It’s International Women’s Day 2023, and I’m at the Elevating Women in Cyber Symposium in London. The event takes place every year, with a vision to celebrate and empower women within cyber and champion those aspiring to join the cyber security industry.
There was a brilliant line-up of leading women in cyber, talking about how they advanced their own careers and go about developing the next generation of talent. There were also opportunities to network with the other attendees, giving a fascinating insight into the varied ways people came to the industry.
Here are just a few of my key takeaways from the event, focussing on how to bridge the skills and gender gap in the cyber world.
It is often the case that people are put off from applying for jobs in cyber, because they don’t feel qualified or experienced enough. We were encouraged to make job adverts more accessible by toning down the technical jargon and considering applicants from diverse backgrounds, whilst offering training as part of the employee benefit package.
There was a presentation from Colin Topping, Cyber Incident Director at Rolls Royce, who talked about the value of recruiting people from training programmes and internships. Two women who had graduated from the Rolls-Royce’s training programme were there, sharing their experiences on the course and how they went on to have positions of leadership within the tech sector. The National Cyber Security Centre was also mentioned as a good pathway into cyber for younger women, with their CyberFirst Girls Development Days and CyberFirst Girls Competitions.
If you know of someone who would be a great fit for a cyber security role, invite them to apply or train! It is often hard to see our own transferable skills, so taking an active role in championing another person’s experience could go a long way in seeing more women becoming interested in the field.
There was a brilliant workshop focussed on what ‘soft skills’ means to us in the industry, and how to improve the use of these in job descriptions and professional settings. When introducing a colleague to a new connection, we were encouraged to highlight their experience and what they are good at over listing their technical qualifications. This puts less pressure on people to prove their talent in initial conversations.
Many of the women in the industry were recruited by men. This is most likely because the percentage of women in cybersecurity is roughly 24%, and we have a way to go in closing the gender gap. Moving forward, we need more women (and men!) to actively champion, mentor and recruit other women.
Finally, I was particularly inspired by Dwan Jones, Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at (ISC)², who talked about the importance of bringing diversity into the IT space and having the courage to apply for jobs above your skill set. In her words, “Be determined and go for what you want!”
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