Cybersecurity needs to diversify and bring more women into the sector

The cybersecurity sector is still very much a boys club and that needs to change.

Data presented by Forrester Research in 2018 suggested that women represented just 11 percent of cybersecurity researchers worldwide.

“While the privacy field enjoys a more equal male-female distribution among its professionals, the cybersecurity space has been historically dominated by men. Interestingly, women represent just 11% of cybersecurity professionals worldwide. Forrester strongly highlighted that recruiting and retaining women is of vital importance for the cybersecurity market – And I personally believe that it’s starts with some cultural change,” senior analyst at Forrester Research, Enza Iannopollo said of this figure in 2019.

While Cybersecurity Venture reports that this figure may have risen to 20 percent in 2019, this is still not ideal.

Why? Well a lack of diversity leaves you blind to things you may not have experienced in your life.

“Cybersecurity isn’t just ones and zeros, it’s the people factor, it’s understanding the nuances of business and the value of technology and being capable of managing multiple threads at the same time,” says managing director at KnowBe4 Africa, Anna Collard.

Managing director at KnowBe4 Africa, Anna Collard.

“It can be project and people management, ethical hacking, coding as well as the ability to problem solve at speed. The industry is incredibly nuanced and this is what needs to be communicated to the next generation of cybersecurity professional regardless of gender or education,” adds the MD.

But more than that, Collard says that women should be given a chance to expand their skills and be encouraged to explore areas of cybersecurity they may think are outside of their remit.

The MD herself studied International Economics before finding her stride in the cybersecurity space.

It’s important to highlight at this stage that cybersecurity can be taught. You can teach a person to identify a compromised application or how to spot malicious code. But a women being able to apply life experiences that a man has never encountered is something only a woman can understand.

Surely then when it comes to solving problems (which is why cybersecurity boils down to once we strip away the jargon) you would want as many people with experience solving a range of problems on your team?

Diversity by its nature brings multiple people with various life experiences to the table with a view to solving a problem and that’s how cybersecurity teams should be built if we’re honest.

“When I first started out, I did feel inferior to some of my male colleagues who had heavy tech backgrounds,” explains Collard.

“Then, I tapped into them as a resource and used their vast understanding and insight to help me upskilling myself. With their guidance and my own creative tendencies, I was able to see the bigger picture and develop a cybersecurity career that has seen me grow, and sell, my own cybersecurity business. This is an incredibly interesting and diverse industry where anyone open to learning can find a foothold, we just need to show them how,” she adds.

As to the how, when it comes to bringing more women into the sector, Collard points to the magic of the internet and mentorship, though the two can sometimes work hand-in-hand.

“Mentorship is critical to giving people, not just women, the confidence they need to explore this industry and the variety that it offers. Even more importantly, you can teach yourself whatever you need to know using online resources. I think that if a woman can teach herself how to make smoky eyes on YouTube, she can easily learn how to do anything in security. Anything,” says Collard.

With cybercrime ramping up since the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading like wildfire, can a company really afford not to bring as many people onboard as it can?

We’d argue they can’t afford to be fussy about who is hired and looking back at that 20 percent figure, the cybersecurity sector could stand to diversify its hiring policies.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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