RALEIGH Feb 19, 2018 More than 400 North Carolina high school girls will take part this week in an online competition to explore careers in cybersecurity. North Carolina First Lady Kristin Cooper, Secretary of Administration Machelle Sanders, and Secretary of Information Technology Eric Boyette will visit high schools across the state this week to watch girls compete in Girls Go CyberStart. The competition begins Tuesday, February 20 and runs through Sunday, February 25. North Carolina girls in grades 9-12 who signed up by February 16 will compete online against girls from 16 other states and territories for a chance to win prizes while exploring a future career. As of Friday, 468 North Carolina girls from 41 counties had signed up to compete in Girls Go CyberStart. “This is an exciting way for North Carolina girls to test their problem-solving skills, enjoy a fun competition and perhaps discover their future career path,” First Lady Kristin Cooper said. “We need more women and girls in technology fields and this is a great way to recruit the next generation of cybersecurity experts.” To see North Carolina high school girls compete in Girls Go CyberStart: First Lady Kristin Cooper will visit Greene Central High School, located at 140 School Drive in Snow Hill, on Tuesday, February 20 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Secretary Machelle Sanders will visit the NC School of Science and Mathematics, located at 1219 Broad Street in Durham, on Wednesday, February 21 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Secretary Eric Boyette will visit Wayne School of Engineering, located at 700 N. Herman Street in Goldsboro, on Friday, February 23 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. During the competition, participants will work solo or in teams of up to four students to solve cybersecurity challenges online. The contest will help the competitors learn cybersecurity skills and test their aptitude for future studies or work in this crucial field. The SANS Institute has partnered with Cisco, North Carolina and other participating states to offer the program. “Information technology is the career focus of the future, and it is essential to have a diverse workforce in this field so that not only North Carolina, but the United States, has the support it needs to contend in the cybersecurity industry. Women and girls can make that happen,” said Secretary Eric Boyette, North Carolina's Chief Information Officer and head of its Department of Information Technology. North Carolina is a leading state for women in technology. According to the NC Technology Association, North Carolina has the highest percentage of women in technology jobs, 36.5 percent, second only to the District of Columbia. “We’re a top state for women in technology but we need to keep working to attract a diverse workforce to this critical field,” said Secretary Machelle Sanders, who heads North Carolina’s Department of Administration. “Today’s students are tomorrow’s professionals, and I’m looking forward to seeing these young women compete and hone their cyber skills.” About Girls Go CyberStart The program, known as Girls Go CyberStart, was initiated by SANS following the recent launch of their CyberStart program, which helped 3,500 students in seven states discover and demonstrate their aptitude for cybersecurity. Only five percent of the students who participated in its first round were young women. SANS launched Girls Go CyberStart specifically to attract young women in high school to the field of cybersecurity.