My Journey Into (ICT) Cybersecurity, Chapter 3

womencssociety
Posted April 19, 2019 from Canada
International Women in Cyber Day, September 1st, 2019
International Women in Cyber Day, September 1st, 2019

Fast forward several years later, while attending a women's conference I had the pleasure of meeting Tamarak Verrall. As soon as I saw her smiling face, I knew I wanted to learn more about what she was promoting.  Tam handed me a pamphlet on World Pulse which I learned is a social organization connecting women around the world.  By giving women a voice and platform to tell their stories, connect and support each other, they’ve created a synergistic society which is stronger collectively than the individual elements and powerful things can happen.  This is the type of community I’m working to build for women in ICT, cybersecurity.  Which brings me back to the reason I’m telling you my story. 

Last year, after more than two decades in the cybersecurity workforce, I made a decision to switch gears and become an advocate, an educator and a service provider that enables women working or looking to transition into the workforce.  

With more than 3 million jobs available by 2020 and some estimates as high as 10 million by 2025, it is that workforce in the greatest need!  Cybersecurity is a heavily male-dominated industry and women make up only 10% of the cyber workforce here in Canada. Enrollment rates are reported as low as 11% and one in two women will drop out of ICT within the first four years of their career. Inherit bias exists where women are under-represented, discriminated against, bullied, harassed and underpaid. After experiencing many challenges and roadblocks myself and lack of support, I was inspired to do something to help solve these problems and empower women in this industry. 

 That’s when I decided to start my non-profit organization, the Women CyberSecurity Society which is dedicated to providing support at all levels for women working or interested in a cybersecurity career.  Clearly, women need help throughout the lifecycle of their careers, not just at the beginning.  If we’re ever going to achieve more diversity and inclusion, we need to retain women in the workforce and support shouldn’t stop once they find that first job or graduate.

After a few months of speaking with women from around the globe, it became evident public awareness, understanding and acceptance of the issues were needed. I discovered, the bias was not just within the cybersecurity industry but cultural and ingrained in the fabric of society.  After all, what does it mean to be a woman, a woman in ICT?  Are you more or less feminine working in this industry? Who has a right to tell us, “that’s technical, you don’t need to worry about that “or “that’s technical, you don’t need to attend that meeting”, or “that’s technical, are you sure you want to submit that paper?”, etc. etc.

All of this had me searching for solutions and asking myself, “what could I do to make a difference on a global scale?”.  That’s when I came up with the idea of an International Women in Cyber Day (IWCD).  This initiative is now a global effort of hundreds of women and male advocates supporting the campaign.  Our petition is active in Canada and Ireland and several other countries are at various stages of the petition process. We’re calling upon governments around the globe and the United Nations to recognize September 1st, 2019 as International Women in Cyber Day.  This is in an effort to retain women in the industry and retain more to enter as the skills gap widens alongside the gender gap, leaving organizations and governments at increased risk due to lack of resources. 

I envision September 1st as a day of celebration but also a reminder of the unique challenges women struggles within this industry and call you to act to support this cause and women in ICT, cybersecurity!

https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-2111

#tipthescale #womenincyberday #womencssociety #diversity #inclusion

 

This story was submitted in response to Girls in ICT Day.

Comments 5

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Paulina Nayra
May 05
May 05

Wow, that's amazing! Initiating the celebration of International Women in Cyber Day speaks about your vision of having more women in your industry. While reading your story, I wanted to ask about the issues that women in cyber face. How is it in a male dominated industry?

Wish to read more from you. Hugs from the Philippines/

womencssociety
Jun 10
Jun 10

Hi Paulina,

My apologies on the delayed response! It's been a while since I logged in. Thank you for your comment.

The Information Communication and Technology industries (ICT) are dominated by men. Current research shows women hold only 25% of the jobs in ICT. When you drilled down into ICT and examine the statistics in cybersecurity, the gender gap widens with only 10% women working in this space.

Women are severely underrepresented and there is a lack of support as they deal with inherent bias, harassment and bullying among other barriers and challenges which makes it difficult for for women to succeed in this industry. The further you climb the ladder, the more difficult it gets. Women are often excluded from important meetings where decisions are made and lack authority to elicit needed change in this space.

You can learn more and show your support by signing our International Petition on change.org.
http://chng.it/ZWMmnVtG

Best,
Lisa

Paulina Nayra
Jun 22
Jun 22

I did.

Tamarack Verrall
May 07
May 07

Hi Lisa,
What you have experienced and what you have written about here is not nearly well enough known. I hope that this post will become more widely found by World Pulse members and that we can generate lots of signatures in the next month. If it is ok with you I will (and we could all) take this story online to give it more visibility, and to bring more awareness to the problem of all of the forms of discrimination and harassment women face going deeper into the tech fields. The chance meeting you this IWD and linking arms here now in World Pulse was exactly why I travelled to Ottawa for IWD. I look forward to a lot of collective thinking and action!
In sisterhood,
Tam

womencssociety
Jun 10
Jun 10

Hi Tam,

My apologies to you as well on the delayed reply. As I mentioned above, it's been a while since I logged in.

I'm happy to hear you were moved by my story and really appreciate your wonderful comments!

You can show your support and learn more about the issues by reading and signing our International Petition on Change.org. http://chng.it/ZWMmnVtG

Thanks so much for your kind words and wonderful support!!!

In sisterhood,
Lisa