Enter the maze

Felony fighting females

by Jane Waite, Queen Mary University of London

Lone Woman Detective Sillhouette copyright www.istock.com 511585700

It's not just on the big screen that women play techstars. TV crime drama series are peppered with female computer science experts, sleuthing in the back office with algorithms and hastily hacked code. Huge screens track bad guys, countdown clocks thwart explosions, fingerprint programs join the dots flashing up suspects, forensic examinations of, not bodies, but hard drives, lead to car chases and arrests. Here are some of the growing family of felony fighting females.

2003-2014 Chloe O'Brian in 24

Chloe, specialist counter terrorist computer scientist, has helped Jack Bauer save the world some half a dozen times, and always in less than 24 hours. Appearing in over 130 episodes, only Jack has outdone her. Chloe has even had a US government research and development project named after her, an unmanned aerial vehicle that in reality is there to keep the skies safe. Real 24 stuff.

2006-2011: Toshiko Sato in Torchwood

Torchwood are a team of alien hunters, defending the Earth. The computer genius of the team, Toshiko, isn't a token woman - she has the longest history with Torchwood aside from Captain Jack himself.

2013: Clarissa Mullery in Silent Witness

Not for the faint hearted, this crime drama, now in its 20th series, is all about science. The team of forensic pathologists do post mortem lab time with Clarissa bringing together the clues from the 'body work' with the scene of crime evidence. Liz Carr, the actress playing Clarissa is a disability rights activist and her role in Silent Witness champions not only women in tech but also shows that people are not defined by a disability.

2015: Mattie Hawkins in Humans

Synths do all the mundane jobs in Humans, but a small band, supported by Mattie and her family, are more than they seem. They can think! Mattie not only fixes Synths, she also hacks the program to make Synths sentient and sends it viral. Her struggle over the ethics of AI is something we need to consider with or without this Sci-fi series.

2015: Special Agent Patterson in Blindspot

A woman with amnesia covered in tattoos is left in a bag in Times Square: a great opening for a show needing an algorithm expert to crack the body art puzzles. Step in FBI forensic scientist Patterson with a script stacked with computer science. Can you work out what she is talking about in these quotes? "I checked the signature elements in Trakzer's source code against our malware database." "I could find his username with DARPA's deep Web crawler. Or, track his Bitcoin usage in the Blockchain."

In the real world, cyber security is in trouble, there are shortages of staff with the right specialist skills to do the job, and keep us safe. Whatever gender you are, we need more people like you becoming cyber-security specialists. There are university courses and apprenticeships to prepare the next generation of security and forensic computer scientists. Why not find out more, and try the cyber security challenge: https://cybersecuritychallenge.org.uk/

Write a review and send us any cyber security specialists (male or female) you spot in TV, film, books and plays. Any review we like we will add to our website.

If you like writing, why not write a mystery short story with a believable cyber specialist detective? What might be the hi-tech clues that they need to find to unravel the mystery?