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International Women’s Day: Women in Cyber

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In 2024, for many reasons, we still see few women working in cybersecurity. Browser results for the search term ‘Cybersecurity’ often contain dark, masculine-themed images, men in suits versus men in hoodies and language terms such as ‘Man’-in-the-middle persist. Around 26% of the tech workforce is estimated to be women, with less than 20% holding leadership roles. Representation is predicted to grow, but not quickly enough – with an estimated 3-4 million unfilled cyber roles worldwide.  

Ahead of International Women’s Day 2024, we spoke to Sadie Cussons, Cybersecurity Operations Manager at Systal Technology Solutions…. 

How did you get into Cybersecurity? 

I spent over twenty years in various leadership roles in Insurance and Financial Services at Aviva. Through wanting to do something different I joined Systal in 2021 as a Project Manager, where I managed Network projects for Systal customers as well as internal projects supporting key developments within Systal as the company continued to grow. I’d heard about the Cybersecurity business area and in 2022 I was asked to support this area in a Project Management capacity. After only 5 months of working with the team, I was delighted to be offered the role of Cybersecurity Operations Manager.  

What advice would you give to someone thinking about moving into Cybersecurity? 

The cyber workplace has a wide variety of roles to offer. Cybersecurity is everyone’s job, and everyone needs an awareness – not at a technical level, but to maintain an understanding of the ever-changing risk landscape. No matter what role you are currently in, you likely already have cybersecurity experience, so keep that front of mind. Research the type of role you’d like to explore, build yourself a network (there is an army of supportive people in this industry), put yourself outside of your comfort zone, listen, learn and never be afraid to ask questions.  

What skills are needed? 

The cyber workplace needs people with a variety of skills, including creativity, a curious, problem-solving mindset and attention to detail. Women typically score higher than men in many of these skills particularly leadership and risk modelling, making them naturally good candidates. For specialist and technical roles education and certifications are important, but not always essential and often companies will support the right candidates in obtaining these. Focus is needed on growing interest in technical roles – a McKinsey study found that between 2018- and 2022-women’s representation in technical roles declined, while men’s representation continued to grow. Building a diverse workforce, including diversity of skills, is essential to building an innovative, strong, and high performing cybersecurity team.    

How can we support more women to choose a career in Cybersecurity? 

Flexibility is key to growing the cybersecurity work force particularly when a healthy work-life balance is now more important than ever. Long and unsociable hours are often associated with cybersecurity, but this isn’t always the case, and adjustments can be made so it shouldn’t be regarded as an obstacle.  Working with local schools and universities to raise awareness of the industry and roles available, and offering apprenticeships and on-the-job training is vital to encouraging the next generations of women into an industry where they can make a real social difference.  More female role models and mentors are needed to improve women’s self-confidence in aspiring to join the industry, and steps to remove stereotypes and gender bias must be taken. Look around your workforce today, how diverse is it? What can you do to positively influence this?  

Step outside your comfort zone and #InspireInclusion    

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