The number of girls seeking to learn new cybersecurity skills through GCHQ-backed online courses rose 60% this year, new figures show.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of GCHQ, said it CyberFirst summer courses had seen the overall number of applications increase, but most notably among girls.
The courses, split into three levels for young people aged 14 to 17, aim to uncover the next generation of cybersecurity experts by introducing young people to topics such as digital forensics, ethical hacking and cryptography.
According to the NCSC’s figures, the number of girls who applied for the courses, which were run virtually, rose from 930 last year to 1,492 this year.
The number of boys who applied rose by 30%, from 1,824 in 2019 to 2,398 this year.
Why is our #CyberFirst university bursary a great way to start your cyber security career?
Whether it’s the paid summer placements or the chance to do your part in protecting the nation – join our team, and you’ll help to defend our digital world https://t.co/EehtRHHSTW pic.twitter.com/JbT3Eu1rJv
— NCSC UK (@NCSC) September 3, 2020
Earlier this year, the NCSC pledged to take action to improve diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity sector after it was revealed that just 15% of the UK’s workforce in the sector are women, and only 14% are from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Chris Ensor, the NCSC’s deputy director for cyber growth, said: “I’m delighted to see that more young people are exploring the exciting world of cybersecurity, and it’s especially encouraging to see such a level of interest from girls.
“Our online courses have provided new opportunities for teenagers of all backgrounds and we are committed to making cybersecurity more accessible for all.
“Ensuring a diverse talent pipeline is vital in keeping the UK the safest place to live and work online, and CyberFirst plays a key role in developing the next generation of cyber experts.”
The CyberFirst courses were launched in 2016 to introduce young people to cybersecurity.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “It’s great to see so many young people taking part in the CyberFirst summer courses. These fantastic experiences give teenagers an insight into the exciting and varied careers on offer in cybersecurity.
“We want our cyber sector to go from strength to strength, so it is vital we inspire the next generation of diverse talent to protect people and businesses across the country.”