Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Teenage girls are being targeted as the next generation of UK spies

alicia-vikander-heather-lee-bourne-cybersecurity.png

In recent weeks and months, the normally shadowy world of cybersecurity – and secret agents – has been thrust into the spotlight. Whether it’s reports of Russian hacking interfering with the US election, or the news that a British former M16 officer was behind a recently published dossier of shocking (and unverified) claims about Donald Trump, the world of James Bond suddenly doesn’t seem especially far-fetched.

But the thing about James Bond is that he’s middle-aged and white – and, you know, a man. Now, in a bid to shake off the image of secret agents as “male, pale and stale”, security services in the UK are targeting a new group for recruitment: teenage girls.

The Telegraph reports that Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) are set to launch a nationwide competition for schoolgirls aged 13 to 15, in a bid to recruit more female cyber spies – like Alicia Vikander’s character Heather Lee in Jason Bourne (above).

homeland

Claire Danes as CIA officer Carrie Mathison in Homeland.

The initiative is part of CyberFirst, GCHQ’s TeachFirst-style graduate training scheme. Cybersecurity is one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, with tech skills essential for modern-day security service officials.

Spy chiefs hope that thousands of girls from across the UK will apply for the competition when it launches in February, as it is remotely accessible at schools around the country.


Read more: These are the top 10 UK cities to find a job in 2017


A spokesperson for GCHQ says that the competition is a quest “to find the best and brightest candidates to protect the nation from future cyberattacks.”

“Only 10 per cent of the global cyber workforce are female, meaning millions of British women may be missing out on a career they could excel in.”

After signing up to the competition in groups of four, the girls will be sent online tests and challenges in cybersecurity which they can take on their school computers. Questions will be on logic, coding and cryptography (the art of writing or solving codes).


Watch: How to manage your week


The 10 highest-scoring teams will then be invited to a national final in London, where they will be given a complex cybersecurity threat to investigate before presenting their findings to a panel of spy chiefs. The prize will be £1,000-worth of IT equipment for the winning team’s school.

“The CyberFirst Girls Competition allows teams of young women a glimpse of this exciting new world and provides a great opportunity to use new skills,” says Robert Hannigan, the director of GCHQ. He adds: “I work alongside some truly brilliant women who help protect the UK from all manner of online threats.”


Read more: Five steps to finally making that brilliant app idea a reality


And Alan Smethers, head of the centre for education and employment at Buckingham University, points out that some of the skills needed to excel in cybersecurity will be second nature to teenage girls, who’ve grown up with technology at their fingertips.

“Teenagers use sophisticated technology as an everyday part of their social life and so it is odd that girls shouldn’t think of using these skills in their future careers,” he says. “Girls will see that it isn’t something mysterious but a natural extension of what they do every day through social media.”

Images: Rex Features

Related

women writers.jpg

The 10 creepiest jobs and careers in the world, according to science

feminists-of-the-year-2016.jpg

The fearless feminists who rallied against inequality in 2016

woman at work.jpg

Revealed: the most profitable second languages that we need to learn

Comments

Latest...

Helen Mirren’s on-point career advice is the best you’ll ever hear

Concise and brilliant insight from the Hollywood icon

by Anna Brech
26 Jul 2017

Quiz: which famous duo are you and your work wife?

It’s time to find out, once and for all, who you and your work wife really are…

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Jul 2017

Why you really need to start taking lunch breaks at work

A culture of presenteeism means we're glued to our desks and rarely go outside

by Anna Brech
20 Jul 2017

Girl interrupted: how to handle people always talking over you

Only ever get to finish half your sentence? Here’s how to make yourself heard

19 Jul 2017

Why we all need to do the ‘friends test’ before every job interview

Enlist your pals to help stand out from the masses

by Anna Brech
19 Jul 2017

CEO texts job candidates at weekends to test their response time

“I will push and push until I exhaust people”

by Anna Brech
19 Jul 2017

This job ad has been slammed for its “sneery” attack on millennials

“We need a grafter who can commit... we have not been impressed so far”

by Anna Brech
19 Jul 2017

Idiot complains about colleague’s period cramps - and HR backs him up

People menstruate, Guy – get over it

by Kayleigh Dray
13 Jul 2017

Avoid these two common mistakes when asking for a pay rise at work

Keep your cool during the awkward salary chat

by Anna Brech
13 Jul 2017

Wimbledon fans, here’s what it’s like to work as a tennis umpire

A one-day diary from morning latte to lights out

by The Stylist web team
06 Jul 2017