GCHQ challenges girls to save the UK from cyber-attacks and seeks new generation of female codebreakers


GCHQ has created a new competition for girls aged 12 – 13 in codebreaking, in a bid to create the next generation of female cybersecurity professionals.

Because of the massive shortage of cybersecurity professionals today, it’s more critical than ever for historically underrepresented demographics to help fill the need. There will be up to 3.5 million job openings by 2021 but in the meanwhile, women make up only 20% of the cybersecurity workforce. While that’s up from a mere 11% in 2013, there’s still a lot of opportunity to be seized in cybersecurity careers. What’s more, the UK needs people with disparate backgrounds because the people cybersecurity vendors are pursuing, (threat actors, hackers, ‘bad guys’) also have a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. The wider variety of people and experience the UK has defending networks nationwide, the better our chances of success.

Now being a trailblazer isn’t without its challenges, but according to the Thales eSecurity’s global CISO, Bridget Kenyon, women are absolutely up to the task: “It is great to see GCHQ launch its CyberFirst Girls Competition, which specifically targets girls aged 12 to 13. I’d like to see more of these initiatives targeted at harnessing the interest of female students in STEM subjects, and nurturing it to create cybersecurity practitioners for our future.

“Though the number of women in our industry is rising, women still represent only 20 percent of the overall cyber security community. Given the waves of data breaches hitting British organisations throughout 2018, and the ongoing skills shortage, it’s vital that we work to make cyber security an exciting and accessible career choice for all.”