It wasn’t so long ago that a young girl considering her career choices would have found herself with a distinct lack of options. While boys were encouraged to dream of being astronauts and fighter pilots, girls were gently pushed towards cookery, sewing and other home making skills.
Now, however, times are changing, and more women than ever are flocking to previously male-dominated fields.
But as far as the National Cyber Security Centre and the Government Communications Headquarters are concerned, it’s not enough – and they want to encourage even more young girls to start looking at a career in computer science and related fields.
In fact, according to the NCSC there is currently a global shortage of women working in cybersecurity.
In an attempt to redress this balance, they have teamed up with GCHQ to launch a competition aimed at finding the UK’s most tech-savvy girls.
Open to girls between the ages of 12 and 13, the online competition invites participants to solve a number of head-scratching challenges – each designed by experts to test students’ codebreaking skills.
By encouraging youngsters to take part in teams of up to four, the organisers hope that they might inspire them to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
“Too often, society limits girls in what they aspire to achieve. Our CyberFirst Girls Competition will give teams the opportunity to develop new skills, meet new people and gain an exciting insight into the world of national security. I hope many of you and your friends will be inspired to enter – and perhaps take the prize.” – Jeremy Fleming, Director – GCHQ
But the puzzles are certainly no walk in the park. In fact, the five samples released to the press invite participants to complete logic gates, crack coded messages and solve cryptic crosswords.
In total, entrants to the competition will be asked to submit the solutions to a brain-busting 100 challenges.
Last year, as many as 8,000 girls entered the competition, with a similar uptake expected this time around.
Out of all submissions, the top 10 teams will be invited to take part in a live final in Manchester in March 2018. The winners will receive £1,000 towards IT equipment for their school, along with individual prizes for each member.
Registration for the competition is open now, while the online challenges will go live on 29 January 2017. Entrants will have until 5 February to complete the tasks.