Women in Information Security- A paradigm shift

Written by : Avani Chandra

Sibley Bacon. Michele Myauo. Susan Koehler. Jana Monroe.

What do all these incredible women have in common?  Apart from being top executives at some of the world’s most renowned companies and organizations, they also happen to be a part of Tech Target’s list honouring outstanding Women of IT security”. These women have successfully traversed the male dominated technology industry to emerge as thought leaders in their own right. While the change has been gradual, we’re fortunate to now see a steady increase in women pursuing a career in technology, from learning to code to ethical hacking, women are doing it all. Or are they?

According to (ISC)’s most recent Global Information Security Workforce Study, women in the information security profession represent 10% of the workforce—a percentage that remains unchanged from two years ago in 2013. The report indicates that although the numbers in this profession are increasing, they are only increasing at the pace of the profession as a whole.

Winja-logoDespite the stagnant percentage of women in InfoSec their positioning in this profession is far from stagnant. The survey also states that women are quickly converging on men in terms of academic focus, computer science and engineering, and as a gender, have a higher concentration of advanced degrees.  Another side is where women in InfoSec are having their most material impact and that is in governance, risk, and compliance.

33We’ve all at some point been privy to the famous “a woman’s intuition” and that is precisely what the field of Information security needs.  Not only can women match their male counterparts in mastering technical skills, but some studies have shown that they may be better at the interpersonal and communication abilities that account for the rest of the job. In the blog post “Why women are the future of cybersecurity” the National Cybersecurity Institute wrote, “Women may be able to anticipate areas of vulnerability quicker and create more creative solutions than men in the same role.”

To effectively address cyber threats, teams need to include individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Women provide the much needed diversity to InfoSec teams and bring with them unique perspectives and approaches on possible threats.

There are 2 primary reasons that keep women from pursuing careers in Information Security. First, the idea of gender defined roles that have led to reason number 2, an absence of women role models and mentors who can reach out to the aspiring InfoSec girls. This is where platforms like WINJA come in, as a medium for women to connect, share ideas, exchange thoughts and network with likeminded individuals who are driven to explore and contribute to the world of Information Security.

The Nullcon conference held in Goa in the month of March every year , is a unique platform for security evangelists to showcase  their   research and methodology through  various interactive events and hacking challenges. One such event is WINJA, CTF by women for women, is a complete “challenge based” set of stimulated hacking challenges related to web security. The duration of the event is two hours during which the women attendees will work on individual tasks in attempt to attack and defend computers and networks using certain tools and network   structures.  Examples are set and Careers are redefined when women realize their real potential and find the much needed encouragement from a community as strong as this one.

We are living in a digital age and in today’s high technology environment, organisations are becoming more and more dependent on their information systems. The public is increasingly concerned about the proper use of information, particularly personal data. The threats to information systems from criminals and terrorists are increasing. The need of the hour is for talented, intuitive, dedicated individuals, irrespective of gender to come together and safeguard both data and lives from imminent threat.

Women for long have proven their abilities in all industries and with the right mentorship, training and inclusive environment, the numbers will hopefully see an upward trend in years to come.

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