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Competition winners pioneer cyber future for girls in Wales

Girls from across Wales have been celebrating their cyber expertise at a special event to mark their success.

Following on from the Women in Cyber Conference, which was held at the International Convention Centre Wales in Newport on February 22, an evening dinner celebrated the successes of the top 10 Welsh teams in the CyberFirst Girls Competition.

CyberFirst is run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of the Government-run GCHQ, and was created to help young people explore their passion for tech by introducing them to the fast-paced world of cyber security.

It is delivered in Wales by the University of South Wales (USW), in partnership with Bangor and Swansea Universities, who organised a celebration event for the Welsh teams who competed in the UK-wide girls’ competition.

The teams attending came from all four corners of the country, including from Archbishop McGrath Catholic High School, Bridgend; Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bro Edern, Cardiff; Cardiff High School; The Maelor School, Wrexham; St Joseph’s RC High School, Newport; Rougemont School, Newport; Ysgol Uwchradd Tywyn, Gwynedd; Porthcawl Comprehensive School; and Mold Alun School.

Pupils from Llanidloes High School were unable to attend, so were replaced by pupils from Corpus Christi High School in Cardiff, which came 11th in the competition.

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During their visit to the afternoon of the Women in Cyber Conference, the girls heard from a number of women working in the cyber industry, then took part in a in a Capture the Flag Competition, organised by global cybersecurity business Palo Alto Networks

They then enjoyed a drinks reception and three-course awards dinner, where they were able to network with officials from the companies which sponsored the tables, experts already involved in the cyber industry in Wales, and employees from the NCSC.

Holly Lidbury, who is Cyber First Project Lead at USW, said the dinner gave those who took part in the competition a look at how the cyber sector can offer a great career.

“Being involved in the CyberFirst Girls competition opens up the world of cyber to a new generation, and to more girls who might not have seen it as a viable occupation,” she said.

“There is still a marked gap between the amount of females and men in the business, so competitions such as CyberFirst Girls, and the celebration event, allow those involved to meet the major players in the industry, understand what job opportunities the area offer, and what’s expected of those working in the cyber business.

“We are very grateful to the sponsors for supporting the competition and celebration event, and offer our congratulations to those who were able to celebrate their success.”   

The Conference and CyberGirls event were sponsored by the Cyber Innovation Hub and Admiral, while the tables were sponsored are Palo Alto Networks, Corassure, 13Fields, Airbus, SudoCyber, Wales & West Utilities, BT, CYSIAM, Goldilock, and Welsh Water

Wales and West Utilities are also a CyberFirst Wales industry partner of St John’s College Cardiff, while Airbus offer the same for St Joseph’s RC High School.

Jamie McCallion of 13FIELDS said: “We at 13FIELDS are keen to support future talent emerging.  As a women-owned business in cyber, we know first-hand that we have to ‘see it to be it’. it’s fantastic to see so many girls attempting and succeeding in this challenging, critical, and exciting competition.” 

Daniel Locke of CORASSURE said: “Empowering the next generation of cybersecurity professionals in Wales is at the heart of CORASSURE’s mission.

“That’s why we are proud to sponsor the CyberFirst Wales Girls event, with a special focus on promoting women in cybersecurity. We believe in building a diverse and inclusive digital future, where everyone has the opportunity to lead, innovate, and secure our world.”

Rupert Ryan of CYSIAM added: “CYSIAM are delighted to sponsor a table at the CyberFirst Girls Competition in Wales. We are committed to fostering diversity and inclusion within the cybersecurity field by supporting initiatives that encourage young girls to pursue a career in cyber.

“We recognise that, as a sector, we need to start earlier to inspire the next generation of female talent to view cybersecurity as a realistic and credible career choice.

“Additionally, sponsoring a table provides an opportunity for CYSIAM to engage with participants directly, offering insights into the industry, mentoring opportunities, and networking possibilities.”