Last week UNSW's CSESoc Comp Club and SECedu partnered with three of Australia's biggest employers of tech talent - CommBank, PwC and WiseTech Global - to host the 2018 ACCESS for Women programme.
The ACCESS for Women programme provides girls in year 11 and 12 from the Sydney area with a week of industry and technical experience. The programme deliberately welcomes students from a wide variety of schools - including those without access to technology education.
Research shows that young girls often opt out of STEM subjects at critical junctures in education and employment due to a lack of confidence or clarity as to how they can contribute to technical fields.
All three of the partner sponsors hosted site visits which connected students with professionals working in cyber security, engineering and software development. They also hosted hands-on workshops that aimed to provide students with foundational technical skills.
WiseTech Global provided the students with a workshop programming micro:bits in python followed by a site visit to their Sydney office in Alexandria where they were welcomed with inspiring talks by staff. The students were then taken on a tour through their offices and learned how WiseTech use a combination of innovative software and hardware solutions to solve problems in the world of end to end logistics.
Commonwealth Bank welcomed students to the Bank's Cyber Security Centre, where they heard from the Cyber Intelligence, Cybercrime and application security teams. The students then participated in a Raspberry Pi WiFi scavenger hunt and capture the flag (CTF) competition. The girls raced to find 'flags' which exposed them to security concepts like reverse-engineering of software and attacks like SQL injection.
PwC provided a simulation of an organisation-wide cyber security crisis - which taught students key security concepts while encouraging them to work in teams to find the best solutions in a high pressure situation. The exercise emphasised the multi-disciplinary effort necessary to respond to a cyber security incident in a large and complex organisation.
For many students who have never considered pursuing STEM subjects at school, programmes like ACCESS for Women allow them to visualise a career in technology and push them to explore new areas and take chances that can ultimately lead to fulfilling careers.
SECedu is passionate about inspiring more women to engage in technical education - recognising that ultimately our community and profession will be richer for their contributions.