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IWD 2024: Championing women in cybersecurity every step of the way
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

Cybersecurity is no longer an afterthought; it's a crucial component of any business and the cornerstone to achieving digital trust and consumer confidence. With the Australian government recently outlining a multi-layered defence strategy, it's evident that the field is receiving the attention it deserves. However, as organisations continue to fortify cyber defences, it's essential not to overlook another critical aspect: gender diversity and inclusion.

The statistics speak volumes. Despite efforts to bridge the gender gap, only a fraction of leadership roles in IT are occupied by women. The disparity is not just a matter of fairness; it's also an economic imperative. Studies suggest that embracing diversity could unlock an additional $400 billion in revenue for the IT industry annually. Clearly, the case for gender diversity is not just moral but also pragmatic.

At the 2023 United Nations 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the long road ahead, estimating it may take around 300 years to achieve true gender parity. While this may seem daunting, it underscores the urgency of our actions today.

While organisations have made strides in promoting diversity through better policies and recruitment practices, there's more we can do to support women, particularly during pivotal moments in their careers, including maternity leave.

Too often, I’ve seen women needing to ‘choose’ between career and family and making compromises in each realm that don’t align with their goals. I’m a strong advocate for organizational programs that support women during this phase of their lives. 

Here are some practical steps the industry can take:

Flexible Return Programs: The cybersecurity sector is evolving rapidly, with new regulations, legislation and technical capabilities a constant. A major challenge for many skilled women during maternity leave is staying abreast of information integral to their continued growth and professional development. While a personal choice, offering a structured maternity leave program that includes periodic catch-ups, virtual training sessions, and industry updates can help women stay engaged and ease their transition back into the workforce.

Utilise Professional Associations: Organisations like ISACA’s SheLeadsTech offer valuable resources and mentorship opportunities for women in IT. Leveraging these networks can provide women with support, guidance, and a sense of community during their career and while taking a career hiatus.

Pre-Maternity Promotion: Promoting women before they go on maternity leave – if this is part of their career plan - not only boosts their confidence and job satisfaction but also enhances their sense of security. It's a proactive step that can contribute to long-term retention and career advancement for women in cybersecurity.

Child-Friendly Facilities: Creating inclusive spaces at industry events, such as providing childcare facilities or nursing rooms, can make a significant difference for women. By removing barriers to participation, we can ensure that all professionals, regardless of their family status, have equal opportunities for networking and professional development.

Supporting women's career goals is not just about meeting diversity quotas; it's about recognising and valuing the contributions of all individuals in the workforce. By standing alongside and supporting women during this significant phase of their lives, we not only foster loyalty but also pave the way for substantial long-term benefits within the cybersecurity industry.