How Middle East technology leaders can attract women to cybersecurity

Demand for cybersecurity professionals is increasing, and this is just one reason why Middle Eastern IT leaders need to attract more women to the profession. Executives at GISEC 2021 offered tips to attract a more diverse workforce.

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While the majority of graduates in tech-related subjects in several Middle Eastern countries are women, females in IT — particularly cybersecurity — continue to be underrepresented in the region. Why is this, and how can the situation be remedied? Tech leaders are grappling with the issue and have come up with a variety of approaches.

Education and outreach are key, and it's also important for enterprises to come up with policies that will attract women leaders who also happen to have families, according to technology executives gathering earlier this month at the Women in Cybersecurity track at GISEC 2021, the biggest cybersecurity event in the Middle East. 

gisec women in tech IDG

GISEC 2021 featured a track on women in cybersecurity.

The absence of women involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is a big concern in many countries, noted speakers at GISEC. In Arab countries, though, 34% to 57% of STEM graduates are women, according to UNESCO.

In Saudi Arabia, 59% of students enrolled in computer science courses are women, while the figures for the UK and US were 16% and 14%, respectively, UNESCO said. But despite the strong representation of women in STEM courses, the Middle East isn't doing much better than other regions. In 2017, only 11% of the cybersecurity in the Middle East were women, and now it's about 20%, according to several GISEC speakers.

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