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Is cybersecurity the next frontier for women in STEM?


Cyber security is typically considered a space dominated by spectacled, young men in dark rooms.  These stereotypes hinder the entry of more women in cybersecurity, as well as the gender imbalance in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). 

Yet, the digital world we live in evolves at a mind blowing pace. As a constantly connected world, we are all at risk – from data breaches to our bank accounts stripped. The need for better cybersecurity is paramount, from our own personal protection to the overarching protection of the people we serve in business.

With increasing breaches, the demand for cyber security professionals is growing, but women are still an overlooked minority in this space. 

Unfortunately, the digital security sector doesn’t have a welcoming reputation for women. Many women entering this field find it unwelcoming and unsupportive. Talking to women who are either already working in this space or looking to enter, share how they have been discriminated against. Yet, it is an industry screaming out for the skills women can bring.  Not just the technical skills and qualifications, but also creativity, communication and problem-solving capabilities.

There is a cohort of remarkable women at the forefront, spearheading efforts to revolutionise the industry and pave the way for greater accessibility and inclusivity. These trailblazers are not just navigating the complexities of cyber defence, they’re actively reshaping the industry to welcome and empower more women.

Taminda Polle, from Cyber IS, is helping more women make cybersecurity their profession. 

“It’s imperative to address this gender gap, which is essential for a more inclusive and secure digital future. “Women shy away from this industry because it is male dominated. They think they do not have the skills or acumen to make their mark in cyber security,” she said.

“But small businesses need more women working in this space.”

Recent ABS data shows that 34.8% of Australian business owner-managers are female, representing a 46% increase over the last two decades. If social media is anything to go by, women flock to the small business space, not just out of necessity, but driven by a passion or hobby. 

Taminda said many male dominated industries, such as accounting, STEM, sales, finance and law, get a bad rap for how they interact with their female clients. “When women are looking for assistance in these industries, they often feel talked down to, dismissed or not heard,” she said. “They often walk away, putting their businesses at risk because of these experiences. Gender bias is still a thing, and while it persists, women in business are being left behind in many crucial business growth areas.”

Taminda said the first step is t0 create awareness that there are these jobs and business opportunities for women, and that women can do an excellent job in cybersecurity. “Many women don’t consider this field due to a lack of information or understanding. Proper education can dispel myths, showcase role models, and inspire more women to pursue careers in cybersecurity,” she said.

Women have the skills and abilities that make them ideal for cyber security roles.

“Women have a knack for dissecting complex issues, identifying vulnerabilities, and devising innovative solutions, which contributes significantly to fortifying digital defences against evolving threats,” Taminda explained. “Add to that, our communication skills, collaborative approach and different life perspectives, this is a great career path for women.” 

While the tech landscape has seen a huge surge in women’s participation, particularly in cybersecurity, there still needs to be a transformative shift to acknowledge the contribution women can make.  “The industry needs to equip these trailblazers with the skills and expertise, mentorship programs, specialised training initiatives, and fostering inclusive environments within organisations,” Taminda said. 

“Empowering women with technical knowledge, leadership acumen, and a platform to thrive not only bridges the gender gap, but also diversifies perspectives. The industry needs different lenses to combat evolving digital threats.”

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