Mothers in the animal kingdom are inherently nurturing and intuitively protective. Getting between a leopard and her cubs can be a one-time mistake, as in, it may just be your last. The fierce, vigilant and alert way in which she shelters her cubs, protects and keeps a watchful eye around the periphery of the den and produces deep, guttural growls that ward all prey to “BACK OFF!” are all tell-tale signs of a watchful and threatening eye. And if push comes to shove well…good luck.
Just in this way, women are the same in their inherent quality to have a wider scope/periphery on what is essential to ensure full protection for what needs to be protected. As the digital world expands and swells with endless opportunities and possibilities, much is the same for online threats and cybercrime. The increase in digital consumerism is also consequently increasing the surface area for cybercriminals to operate and aspire to dominate.
The increase of surface area in the digital space is allowing for the evolution of threats to find new ways to harm and harass any and every company. Thus, the floodgates open and threats and cybercrime merrily stroll in, no shoes, no shirt.
It is imperative to understand that the stronger the protective layer of digital ammo, the less impenetrable an organisation is. And why shouldn’t women be a greater part of that? So what better way to be introduced to the subject of needing an increase in women within the cybersecurity world, than to take this journey with the CEO of ESET. “I am a woman in cybersecurity, and I feel as though it is my moral obligation to raise awareness amongst both men and women that cybersecurity is definitely a career choice,” Karen Cherry opens.
women in cybersecurity are underrepresented, less likely to feel valued and benefit from leadership development programs and more than half report various forms of discrimination.
“Without women, we will not be able to stay ahead of the waves of cyber threats that are populating the internet,” she continues. At times, the world of cybersecurity may seem intimidating and out of reach because of the belief that it is a purely technical industry. This isn’t exactly true, and Cherry uses herself as an example explaining that “Some have little technical background…just like me. In fact, I started with the Arts, with English and Journalism and ended with a degree with in Information Systems.”
Karen then inspires us further by referencing the movie Hidden Figures which centres around computer programming being women’s work in the early ’60s. The movie about three brilliant female mathematicians who were integral to NASA, helping them win the space race and safely send astronauts into orbit and return him safely home. All while facing racial and sexual discrimination. One can certainly take a page from their book.
When online consumerism takes centre stage, online ghouls wait by the edge. Cybersecurity is a dire need in Kenya. “With the acceleration of digitalisation comes insecure consumer habits. Kenya has one of the highest rates of internet users, making it a very lucrative environment for cybercriminals,” Cherry remarks. Over 46 million Kenyans have access to the internet. The National Cybersecurity Centre reported 34 million threats in January through to March before the COVID-19 wave. Additionally, high unemployment rates are driving skilled, tech-savvy youth to turn to cybercrime.
Women form such a key part in the employment base and “research also tells us that the more diverse the workplace, the more potential it has to be productive and innovative.
“We need collective awareness and to pay attention to what is happening to the digital world of cybercrime in a bid to bring the governments and the private sector together to fight it, both men and women,” she states.
Women form such a key part in the employment base and “research also tells us that the more diverse the workplace, the more potential it has to be productive and innovative,” she continues. Truly, talent and passion have no gender and with innovative and creative ideas from every angle, an organisation is bound to make bountiful strides.
According to UN Women, more women in the workplace means more growth in economies and on the contrary, gender gaps can cost economies up to 15 per cent. Moreover, companies with three or more women in senior management roles score higher in all dimensions of organizational performance.
“The cybercriminal gangs are winning,” Cherry admits. So what is stopping us from defeating this problem? Well, gender gaps in cybersecurity create certain barriers. Globally, men are four times more likely to hold C-suite and executive-level positions, nine times more likely to hold managerial positions and earn more than women at every level.
Additionally, women in cyber-security are underrepresented, less likely to feel valued and benefit from leadership development programs and more than half report various forms of discrimination.
With more inclusion of women, diverse talent has an open showroom, and this can provide an abundance of multi-faceted skills to undertake multi-threat extinction.
“The more diverse the skills, the better the way in which to solve the complexities of online security,” she states. There are a vast range of employment options to assist in this, from organisations needing graphic designers to accurately articulate cybersecurity awareness, training to network administration, to being skilled on the dangers of social media and to be able to ethically hack.
We urgently need women in cyber-security to help economies with the skills shortage, to remove existing stereotypes, create diversity to push innovation, solve complex problems, grow our economies and to win the war on cyber-crime. “We are not in an era of change, we are in a change of era,” Cherry powerfully concludes. After all, who wouldn’t want the fierceness of a leopard on their team?
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