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Leading women in tech urge schoolgirls to take on the UK's flagship cyber security contest

Registration opens for the CyberFirst Girls competition 2023.

CyberFirst 2023 registration open

  • Registration is now open for the 2023 Girls Competition: the prestigious national cyber contest led by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre
  • Schools and teachers can enrol teams now to inspire more girls to consider a future in technology and cyber security
  • This year some of the UK’s leading voices in tech have come together to encourage students to sign up to the CyberFirst Girls Competition  

Some of the country’s leading women in the tech industry yesterday urged schoolgirls to put their skills to the test in the UK’s flagship cyber security competition.

The call came on the day registration opened for the CyberFirst Girls Competition 2023, where they will be able to try their hand at cracking codes, decrypting messages and solving coding puzzles.

The annual competition is run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a part of GCHQ – and aims to introduce girls aged 12 and 13 to cyber security, with the ultimate goal of increasing diversity in the industry.

With women making up just 16% of the UK’s cyber security workforce, a number of female leaders in tech urged the next generation to enter the competition and see where it leads them.

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO of Stemettes, yesterday said:

"The gender gap in technology is holding all of us back. In cyber, this gap is important to fill as we need to keep folks safe and secure as technology becomes more important - entering this competition is a brilliant way to ensure you can help us all!"

Charlene Hunter MBE, CEO and Founder of Coding Black Females, yesterday said:

“The CyberFirst Girls Competition has already impacted so many girls, and I'm excited to see the 16% increase to a much higher number with opportunities like this.

“Competitions like this are vitally important to ensure that girls and young women are exposed to technology from an early age.

“I've had the privilege of having parents in tech and involvement in the industry has been a large part of my upbringing, this enabled me to see fewer barriers when I started my career as a software engineer and so much of that has had an impact on the creation and development of Coding Black Females.”

Anna Brailsford, CEO of Code First Girls, yesterday said:

“There are so many exciting career opportunities in the tech industry, but sadly far too many girls and women still think the industry isn’t for them. They couldn’t be more wrong.

“Tech businesses and organisations are increasingly recognising the importance of diverse workforces because it makes their tech products and systems much stronger – so there has never been a better time to get involved.

“I’d encourage any girl to take part in the CyberFirst Girls Competition, and you don’t need to be a fan of science and maths. You might just find a new skill and a new passion, and become part of the next generation of tech talent!”

The competition welcomes everyone from beginners to experts, so entrants don’t need to have any previous knowledge to sign up. The same goes for teachers, who don’t need to have technology experience to put together teams of students.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, yesterday said:

“It’s great to have the support of fantastic role models to help inspire the next generation.

“The Girls Competition is great introduction to the world of cyber that’s both fun and challenging and a great chance for the girls to pit their wits against local rivals.

“Thousands of girls have already enjoyed what the competition has to offer, and I would urge even more schools to come forward this year, including those that have never entered before.”

In their teams the girls tackle fun and challenging puzzles, covering topics from cryptography to AI to logic, in a bid to see off rivals and develop cyber skills. The highest scoring teams will go through to one of 13 finals held across the UK as part of a country-wide celebration of the next generation of cyber talent.

Special individual and team prizes are also up for grabs and considered eligibility rules aim to rally more schools to register – even if they have little cyber experience.

The qualifying round opens at noon on Monday 21st November and runs until Wednesday 30th November. The top teams will then compete at finals held simultaneously on Saturday 4th February in 13 locations, with one held in each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and in English regions.

Girls in Year 8 in England and Wales, S2 in Scotland, and Year 9 in Northern Ireland are encouraged to enter the contest in teams of up to four. A teacher at their school or a school guardian must act as their mentor and register them via the NCSC website.

Independent schools are also required to provide details of two non-selective state schools that they have encouraged to register, to help the contest reach more girls from more diverse backgrounds. Following the introduction of this initiative last year, state schools that had never entered the contest before made up more than 25% of the total number taking part in the 2022 competition: an increase on the 2021 competition.

Since 2017, more than 43,000 girls have taken part in the CyberFirst Girls Competition, with many then going on to take part in other CyberFirst activities. This includes our CyberFirst courses starting at Trailblazers (ages 12-13) and going all the way through to our Advanced course for pre-university aged students.

The NCSC also runs CyberFirst Bursary and Degree Apprenticeship programmes helping young people to kick start their careers in the industry and support the next generation of cyber talent.


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