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The Female Quotient

Women in cybersecurity: Navigating the digital frontier

2 October 2023 in The Female Quotient

Cybersecurity is a rapidly evolving field, critical for protecting our digital identities and data. In recent years, women have been making significant strides in this male-dominated industry, contributing their unique perspectives and...

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Cybersecurity is a rapidly evolving field, critical for protecting our digital identities and data. In recent years, women have been making significant strides in this male-dominated industry, contributing their unique perspectives and expertise to the world of cyber defense.

Protecting Your Digital Identity

“Cyber security is all about having policies processing procedures and dos and don’ts of using these digital assets in a secure manner; there is a difference between the way the physical world gets protected and the digital space and we have to know the dos and don’ts of the digital space as well,” says Manisha Bansiwal, Deputy Chief Information Security Officer, GMR Group. With industry experience of more than 26 years, of which 15 years has been dedicated to industry of information security, cyber security for business continuity and privacy, she has become a respected figure in the industry.

Empowering Women in the Cybersecurity Arena

In a world where cyber threats can come from diverse backgrounds, having a workforce that mirrors this diversity is essential. Women, who have historically been underrepresented in the field, bring a unique set of skills and insights that can help organizations navigate the complexities of the digital world. Here are some points on how to encourage more women to pursue careers in this domain:

1. Awareness and Education

Raising awareness about the opportunities in cybersecurity and educating women about the field’s potential are crucial steps.

“If you see the data from the past 5 or 6 years in India there has been a steep increase in women of 10% over the workforce in cyber security. Women are realising that there is something in for them and we have better employment policies and parental policies which help women to be more active in their roles.”Megha Goyal, Director, Deloitte India

2. Flexible Work Environments

A recent report found 57% of organizations report unfilled cybersecurity positions. The weaker a company’s line of defense, the more vulnerable it is to major damages. At the same time, we note, some 75% of today’s cybersecurity workers are men.

To truly bridge the gender gap, we must strive for a more balanced representation, aligning with the 50% of the total population that women constitute. Achieving this requires a multifaceted approach.

Firstly, creating awareness about the opportunities in cybersecurity is vital. Secondly, workplaces must adapt and offer a more flexible environment that accommodates the unique needs of women, particularly those who are parents and caregivers. Furthermore, having visible role models who have excelled in cybersecurity is essential for inspiring the next generation.

If you see the data from the past 5 or 6 years in India there has been a steep increase in women of 10% over the workforce in cyber security

“Universities and colleges are currently offering cybersecurity courses, and it’s crucial that these programs are presented in a way that highlights the profession’s value and potential for women.” Ms. Manisha Bansiwal

Establishing open communication channels and forums for women to interact and share experiences can also contribute to enhancing awareness and ultimately increasing the number of women in the field.

3. Role Models

Cybersecurity should be viewed as a viable profession, much like law or medicine. The crucial step is to enhance its visibility and recognition, helping women recognize it as a legitimate and promising career choice. A pivotal factor is the presence of role models, as rightly mentioned by Megha. Successful women who have overcome obstacles and concerns can inspire and guide others.

“Women hold only 25% of jobs in cyber security”  – Ms. Shelley Zalis, CEO, The Female Quotient

Their achievements can serve as beacons of hope, showing that a career in cybersecurity is not only attainable but also rewarding. With these concerted efforts, we can aspire to improve the representation of women in cybersecurity from the current 25% to a more equitable and inclusive percentage, ultimately fostering a diverse and innovative industry.

4. Professional Organizations:

Partnering with organizations can provide a supportive network and resources. Encouraging women to pursue cybersecurity-related degrees or certifications is vital. Scholarships, grants, or financial incentives can make these educational pathways more accessible.

“Organizations like the Society of Women Engineers (Soi) and Women in Cyber Security (WCS) are at the forefront of this movement, actively advocating for increased female representation in these fields and nurturing future leaders. Partnering with such organizations, as our own organization has done with SOI, can truly transform the landscape.”Shubhra Vijay, Compliance Leader, Keysight Technologies

Ms. Vijay dove headfirst into the world of cybersecurity and has since dedicated over 18 years of her career to this dynamic and ever-evolving field. She is a testament to the fact that passion, determination, and breaking traditional gender norms can lead to successful careers and leadership roles in traditionally male-dominated industries.

Paving the Future of Women in Cybersecurity

To secure the future of women in cybersecurity, it’s imperative to inspire and nurture the next generation. Educational institutions, governments, and private organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of encouraging young women to pursue careers in this field.

Initiatives such as mentorship programs, scholarships, fostering a flexible work environment, promoting role models who have excelled in the industry and awareness campaigns are helping break down the stereotypes that have hindered progress for so long.

According to Steve Morgan, founder of Cybersecurity Ventures, Editor-in-Chief at Cybercrime Magazine, and Executive Producer at Cybercrime Radio, females will account for 30% of the global cybersecurity workforce by 2025, reaching 35% by 2031.

When organizations actively support and associate with these initiatives, it creates a positive impact that ripples throughout the industry, fostering a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

Women in cybersecurity are breaking barriers and bringing fresh perspectives to a field traditionally dominated by men. With continued support, education, and representation, more women will contribute to the evolving landscape of cybersecurity, ensuring a safer digital future for all.

This article is based on a panel discussion from The Female Quotient’s (FQ) Equality Lounge sessions at the G20 Summit in New Delhi. IMD is an academic partner of The Female Quotient, which joins forces with companies and leaders to curate experiences, thought leadership, and solutions designed to achieve gender equality in the workplace and beyond. 

Megha Goyal

Director, Deloitte India

Shubhra Vijay

Compliance Leader, Keysight Technologies

Manisha Bansiwal

Manisha Bansiwal

Deputy Chief Information Security Officer, GMR Group

Shelley Zalis

Shelley Zalis

CEO, The Female Quotient


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