Women in Cybersecurity: A Career Choice
December 13, 2021
Cybersecurity is often seen as a career path for men rather than women, resulting in a significant gender imbalance in the industry. The panel session held on 25 October 2021 on "Women in Cybersecurity: A Career Choice" aimed to increase awareness of the issue as part of our Cybersecurity Awareness Month activities.
Moderated by WIPO’s own Ms. Adji Diao, Information Risk Officer, the panel was composed of five senior female cybersecurity experts who shared their experiences in breaking the glass ceiling and provided advice to girls and women looking for career options in the industry.
The session was opened by Deputy Director General Lisa Jorgenson who highlighted the gender imbalance within the technology sector overall, and particularly within cybersecurity. Ms. Jorgenson, a passionate advocate for gender equality, identified the lack of encouragement of young girls into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related subjects at school and the lack of guidance in respect to potential career paths, as key issues needing to be addressed. She expressed hope that initiatives such as the panel session would provide inspiration to young girls and women to look beyond the “boys only” mentality around STEM careers, and to seek out role models, such as the panelists, as successful examples of what can be achieved.
The panelists included:
- Sandra Barouta Elvin, National Security Officer, Microsoft Sweden,
- Shannon Garcia, Head of Offensive Security Services, Kudelski Security USA
- Esther Shagen-van Luit, CISO, Deloitte Netherlands
- Tima Soni, CISO United Nations International Computing Center (UNICC)
- Jelena Zelenovic, CISO, European Investment Bank
They brought their passion for cybersecurity to the fore during the discussions, and firmly debunked the myth that careers in cybersecurity are only for men. They gave their own individual stories on how they came into the industry, and touched on some of the challenges they faced, and overcame, to reach their respective senior positions. Work-life balance was a key point of discussion, touching on the preconceived and archaic view that it is not possible for women to juggle a successful career at a senior level and raise a family.
During the hour-long session much was discussed and provided as guidance to young girls who may be trying to decide on their career path, and to women who may be thinking of a career change or looking for new job opportunities. Some key takeaways from the discussion were:
- Believe in yourself even if you are discouraged – be a rebel!
- The cybersecurity industry suffers from a “branding” issue – i.e. “the hacker in a dark room” – which can be discouraging to women and girls, whilst the roles in the industry are much broader
- Cybersecurity is no longer “a boy’s game”
- A cyber job can provide a great work life balance
- Role models, mentors, and networking (particularly digitally) play a significant role in enabling career progression
Assistant Director General Andrew Staines provided the closing remarks.
The recording of the session is available.