We frequently hear the terms ‘Cyber 9/11’ and ‘Digital Pearl Harbor,’ but what might policymakers do the day after a crisis? The Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge is an annual cyber policy competition for students to compete in developing national security policy recommendations tackling a fictional cyber incident, offering a fantastic insight into the real world possibilities of a career in STEM.
On 17th and 18th February, 17 teams of four will compete in a series of strategy challenges associated with cyber security and conflict, designed to identify and foster the next generation of policy and strategy leaders for the challenges of the future.
Women and Banking in Finance (WIBF) are delighted to once again be a supporter of Cyber 9/12, an event which shares our commitment to nurturing diverse talent and networks. For the second year running, Cyber 9/12 has achieved an even gender split of competitors, which is such an important achievement given how underrepresented women are in STEM roles. Only 14% of the people working in STEM in the UK are female. Only one-in-six tech specialists in the UK are women. Only one-in-ten are IT leaders. And, worse still, despite significant growth in the number of women working in IT roles, female representation in the technology sector has stalled over the last ten years.
It is becoming increasingly clear that harnessing the power of ‘cognitive diversity’ is the solution to tackling complex problems; and the more diverse is a team, the more likely it will be able to overcome challenges and bounce back during difficult situations. Diversity is not just about a mix of backgrounds and cultures, but about the variety of ideas that are essential for the modern workplace. It helps us to avoid group-think which leaves us exposed to blind spots.
This is why events such as Cyber 9/12 are key to developing and showcasing diverse talent. As well bringing real-life scenarios to the forefront, it drives the importance of building diverse teams that work towards a common goal, bringing all their combined skills and knowledge to the table. It also offers students a unique opportunity to interact with expert mentors and high-level cyber professionals while developing valuable skills in policy analysis and presentation.
To be resilient in the face of future cyber security challenges we need a talented and diverse workforce consisting of technical, policy and strategy skills. Crucially, the Cyber 9/12 UK Strategy competition pulls together mixed discipline teams, combining these different types of expertise, and gives them a realistic joint challenge.
According to the recent UCAS data, the percentage of female graduates with core STEM degrees is steadily growing; however, the split is still just 26%. This is also translated in the female STEM workforce, with women making up 22%, showing that some work needs to be done to encourage women to both study these subjects, and transition into the workforce.
The Cyber 9/12 competition therefore provides an excellent vehicle to promote the dialogue around the value and need for cyber strategy and policy expertise, how to generate these skills sets and strengthen the teamwork between both technical and non-technical disciplines.
Having a broad range of inherent and acquired diversity brings a larger pool of different ideas and lots of different perspectives to work with. Sameness has limitations where diversity is boundless. Sameness can move quickly towards damaging decisions, but diversity has a natural system of checks to balance the process.
This is something we have harnessed within our own digital team at WIBF, recognising the value of diversity, and where its team members can lean on each different experiences and work together to achieve spectacular results.