#WomenInScience: High Number of Girls Sign Up for Codebreaking Contest

Over 6500 girls across the UK have signed up to a codebreaking competition aimed at encouraging more girls to consider a career in the cybersecurity industry, the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) has revealed.

These figures have been published on this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a global campaign that aims to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. The NCSC said that the high numbers participating in the 2021 CyberFirst Girls Competition demonstrates significant interest among girls in learning about cybersecurity, an industry in which women remain heavily under-represented.

The competition first launched in 2017, with over 37,000 girls participating since then. It is designed to inspire girls to consider pursuing a career in cybersecurity, thereby improving gender diversity in the sector in the coming years.

More than 600 schools in the UK put forward teams of girls aged 12 to 13 for the first round of this year’s contest, which is being held virtually due to ongoing COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. The teams will tackle puzzles covering cryptography, logic and networking that are set by the NCSC with input from CyberFirst industry partners.

The highest scoring teams in the first round will qualify for the semi-finals, where they will face local rivals in the Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and five English regions on March 19. The winners of these events will earn a place at the Grand Final in April, where they will have the chance to be crowned codebreaking champions.

Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director for cyber-growth, commented: “On International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’re pleased to say that thousands of girls came forward to compete in this year’s CyberFirst Girls Competition and we congratulate the top teams which now go forward into the semi-finals.

“These girls have opened the door to what could one day be an exciting and rewarding career, where more female representation is undoubtedly needed. We owe a special thanks to teachers who encouraged pupils to take up this fun opportunity to engage with – and hopefully be inspired by – cybersecurity.”

Digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman, added: “It is marvelous to see so many girls showing an interest in cybersecurity and well done to those who made it to the next round.

“The cybersecurity industry needs talented people and I hope everyone who took part had fun and felt inspired to consider an exciting career cracking codes, disrupting cyber-attacks and protecting our online spaces.”

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