Young women attending high school in New Jersey are being encouraged to participate in an upcoming cyber-based competition.

The Girls Go CyberStart challenge is a skills-based competition designed to encourage high school girls to consider cyber-based learning and career opportunities.

Jared Maples, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said the competition is an opportunity for young women to explore their aptitude for cyber-security and computer science “ by trying to solve challenges, essentially puzzles that involve cyber security practices and introduce them to disciplines like forensics and open source intelligence, cryptography, web applications — all of the different facets of cyber-security.”

He pointed out high school girls don’t need to have specific computer science training to participate in the challenge.

Maples said it’s important to encourage female high school students to consider cyber-security as a career because “the cyber-security field is mostly occupied by men, and there are still millions of jobs that are vacant in the field.”

“This field is emerging but it’s going to become a dominant field in the country and the world in the next several decades," he said.

Maples pointed out when it comes to cyber-security, “the diversity of thought processes is so important to getting at the problem that we’re seeing today, the very real-world challenges that we’re seeing in cyber security.”

He said it’s important to look at and solve problems in different ways.

“If we can encourage young women to be interested in a career that they may not have thought of or encouraged to apply to, or be involved in, we want to be part of that on the state level, we’re very proud of our record on diversity.”

According to Maples, 1,154 young women from 102 New Jersey high schools participated in the challenge last year, and 21 of them had high enough scores to win $500 college scholarships.

Girls Go CyberStart offers monetary prizes to top teams and in 2018 New Jersey finished in second place among all the states, only behind Texas.

“It’s free to join and I would encourage as much participation as we can, I’d love to get those numbers up there.”

To help teachers and students gain confidence before the competition begins, webinars and practice resources are now available at medium.com/girls-go-cyberstart/mrsgcyberstarttips/home.

Registration for Girls Go CyberStart opens on Dec. 2, with online gaming commencing on Jan. 13.

The Girls Go CyberStart challenge is sponsored by the SANS institute, a company that specializes in information security and cybersecurity training.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com