British Intelligence Agency GCHQ sets up all-female cyber-training
The GCHQ has launched an all-female cyber-training program in a bid to diversify and reform the cybersecurity sector. With women only composing 11% of the cyber security workforce, and the growing shortage of talent in the industry. The British Intelligence agency hopes to tackle gender imbalance and inspire more female recruits to join the sector.
Cybercrime is on the rise, and the level of sophistication in these attacks is growing at an alarming rate. When facing a pronounced and increasing cybersecurity skills shortage, narrowing the talent pool to just 50% of the population creates a higher risk of jeopardising critical national infrastructure. Still, due to many factors in play, this is the current reality for the UK. According to Frost & Sullivan’s 2017 report, Europe has the second-lowest percentage of women working in the cyber security industry, one place above the Middle East.
The GCHQ’s information assurance arm, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has conducted another round of CyberFirst Girls Competitions, which this year was followed by a CyberFirst Girl’s defender course. Chris Ensor, the NCSC’s deputy director for skills and growth said, “women only make a small proportion of the global cyber workforce and throughout GCHQ and the NCSC we are looking to address the imbalance.”
The aim of this campaign is to inspire girls to learn cyber skills in a fun and challenging environment and to explore the prospects of a career in cybersecurity.
The competition was held in England, Wales and Scotland and involved female students aged between 12 and 13. This is a very timely and important initiative, as combating gender imbalances in the UK’s workforce has so far failed to achieve any tangible success. PWC’s Women in Tech report found that only 64% of females choose STEM subjects at school compared to 83% of males. The report also showed that only 3% of females who took part in their survey stated that a career in technology would be their first choice. Many female respondents complained that there is not enough available information or support when selecting STEM subjects. As well as, underrepresentation of women in future professional roles associated with STEM subjects.
Over the two years since its launch, 12,500 girls in schools across the UK have participated in the NCSC’s CyberFirst Girls Competition. This year, following the CyberFirst Girls Competition, NCSC also launched over 600 free places for CyberFirst Defenders, a four-day course for the female participants of the competition. The specially commissioned course is an introduction into the domain of the skills, knowledge and tools required to build and secure small networks and consumer end-points.
“3% of females stated that a career in technology would be their first choice”
– PWC Women in Tech
This is a very important and much-needed step which will contribute to the effort to inspire the growth of the future female leaders in the industry.