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Top Women in Cyber ​​Security: How to Thrive and Grow in the Industry

While challenges remain when it comes to finding opportunities for women and girls in the cybersecurity industry, a path is being charted and doors are opening, panelists said. Computer World Canadaof the Top Women in Cyber ​​Security event.

During the “Aspiring and thriving” panel, Mitra Mirhassani, co-director of the SHIELD Automotive Cybersecurity Center of Excellence at the University of Windsor, Biying He, head of cybersecurity at the Vancouver Airport Authority, and moderator Alvina Antar, director information at Okta, discussed how women and younger generations can thrive and grow in the cybersecurity industry.

“I am optimistic, but at the same time I see the challenges ahead of us,” Mirhassani said. “The status quo still reigns on boards… We still have a long way to go, but we have started to pave the way for the next generation of women to rise to the top positions or start their own businesses, etc. . ”

There was a time when women didn’t even consider careers in cybersecurity due to lack of representation and opportunities, Antar said, while discussing how the panelists entered the field.

In fact, according to data from Cybersecurity Ventures, women held 25% of cybersecurity jobs globally in 2021, up from 20% in 2019 and around 10% in 2013.

Cybersecurity Ventures also projects that women will make up 30% of the global cybersecurity workforce by 2025, rising to 35% by 2031.

During the panel, both He and Mirhassani shared their “secrets” to thriving in the industry.

They echoed similar sentiments, saying their sincere love and interest in learning more about cybersecurity contributes to success.

“Cybersecurity is hard and tough…if the security culture and awareness isn’t there for people, you can’t make it a success. Most of the time, people think that security is just a technical aspect, but it is not. It takes a lot of time and effort to communicate with people and help people understand what cybersecurity is,” he said.

Regardless of the job, it is important to have a strong network of specific groups and people to connect with and this helps with growth in the field.

Panelists shared some of their cybersecurity networking tips and tricks.

For Mirhassani, being at university helps him connect with new people every semester. Additionally, she mentioned a few organizations that have helped her expand her network.

“One of the most helpful networks I have used is the Automotive Security Research Group (ASRG)… my expansion into Canada has helped many of my students be able to talk with like-minded people and experts,” she said.

Other organizations mentioned during the roundtable included ISACA Vancouver Chapter, (ISC)² and Bsides Security Events.

Additionally, Antar talked about a group she founded in Silicon Valley called CIO Women’s Network.

“You would be surprised at the number of female CIOs in the region. We have come together and built a trusting and meaningful relationship where we support each other and also uplift other people within our organizations…to support their career aspirations,” Antar said.

Finally, panelists discussed cybersecurity misconceptions and how to diversify the industry.

One of the major misconceptions they talked about was that cybersecurity is a “boring” field with a lack of community.

“Cybersecurity is actually a very trusting community…People are so open and transparent about their experience and knowledge. Whenever you have questions about anything in the community, people are so eager and eager to share everything they know. You won’t get less support for being a woman,” he said.

She also suggested that a good way to get more people interested in the field is through job shadowing. Every year his company has a job shadowing program for grade 10 students to give them a better understanding of cybersecurity.

Similarly, Mirhassani said that the university often holds outreach programs for high school students where they offer programs to help get interested in STEM fields.

“We try to bring examples of the kind of jobs that await them and the kind of qualifications they need to get there. I think we need to keep doing what we’re doing creating these kinds of events…and talking about our own personal experiences. We may be able to succeed in making this field the diverse and active field that it is. [while] attract students. »

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