In a bid to recognize the effort women play in strengthening online security in an overwhelmingly male profession, a group of women is making its second attempt to have Ottawa declare Sept. 1 International Women in Cyber Day, and have it recognized globally.
On Monday Lisa Kearney, CEO of the Vancouver-based Women CyberSecurity Society collected the five supporters needed for presenting an online petition for the declaration to her member of Parliament. That’s the initial step in the parliamentary process for public petitions.
With five supporters the e-petition can be sent to House of Commons’ Clerk of Petitions for certification, after which it can be officially put online for mass support. If it collects at least 500 signatures within 60 days, it can be tabled in the House of Commons for a vote.
That may not be a problem. The first version of the e-petition published last year pulled in 147 signatures before the federal election was called, which meant the process had to start all over again.
Ultimately, Kearney said in an interview that supporters want the United Nations to recognize Sept. 1 as International Women In Cyber Day around the world. For that at least one country has to approve it.
Kearney and supporters across the country last year did some early groundwork, getting support from city councils in Vancouver, Ottawa and St. John’s, Nfld,
In addition to recognizing the day, the Canadian e-petition asks the federal government to provide grants and funding to help raise awareness and build solutions to remove barriers of entry to women in cybersecurity as well as increase retention.
Asked why a day or recognition is essential, Kearney said, “women have a lot of barriers and roadblocks within the industry,” noting that in Canada women make up only 10 per cent of the cybersecurity workforce, and11 per cent globally.
Research has shown there is a 50 per cent drop out rate for women in information technology within the first four years, the petition notes. Studies also show women are paid less than men.
“Women need support; there’s a high drop-out rate, and we really want to bring awareness, so we bring solutions that retain women in this industry,” Kearney said.
“Second, we want to celebrate the achievements of women in the industry, and this has been key.
Doing both will help close the skills, and the gender gap experts say is causing a shortage in demand for cybersecurity workers.”
She added, “diversity increases profits for organizations,” noting how diversity is a business incentive as well.
(This article has been updated to include a link to the new petition)