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#01 – XLM&Co “Changing gender norms in cybersecurity”

Despite a slowly shifting cultural discourse, STEM fields are still disproportionately populated by men. The field of cyberecurity is especially hard hit by this problem. A study performed in 2017 found that only 11 percent of cybersecurity professionals were women even though they were not less well equipped to do enter the field. To learn more about the underlying problems, we recorded an interview with Virginia Da Cunha, Deputy Cybersecurity Operations Centre Manager at Excellium Services and Jelena Zelenovic President of the association ‘Women Cyber Force’.

Cybersecurity is not exactly an often-mentioned topic at dinner parties. However, that is not due to its lack of importance or interesting topics. Unfortunately, the problem of Cybersecurity starts with the concept itself which people consider to be a black box both because of its novelty and complex nature.

However, Jelena Zelenovic is the first to mention that Cybersecurity is “not a black box” and that once one steps into the field, it quickly shows its “unlimited potential.” So, what is stopping people – and especially women – from tapping into this potential?

From the cradle to school

When asked how society can encourage more women to enter into the field of cybersecurity, both Jelena and Virginia agree that it all starts with the parents. Parents are responsible for encouraging and supporting their children to pursue topics that interest them, regardless of the existing gender norms.

“Girls should not be limited by traditional gender stereotypes; they should be encouraged by what captures their attention and passion,” says Virginia. On top of that, It is important that parents instil confidence in their children by praising the process and not just the outcome,” adds Jelena.

While most parents undoubtedly try to encourage their children’s interests, even parents’ best intentions can fall short in the face of deficient school programmes. That is why it is so important to promote better and more IT and programming classes from an early age. This includes possibilities of additional help and extracurricular activities.

Luckily, it has never been easier for women to enter the field of cybersecurity than today. Changing norms, increased transparency and a shortage of workers make cybersecurity one of the hottest sectors to get into.

Is Cybersecurity for me?

If you are considering getting into the field of cybersecurity but are unsure whether it is the right fit for you, Jelana and Virginia have good news. Both highly recommend the field because of the excitement and diversity of opportunities it provides. Furthermore, it is also a field which allows for a lot of upward mobility on the career ladder and is open to “professionals with varying backgrounds.”

If you are interested in challenging yourself and are someone who is open to constantly learning new things, cybersecurity might just be the thing you were looking for.

When thinking about what message they would want to send their younger selves and to women considering the field of cybersecurity, Jelena and Virginia highlighted the importance of getting support and to not “be shy to ask for mentors.”

If you want to hear more about Jelena and Virginia’s views on women in cybersecurity, you can hear the full interview here.

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