Women in Western countries talk about the difficulties and rewards of having a career in cybersecurity. So do women in developing countries.
For this year’s celebration of International Women’s Day, the Canadian-based siberXchange learning platform assembled a group of women in cybersecurity positions in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and India.
They acknowledged – as in North America and Europe – it can be challenging for women in Asia, Africa and the Middle East to have a career in technology, let alone cybersecurity.
But the four panelists also spoke of recent changes.
For example, Rana Abusidu, an information security consultant in Dubai for a provider called Help AG, said it wasn’t easy for women to get into technology without a reference. “But now there is a demand for technology,” she said. “Name one business around the world that can operate without technology So we need technology people everywhere.
“It’s better than before but we need more support in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).”
Businesses also need to hire more women, she added. But women who have positions in technology also have to do more to support other women, she said.
Sailaja Vadiamundi, senior director of security and privacy for SAP in India and a founder of Women in Cybersecurity and Privacy (WICSP), noted that today there are many tech communities in her country. India.
What’s important for women, she said, is not the cybersecurity certifications they have, but the value they bring to an employer. “When I speak to students or professionals who want to go into cybersecurity and privacy I say they should try to understand the reason behind attacks or a breach … If you understand how things work then you are a good candidate.”
Write your own blog, she urged women in IT, to show how much valuable information you can bring to the table. You have to show your ability, not just your certifications, to be hired.
International Women’s Day, she added, is about “asking all women to stand tall and believe in themselves.”
“We are living in a world of barriers,” she said, “but the biggest is within – ‘Can I do this, can I take a chance, can I take a risk?’”
Heba Hamdy Farahat, an Egypt-based senior red team consultant for Cysiv Inc., an international managed security provider which was spun out of Trend Micro, said for a woman starting a career in cybersecurity, it isn’t as hard as it was in the past. There is now a networking and online advice group for women working in cybersecurity in her country, she noted. Egyptians can now study cybersecurity in colleges.
Across Africa there are student scholarships and mentor programs, she added.
Women don’t have to always know which part of cybersecurity they want to focus on, said Tasnim Samater, information security and cyber resilience specialist for Security Matterz in Saudi Arabia. Learning is part of growing, she said.
Her motto: “Always keep going, no matter what.”