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NCSC launches third round of all-female cyber security competition

The National Cyber Security Centre has launched the third round of its annual CyberFirst Girls Competition, in a bid to boost the number of women entering the industry.

Women represent just 11 per cent of the global cyber workforce, and NCSC – a part of the GCHQ intelligence agency – hopes the all-female competition will inspire more young women to consider a career in the lucrative sector.

“Women are still only a small proportion of the global cyber workforce and engaging with and inspiring the next generation is key to addressing the current cyber skills gap,” said NCSC’s deputy director for skills and growth, Chris Ensor.

To date, around 12,500 girls have participated in the scheme, which is open to pupils in year eight in England and Wales, S2 in Scotland and year nine in Northern Ireland. The first phase of the competition is online and presents teams with challenges on cryptography, cyber security, logic and coding, and networking. The second takes place on a finals day in March.

“We want to show girls across the country that cyber security is exciting, rewarding and challenging,” said the minister for digital, Margot James. “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 National Cyber Security Centre was established in 2016 as a key part of the government national cyber security strategy. One of the organisation’s aims is to boost the UK’s homegrown cyber talent.

“A female having a career in cybersecurity needs to become a social norm, not a rarity,” said Tara O’Sullivan, the chief marketing officer of Skillsoft. “This starts in schools, where we need to encourage girls to have the confidence to do whatever they want, even if traditionally it was seen as ‘boyish’.”