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Wales’ future female tech stars celebrated

9 February 2023

Four schoolgirls pose for photograph holding laptops and a certificate
(L-R) Chloe, Sophie, Annis, and Maelie from St Joseph’s RC High School in Newport take home new laptops and CyberFirst Girls competition glory after winning the 2023 Welsh regional final

Four schoolgirls from Newport have been crowned cyber security champions after claiming victory in the Welsh final of a contest to uncover more of the UK’s female cyber talent.

The team from St Joseph’s RC High School came out on top of the regional final of the 2023 CyberFirst Girls competition hosted by Cardiff University.

Chloe, Sophie, Annis, and Maelie each received new laptops in recognition of their achievements and will attend a grand prize giving dinner and celebration day hosted by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in London later this year.

“The girls are absolutely thrilled and we’re so proud of them,” said Carys Thomas, a computer science teacher at St Joseph’s who says they’ve seen the number of girls signing up to this competition double in recent years, with girls now making up a third of every computer science GCSE class at the school."

Being part of the event has been an amazing experience for them and being here at the university – seeing the latest tech, meeting the students studying here, and hearing about the world of opportunity computer science offers – is so inspiring at this stage of their school lives.

Carys Thomas

“This subject not only delivers crucial computer skills for their future, but builds confidence, inclusion and teamworking across the curriculum.

“This win will, I know, inspire even more participants next year.”

The CyberFirst Girls competition is the NCSC’s flagship cyber security contest for schools, which opens annually to girls in Year 8 in Wales and England, S2 in Scotland, and Year 9 in Northern Ireland.

It aims to inspire girls to pursue careers in cyber security, a sector where female representation accounts for just 22% of the UK’s workforce.

The Wales event which took place in Abacws, the new £39m home of Cardiff University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics, saw 11 teams tackle challenges covering topics from networking and Artificial Intelligence to cryptography and logic.

Woman delivering talk in lecture theatre
Dr Yulia Cherdantseva welcomes 11 teams of schoolgirls to the Welsh regional final of the 2023 CyberFirst Girls competition at Cardiff University

Dr Yulia Cherdantseva, Director of Cardiff University’s Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Education, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure hosting the Welsh regional final of the CyberFirst Girls competition this year and seeing first-hand all of the young female cyber talent we have here in the region.

“I want to congratulate the finalists and everyone who took part over the course of the competition. The girls should be really proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

Cardiff’s mission to get more women and girls into cyber

In October 2022, the NCSC recognised Cardiff University as an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Education.

One of 10 UK universities to receive the gold award, it acknowledges the Univeristy’s work providing high quality cyber security degree programmes, raising public awareness about cyber security and delivering important  skills to young people via initiatives including Technocamps, TeenTech, UnlockCyber and, since 2018, CyberFirst events in secondary schools in Wales.

Dr Cherdantseva, who is a Senior Lecturer in Cyber Security at Cardiff University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics, added:

It’s crucial that we get more women and girls interested in cyber, not only to demonstrate that it’s an exciting and rewarding career option but also so the sector can benefit from the perspectives and capabilities of female experts.

Dr Yulia Cherdantseva Senior Lecturer

“It’s something we’re passionate about here at Cardiff University and is built into our outreach programmes with schools and the local community.”

More than 8,700 pupils took part in the CyberFirst Girls competition which culminated in 13 regional finals held simultaneously across Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, said: “Congratulations to all the teams taking part in this year’s competition – and especially to those who emerged victorious in their respective finals.

“The 2023 CyberFirst Girls Competition has been a great success, and I’d like to pay testament to the teachers who have inspired and supported their students throughout and also thank industry partners for their support in making this all possible.

“It’s heartening to see so many young people engage with cyber security, and I hope that many of you will pursue a career within the industry and protect the UK from future online threats.”

Image of mounted computer displays featuring the National Cyber Security Centre logo, cartoon characters and a message, which reads: Welcome to the CyberFirst Girls’ Competition Final 2023
One of Abacws’ innovative teaching rooms setup ready for CyberFirst challenges

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