How a nine-year-old’s question sparked a Canadian cybersecurity conference for women

There are many statistics that illustrate the shaky state of careers for women in IT in Canada, especially for those who chose to go into cybersecurity. Quite simply, the profession is overwhelming male.

But arguably the situation can be reduced to a question Mahdi Raza’s nine-year-old daughter asked him last year at a CISO Forum in Niagara Falls when a panel began on women in cybersecurity.

“Why are all the men leaving?” she asked her father, who was a conference organizer.

And that, Raza said, is why his event management and awareness training firm SiberX has organized next month’s Women in Cybersecurity conference in Toronto.

It will be held on March 10th at the Harbour Castle Hilton Hotel. About 100 tickets are still available, although there may be more. Raza said demand has been increasing and the hotel may be able to add more seats.

Early bird registration of $499 is still available.

The agenda includes a session on mentorship and networking as well as panels on 5G, digital identification, and careers in cybersecurity.


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Among the conference sponsors are Microsoft, Amazon AWS, PwC, IBM, the SANS Institute, and Trend Micro.

Speakers include Microsoft CTO Diana Kelley, Adriana Gliga-Belavic, a partner and Canadian payments security practice leader at PwC, Ana Andreasian, former director of technology at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, Olivera Zatezalo, chief security officer at Huawei Canada, and Sherry Rumbolt, senior information security office at National Defence.

But support from such big organizations doesn’t mean the industry has become less sexist, indicated Raza.

“I have called [potential] sponsors and large organizations and said, ‘Hey, we’re putting on a woman in cybersecurity conference,’ and they said ‘I’m a male, you probably want to speak to a female’. I’ve sent emails to [male] heads of large organizations to be sponsors, and they said, ‘You’ve got the wrong gender’. I’ve spoken to others who said, ‘We’ll sponsor your other events, we just don’t see ROI.'”

These answers made him more determined to put on the conference, not merely for education but also to show the IT industry – and employers in general – there’s money in diversifying the workforce.

This is not a women-only event, Raza said.

“Men need to show up.”

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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