The next generation of women in cybersecurity | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, in order to highlight the opportunities for women in cybersecurity, we must also note the challenges they face and how we, as female leaders in this industry, can help.

The field is facing a significant talent shortage, with the demand for cybersecurity professionals far exceeding the supply. Despite this, women are underrepresented in tech roles, including cybersecurity.

According to research from the RMIT Centre for Cyber Security Research & Innovation (CCSRI), women make up a meagre 17% of Australian cybersecurity occupations. This underrepresentation highlights the need to empower women to pursue careers in cybersecurity and bridge the gender gap in this most critical industry. Another disheartening statistic from the CCSRI suggests that only 27% of women in the field have a role model or mentor of the same gender, compared to over 50% of men.

As female leaders in this industry, we have the power to teach, mentor, and support the next generation of women in cybersecurity. We have skills and knowledge—built up over decades of trial and error, failures, and successes—that we can pass on.

Role models provide tangible examples of success and achievement, showing young women that careers in cybersecurity are not only attainable but rewarding. Role models can inspire and motivate individuals to pursue their interests and overcome obstacles, especially in male-dominated fields.

The most important pieces of advice and guidance can be broken down into three categories: developing skills, preparing, and understanding the expectations of organisations in this industry.

Skills for success

There are certain skills I see as crucial to a career in cybersecurity. These are skills possessed by those I look up to, skills I have tried to hone within myself, and skills I hope I demonstrate to those who look up to me.

  • Technical and programming skills: Cybersecurity professionals need a strong foundation in cybersecurity principles, computer networking, operating systems, and cloud computing. Proficiency in programming languages is also essential to success.
  • The think-like-a-hacker mindset: Developing an adversarial mindset helps in identifying and mitigating potential cyber threats. Those hoping to excel in the field should focus on challenging assumptions and analysing vulnerabilities from a hacker’s perspective.
  • Critical thinking and analytical skills: Cybersecurity professionals need to visualise and analyse complex situations. Traits such as curiosity and persistence as well as a risk-focused mindset are valuable in this field.
  • Communication skills: Effective communication with stakeholders is crucial. Being able to articulate complex technical concepts clearly and translate technical vulnerabilities into business risks is not an easy task, but it is a must.
  • Research and continuous learning: Cybersecurity is a rapidly evolving field. A strong commitment to continued learning to stay up to date with the latest trends and technologies is paramount.

The 5 P’s

Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Given the multidisciplinary nature of cybersecurity, women considering careers in this field should focus on developing core IT skills, including programming, networking, and cloud computing. Remember that a building is only as strong as its foundation. With a strong foundation in place, enhancing your skill set through additional certifications and hands-on experience is highly valued.

Additionally, upskilling your existing talents and expertise into a specialised role, such as security engineering, threat analysis, incident response, digital forensics, data privacy, or risk and compliance, is essential to advancing your career and maintaining a robust, secure digital ecosystem.

Exceeding expectations

Importantly, organisations expect cybersecurity professionals to align cybersecurity with business objectives. Professionals in these roles are expected to develop and release secure systems that enable business growth, all while keeping abreast of industry developments and adapting security solutions to evolving business needs.

We cannot cultivate the next generation of women in cybersecurity without a mentor mindset. Furthermore, by showcasing diverse role models with different backgrounds and experiences, we can broaden the representation of women and break stereotypes about who can succeed in the field.

Always remember: If you can’t find a role model, be a role model.


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National Cyber Security