Andrea Benito
Middle East Editor

Examining the strength of Women in Cybersecurity Middle East

Jul 04, 20233 mins
Female Engineer Controller Observes Working of the System. In the Background People Working and Monitors Show Various Information.
Credit: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

What is the current situation of women in the cybersecurity industry? The prevailing gender gap is becoming increasingly visible in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (known as STEM), around the world. The global scientific community has made much progress in recent years to inspire and engage girls and women in science, and increase their participation in higher education in these fields, where they are still underrepresented.

Although science and technology should be accessible to all, the scientific community has difficulties recruiting women, according to The American Association of University Women (AAUW), adding that women dedicated to science and technology still represent only 28% of the total number of workers.,.

But even though men outnumber women in cybersecurity by three to one, encouraging signs show that more women are joining the field with ambitions for leadership positions. Founded in April 2018, Women in Cybersecurity Middle East was just a Whatsapp group formed by nine women working on cybersecurity. “We started with a Zoom meeting, sharing our knowledge, with the purpose to gather women in the Middle East to support and encourage ourselves,” says Heide Young, founding partner of Women in Cybersecurity Middle East (WiCSME) and manager of cyber strategy & engagement, NEOM Tonomus. “I’m so proud of what WiCSME have achieved. We have an amazing platform for supporting, encouraging and empowering women in cybersecurity and those looking to join the field. There is still work to be done and no matter your background or qualifications, as long as you have a passion for cybersecurity, your skills can transfer and add value. Remember cyber threats come in various forms and we need diverse perspectives and skills inorder to achieve cyber resilience.”

According to WiCSME, when we talk about women, we need to talk about how we retain them in the profession. Women make up just over 25% of the global cybersecurity workforce, and in some parts of the world, it’s even lower. In the region, for example, the percentage is 25% but in Europe it’s only 18%.

“Sharing the message is very important,” says Vidya Valbh, head of cyber strategy and cyber risk and governance at Careem, UAE. “Cyber is mostly male-dominated so we need more women. A lot of companies are demanding cybersecurity profiles now and I think the way to invite women is to give them the insight about what you need for cyber, starting for younger generations.” 

It’s important to empower women in cybersecurity and put the effort into attracting them because cyberattacks come from diverse sources, so a diverse workforce is needed with different skills and experiences. “You want to be well prepared to defend your organisation, so to empower women in cyber you need to retain them by giving them a seat at the table,” Young adds.