:  10 Dec 2018
The 2019 CyberFirst Girls Competition is challenging girls to take on problem solving and code cracking
  • Competition launched to boost number of girls in cyber jobs
  • Women currently only make up 11% of the global cyber workforce 
  • Project run by the UK’s cutting edge National Cyber Security Centre, a part of GCHQ

Cyber-savvy girls have been challenged by the government to pit their digital wits against one another in a nationwide problem-solving and code cracking GCHQ competition.

Organised by the National Cyber Security Centre, which was created by the government in 2016 to boost skills and the UK’s cyber resilience, the annual CyberFirst Girls competition is designed to develop and nurture the next generation of cyber skilled professionals.

Women currently only make up 11% of the global cyber workforce, but by sparking a life-long interest in the girls who take part, and tapping into new talent, this could ultimately turn into more careers in cyber security, helping to make the UK one of the safest places to live and do work online. 

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Skills and Growth, said:

“Over the last two years an amazing 12,500 young girls have tackled our CyberFirst Girls competition. The third edition will be bigger and better than ever, and we hope a new set of entrants are queuing up to take the challenge.

“Women are still only a small proportion of the global cyber work-force and engaging with and inspiring the next generation is key to addressing the current cyber skills gap.

“Good luck to those taking part – your challenge awaits!”

Over the past two years 12,500 female pupils in schools across the UK have participated in the annual CyberFirst Girls competition to crown the UK’s most cyber-capable young women.  

Open to girls in Year 8 in England and Wales, S2 in Scotland and Year 9 in Northern Ireland (12-13yrs of age) participants can enter in teams of up to four, along with a teacher/school mentor who will act as a guardian. The competition has two stages – a week long online phase in January and a finals day in March 2019.  

Digital Minister Margot James said: 

"We want to show girls across the country that cyber security is exciting, rewarding and challenging.  

“The CyberFirst Girls competition will help inspire the workforce of the future and also show girls that whatever their background or interest, a career in cyber security is fulfilling.  

“It's been a fantastic success so far and I hope thousands more will take part this year." 

The first online phase of this year’s competition, which launches today, will see each team attempt to complete a series of challenges split into four categories: cryptography, cyber security, logic and coding and networking. The top 10 teams will compete in a face-to-face Grand Final in Edinburgh in March 2019. 

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Quotes from former participants:

Odette, a pupil from Gloucestershire: 

 “I really enjoyed how the competition story fitted together and was set out like a realistic cyber attack. The challenges covered skills in computing you wouldn’t ordinarily come across at school.”  

Anna-Rose, a pupil from Armagh, Northern Ireland: 

“The competition taught me and my team-mates a lot and I think I'd now like to do computing for GCSEs.”  

Neve, a pupil from Kent: 

“I never would have entered the competition because it wasn't something I was interested in, but then I did it and realised how vast cyber security is and all the different things you can do with that knowledge.”  

Learn more about the CyberFirst Girls competition here and register a team.

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