Wednesday 12 June 2019
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) ran the CyberFirst Girls Competition, a nationwide contest to inspire and encourage young girls across the UK to consider IT at GCSE and to ultimately pursue a career in cyber security.
Only 11% of the global cyber workforce is made of women. The CyberFirst Girls Competition is a nationwide contest to inspire and encourage young girls across the UK to consider IT at GCSE and to ultimately pursue a career in cyber security.
After an online round of codebreaking challenges, the top 10 schools competed in a face-to-face Grand Final in Edinburgh and were tasked with working through a real world based scenario. The winning girls saved the day for a fictitious company dealing with a cyber incident, developing skills in networking, cryptography, logic and coding along the way.
The campaign was targeted towards 12-13 year old girls, and parents and teachers of 12-13 year old girls, as well as cross-HMG and industry stakeholders.
Understanding the audience was at the heart of the strategy. Through focus groups with teachers and girls, NCSC gathered insight on their attitudes, habits and preferences.
NCSC strived to make the girls themselves the voice of the competition, nurturing peer advocacy from 2018 Finalists and the 2019 online round participants.
Teachers informed NCSC that state schools have strong relationships with Local Education Authorities. We gathered support from over 90 LEAs, as well as Multi-Academy Trusts and educational associations, across the UK who shared information directly with headteachers, via e-bulletins, social media and portals.
Teachers also mentioned their busy schedules. So along with marketing materials, such as posters and social media assets, we produced an Information Pack that consolidated key facts and tackled their primary concerns.
Marketing materials were produced in English and Welsh and designed to be eye-catching and fun. They included images and quotes from the 2018 Finalists, as well as inspirational women throughout the ages.
The 2018 competition winners met the Queen during GCHQ centenary celebrations, securing national media coverage. They also took part in a Sky News broadcast feature on the competition.
A team of 2019 finalists were the focus of a BBC Newsround feature documenting the Grand Final from the girls’ point of view, in order to target a younger audience. We worked in partnership with the BBC to syndicate 20 plus regional news reports across the UK.
Engaging over 50 influencers, we cultivated connections to target areas and engaged role models to enhance girls’ perceptions of STEM subjects. From the offset, we encouraged schools to share images and videos of their competition journey.
We hosted pre-competition events across the UK, such as at Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School, Blackburn, who became fantastic peer advocates for the competition.
With the largest and most diverse set of participants, this was the most successful competition to date. Nearly 12,000 girls took part in the competition, a 162% increase on the previous year. The majority of the Top 100 schools were non fee-paying.
From Cornwall to Caithness, Cardiff to County Armagh, schools participated from all corners of the UK, with increased national spread on previous years. The number of schools taking part from Scotland and Wales doubled, with a team from Northern Ireland competing in the Grand Final.
A record 468,566 answers were submitted, with 98% of participants saying they would like to learn more about cyber security as a result of the competition. 705 competition participants have since applied for the CyberFirst Defenders courses.