By Lynn Studd, Director of Global Secure Solutions
Last weekend I had the honor of presenting prizes to the winners of this year’s East of England Final at the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC). CyberFirst Girls Competition.
JThe event, one of 13 finals held across the country, took place at BT Research and Innovation Headquarters, Adastral Park, Ipswich, where the Watford Grammar School for Girls was announced by the NCSC.
For a number of years, voices from across the security industry have highlighted a skills gap in cyber-a profession that is expected to attract more than 4 million dedicated and trained colleagues around the world.
And yet, the strong job stability and career path that cybersecurity offers is not so widely appreciated by women and girls who are underrepresented in the profession. So what’s going on?
Well, as Sheryl Sandberg once said, “you can’t be what you can’t see”. Almost a decade later, it still rings true. Only 16% of the cyber workforce identifies as female.
Education from an early age is, of course, a major part of closing the gender gap in cyber. Schools constantly strive 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 must provide a forum for schoolchildren to engage and understand the profession, using demonstrations, workshops and lessons to inspire them to strive for careers in cybersecurity.
The answer may lie in the perception of the cybersecurity profession as aspirational, reserved for those with a highly specialized technical skill set. But, for girls who don’t see themselves as the world’s next ethical hackers, cybersecurity isn’t just about computers and coding, and it’s not just for hackers and geeks.
Too often we focus on the components of cybersecurity (like coding networks and hardware), but not the look and feel of the role itself. The reality is that the field needs a wide range of skills and experts to fill a range of roles, and those roles include people with all skill sets.
That’s why collaborative initiatives such as CyberFirst focus on introducing girls aged 12-13 to the rapidly changing world of cybersecurity and support those interested in a career in the industry and the wide range accompanying roles.
By showing how accessible it can be to young women and girls, we are building momentum that will create the workforce needed to tackle the security challenges 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 program, visit: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/cyberfirst/overview