Careers for girls in cyber security: it’s not only for hackers and geeks
By Lynn Studd, Director of Global Secure Solutions
Last weekend I had the honour of presenting prizes to the winners of the East of England Final at this year’s National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) CyberFirst Girls Competition.
The event, one of 13 finals held around the country, took place at the home of BT research and innovation, Adastral Park, Ipswich, where Watford Grammar School for Girls were announced the winners by the NCSC.
For a number of years, voices from across the security industry have highlighted a cyber skills gap – a profession that needs to attract more than 4 million more dedicated and trained colleagues globally.
And yet, the strong job stability and career path that cybersecurity offers aren’t so widely enjoyed by women and girls who are under-represented in the profession. So, what’s going on?
Well, as Sheryl Sandberg once said, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” Nearly a decade on, this still rings true. Just 16% of the cyber workforce identify as female.
Education from an early age is, of course, a major part of closing the gender gap in cyber. Schools are persistently working to encourage gender diversity in STEM. But it goes beyond education and requires encouragement and exposure to the world of cybersecurity from an early age.
We need to provide a forum for school children to engage with and understand the profession, using demonstrations, workshops and classes to inspire them to strive for cybersecurity careers.
The answer may lie in the perception of the cybersecurity profession as aspirational, only for those with a set of highly specialised technical skills. But, for girls who don’t fancy themselves as the next ethical hackers of the world, cyber security isn’t just about computers and coding, and it’s not only for hackers and geeks.
We too often focus on the components of cyber security (like coding networks and hardware), but not what the role itself looks and feels like. The reality is that the field needs a broad array of skills and experts to fill a range of roles, and these roles include people with all skill sets.
This is why collaborative initiatives like CyberFirst are focused on introducing girls aged 12 to 13 to the fast-paced world of cyber security and support those interested in a career in the industry, and the broad array of roles that come with it.
By showing how accessible it can be to young women and girls we’re building momentum that will create the workforce needed to tackle the security problems of the future.
For more information on careers at BT Security, visit: https://www.bt.com/careers/careers-at-bt/security
For more information on the CyberFirst programme, visit: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/cyberfirst/overview