LONDON, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Britain's secret intelligence service Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has set up all-women classes in cyber-skills in a bid to recruit a wider range of online security experts.
According to local media reports on Thursday, there will be 600 free places on all-female CyberFirst Defenders courses in April and May this year, run as a mix of residential and non-residential training events.
The venues for the four-day courses will include Nottingham, Lancaster, Wrexham, Edinburgh and Oxfordshire.
The intention is to make cyber-skills lessons more open to teenage girls, in a field which has been accused of having a very male image, whether it is James Bond-style stereotypes or stock photos of teenage boys in hoodies.
Almost 90 percent of the cyber-skills workforce worldwide is male, according to GCHQ's cyber-defence arm, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). About 35 percent of the agency's overall staff and half of its senior leadership are female.
A report last summer revealed the intelligence community is still not gender balanced and fails to mirror the ethnic makeup of modern Britain.
Chris Ensor of the NCSC says it needs to "address the imbalance".
NCSC has launched the CyberFirst Girls competition last month to promote computer skills and careers in cyber-security, as it wants more teenage girls to get involved, with questions designed to build skills in cryptography, cyber-security, logic and coding and networking.
It is part of a wider CyberFirst project aimed at raising cyber-skills in young people up to the age of 18.
The lack of women in cyber-security is part of the bigger picture of women in science, technology, engineering and maths, said the NCSC.