POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

The importance of equal involvement of women in cybersecurity



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The online event coincided with International Women's Day and brought together members of the Luxembourg and Serbia W4C chapters, as well as other actors in the respective countries. Image: video screengrab  

Women Cyber Force, an association for promoting the role of women in the field of cybersecurity, officially became part of the global network of women in cybersecurity by establishing the Women4Cyber (W4C) Luxembourg chapter on 8 March. Here's a look at the event highlights. 

The new W4C chapter was established as part of the European Cyber Security Organization’s W4C Foundation to promote, encourage and support the participation of women in the field of cybersecurity. 

The online event, which coincided with International Women's Day, included the founding members of both W4C ​​Luxembourg and Women4Cyber ​​Serbia. François Thill, director of cybersecurity at Luxembourg's economy ministry, and Tatjana Matić, minister of trade, tourism and telecommunications Serbia, opened the event.

Thill addressed the public with some crucial points, including the core reason for existence of the W4C Luxembourg chapter. “Women and men in all countries should have equal rights and equal duties. Actually every human being should be treated with due respect. This also means that everyone should be able to freely choose a role in the society they hold on to, without having to fight stereotypes and prejudice."

He added that the ministry "warmly welcomes" the initiative. "Your association represents a visible step capable to actively change the traditional states of mind and transforming stereotypes that have been causing inequalities and injustices for ages, some of which are largely responsible for the skills shortages in STEM professions and also in cybersecurity.”  

Jelena Zelenovic Matone, president of the W4C Luxembourg chapter, pointed out that as the global economy and society continue to grow and develop with the help of the internet and new technologies, collective efforts to secure digital infrastructure and protect cyberspace will be crucial. "We would all agree that internet use is one of the most critical global economic development and international security factors," she said. "Hence, we could then easily say that this calls for an unanimous agreement on the need for more international cooperation to increase stability and security in cyberspace. As our global economy and society continue to grow, our collective efforts to secure our digital infrastructure and safeguard our cyberspace will be crucial. I view cyberspace as the global transformer of how business is run today; it makes, alters, or breaks some ideas. Still, I wholeheartedly believe that it needs female cybersecurity professionals to add value to creative juices during the decision-making process."

According to Svetlana Tešić, president of the W4C Serbia chapter, which launched the same date as the Luxembourg chapter, the initiative was launched to bring together a community of women leaders and companies that will work together to promote cybersecurity as a field crucial for ethical and sustainable development, as well as to encourage future occupations. "Given the importance of cybersecurity for economic development, on the one hand, and the lack of skills in this profession on the other hand, it is crucial to empower women to be equally involved and take advantage of the growing demand and challenges in this area," she said.

When asked about the challenges in recruiting and retaining underrepresented groups, especially women in cybersecurity careers, Christophe Bianco, managing director of Excellium said: “I spent more money for recruitment than I spent on attracting clients.”

Edith Magyarics, CEO of Victor Buck Services, also talked about her company's strategy, elaborating on a major cyberattack it suffered last year and explaining her views on how diversity matters, especially in such events. “In a crisis situation you always need to have women and men in the team as you need the different approaches to resolve the situation.” 

Krystina Gray, vice-president of WCF/W4C, talked about certifications and courses necessary to be successful in the field of IT security. She talked not only about well-rounded certifications such as CISSP and CISA, but also emphasised that professional development is not limited: “Completing certifications [not only] provide[s] us with opportunities in the job market, but it also provides us with professional development and growth." She added: "We also cannot forget about the women that have gone through their educations and that have had careers in the past, they have a wealth of unique experience that can come to the field, whether it is through a career change and provide value from their own experiences as well, and certifications can give them that opportunity too.”

Sheila Becker, also VP of WCF/W4C, spoke about building confidence and empowering women, as women might be more critical of themselves than men are. Hence, WCF/W4C needs to spread the word to gain attraction from women interested in the field. “We need to reach out to not only women, as mentors but it is also important to find men that support our initiative, because our overall objective is inclusiveness.”

In addition to the event positioning the importance of the topic on national and international levels, it was also the opportunity to announce the joint organisation of a W4C hackathon for students from both Luxembourg and Serbia, which will be realised in cooperation with the private sector, the state and universities to strengthen the equal involvement of future generations of young tech leaders in cybersecurity.

Information on this and other activities can be followed on the WCF website, and all interested individuals who would like to join the W4C Luxembourg chapter or the Women Cyber Force organisation--or companies and organisations looking to get involved--are invited to apply by sending an email to [email protected]