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Opportunities for women in cybersecurity

Even though women comprise nearly 50 per cent of the global population, they make up only 24 per cent of the cybersecurity workforce – a far cry from gender parity. There’s a clear need to attract and involve more women in the field. As companies today face advanced, emerging and increasing security threats, they can benefit from a more inclusive cyber team that incorporates diverse perspectives and experiences. It’s incumbent on organisations to take action and help increase the profile of women in cyber.

Cyber offers fulfilling career paths and opportunities. Women can bring their skills and experiences to the table to make an impact in a number of ways and below is a sampling of cyber opportunities which are alternatives to the traditional, technical cyber career path:

As propagators of cybersecurity awareness and best practices

Organisations need security educators and propagators across sectors, domains and geographies. Not only is it key to elevate awareness of – and secure buy-in for – a strong cybersecurity posture at the executive and board levels, but it’s also important to raise awareness among employees at large. There are opportunities for women with strong communication skills to influence the right people to allocate time and resources to security challenges and get cybersecurity involved in business campaigns sooner. There are also opportunities to help empower and equip employees to recognise phishing scams, malware and other threats. The ability to combine a passion for communications with a proactive approach to cyber can have a great impact – helping organisations build resilience against expensive breaches and critical vulnerabilities.

As effective problem solvers and innovators

Addressing cybersecurity is an intricate jigsaw puzzle comprising cyber strategy, data protection and privacy, application and infrastructure security, risk and compliance, identity governance, access management and more. If the puzzle isn’t assembled and solved in a reasonable timeframe, or if a piece turns out to be missing, its overall effectiveness and impact are highly diminished. This can cause an organisation to suffer both financial and reputational hits. Today, there is a strong need for continuous innovation and an evolution in cybersecurity practices and tools to combat sophisticated cyberthreats. Women with exceptional problem-solving abilities, who thrive at analysing and assembling solutions in a logical way, can put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together – identifying and crafting approaches to drive innovation and increase business resilience.

As guardians of customer relationships

Organisations today collect and store massive amounts of data about their customers and prospects. Yet high-profile breaches across industries diminish customers’ confidence in the ability of companies to protect their personal information. At a time when demonstrating trustworthiness and building trust equity are paramount, it’s important for companies to show that they’re responsible stewards of customer data and committed to data protection. Women who excel at building productive relationships with internal and external stakeholders can communicate transparently with customers about cybersecurity measures to build trust and loyalty.

As effective crisis managers during cyberattacks

If crisis situations arise, they require a great deal of work on the ground – to resume operations, fix the root cause of the issue (and prevent it in the future) and restore trust among those affected. Women with strong leadership qualities, who can act quickly and with empathy, can help their companies minimise the impact of an incident on stakeholders, while quickly restoring operations, credibility and security. These leadership traits have also been important as companies navigate and emerge from the pandemic.

As torchbearers of a cyber literacy mission within society

The pandemic has spurred and accelerated digital transformations across industries, with more services available online and an increase in social media activity. As internet usage increases, senior citizens and children, in particular, can be more vulnerable to cybercrimes. Women with a passion for teaching have an opportunity to aid in building a more cyber-literate society – increasing awareness among family and community members at large of internet safety.

The time is now

The World Economic Forum’s “The Global Risks Report 2021” drives home the need for a robust and proactive approach to cybersecurity. According to the report, cybersecurity failure is “among the highest likelihood risks of the next ten years.” This comes at a time when the cyber workforce gap is a large one, encompassing more than 3 million open jobs, according to (ISC)2.

It’s high time to bring more voices, perspectives and diversity to cyber, to protect organisations and people now and in the future. This requires a multi-pronged approach, including highlighting meaningful contributions of women in cyber, thereby providing role models and examples; creating mentorship programmes and opportunities at all levels; encouraging diverse career paths and experiences when entering the field; and involving girls, at a young age, in STEM programmes and challenges.

Even seemingly small, individual actions and examples can accumulate to have a positive impact. As we’ve seen with the “butterfly effect” phenomenon, “an event as simple as the flutter of a butterfly wing has the potential to create a storm on the other side of the world.” Through the actions that organisations, leaders and individuals take today to inspire and involve more women in cyber, they can create a butterfly effect of meaningful change – and a more inclusive and expansive group of cyber warriors can take flight.