A DEDICATED teacher committed to closing the gender gap in computing science and cyber security has been lauded by Scotland’s industry leaders as she launches a charitable initiative aimed at furthering female participation in the industry.
Toni Scullion, 32, teaches at St Kentigern’s Academy in Blackburn, West Lothian, and in the coming months will formally launch dressCode – a modern lunch club for schoolgirls keen to learn coding.
Toni has helped three schoolgirls from St Kentigern’s form Turing’s Testers, a cyber security team that placed highly in a number of Scottish and UK competitions.
The team landed the feted Champion of Champions award at last year’s Scottish Cyber Awards.
Toni was also recognised as Cyber Security Teacher of the Year – putting her firmly on the radar of an industry who see her as the leading example of a teacher preparing students for the requirements of the modern world of work in a crucial part of Scotland’s economy.
Toni, originally from Gorebridge, Midlothian, said: “If you can code, you can change the world. Coding is such a core, fundamental skill for swathes of the workplace now and I want girls to feel empowered.
“It’s just dire when you look at the gender diversity numbers in Scotland and the uptake of girls in STEM roles and worrying that there are so many schools with no computing specialists or exposure to those skills.”
She added: “I’ll be launching dressCode this year and I’m just trying to get finishing touches to the website done. Games design and web design will be launched this year with cyber security and app development coming later. I’m so excited about it.”
Mandy Haeburn-Little, chief executive of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), said: “Toni is a marvel. She is a self-confessed latecomer to cyber security, but what she has been able to do in recent years is breathtaking.
“For Scotland to reach its potential as a leading cyber security nation, it needs talent coming through. The threat posed by criminals online is diverse – and so it needs a diverse workforce to deliver the creativity required to combat this effectively.
“The judges were delighted to award Toni and the girls with the top award last year. It’s great to see her now use that as a springboard – and with the launch of dressCode it is clear she is going to make a difference to the lives and careers of many more schoolgirls around the country.”