Women are “worryingly under-represented” in the cyber security field, intelligence chiefs have warned.
Officials flagged up a global shortage of female staff as they launched a competition for schoolgirls which could unearth the online spies of the future.
Chris Ensor, director for skills and growth at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said: “We want to inspire the next generation of tech-savvy young women to consider a career in cyber security and make a positive impact on the world.
“Females are worryingly under-represented in the global cyber workforce, but there are exceptionally talented girls in our schools.
“We hope this competition can help to knock down some of the barriers holding them back.”
Experts have devised 100 challenges of varying difficulty for schoolgirls aged 12 to 13 to complete during the online phase of the 2018 CyberFirst Girls Competition.
The NCSC said the contest is aimed specifically at female pupils because women make up only 10% of the global cyber workforce.
“This means a huge swathe of talent in the UK are potentially missing out on a career they could excel in,” said the organisation, which was launched in 2016 to spearhead Britain’s fight against threats in cyber space.
Jeremy Fleming, director of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), said the agency is committed to “protecting the digital homeland and making the UK safest place to live online”.
He added: “We need the best and brightest people – girls and boys – with a passion for technology, who can deliver the nation’s cyber security.
“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.”
For information about the competition and registration go to www.cyberfirst.ncsc.gov.uk/girlscompetition