Paige Quinn-Jaggar and Ayman Farooq really are pioneers in the male-dominated world of cybersecurity. Sadly, they are also the exception to the rule with women making up just 8% of professionals in a technology sector that is constantly growing in profile and importance.

With ever-growing threats from around the globe, increasing in both intensity and complexity, the role of cybersecurity becomes ever more important. Protecting sensitive and critical data is a key priority in both public and private sectors. 

Paige, who works within the marketing department of Leeds-based Airnow Cybersecurity, has benefited from the Government’s Kickstart scheme along with Airnow colleague Ayman Farooq who has established herself in sales.

Kickstart provided funding to employers to create jobs for those aged 16 to 24. The scheme, which ran until the start of May 2022, has benefited many young jobseekers across the UK.

Paige, who started with Airnow in 2021, explained: “Women are clearly within the minority but schemes such as Kickstart have sought to redress the balance and has given myself and Ayman a foot up into the fast-moving world of cybersecurity.

The kickstart scheme has helped to create a more diverse workforce as companies have recruited individuals that perhaps might never have considered a career in technology.

“It may well be that women are simply unaware of the opportunities or that this sector is considered too technical or traditionally male dominated but a big part of it, in my opinion, is down to education and the way girls in school are not encouraged to go down the tech route.

“Women account for just 8% of employees in cybersecurity and only 19% in technology as a whole. Those are shocking figures and represent some of the worst disparities across all industries. 

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“Whilst it’s a shame to see the Kickstart scheme come to an end, it’s heartening to see that there are other initiatives aimed at encouraging women into a cybersecurity career.

“The CyberFirst programme, for instance, includes some positive initiatives that are helping to buck the trend. It was launched in 2016 by the National Cyber Security Centre, which forms part of GCHQ, and includes female only competitions as well as training and apprenticeships.

“That is a good place to start for any woman interested in cybersecurity.

“Anything the men can do; we can do just as well given the chance. We just need those chances!” concluded Paige.