Women in the cybersecurity industry were still few and far between as this sector has been considered a non-traditional career for women for decades, said the director of service delivery for Global Service Centre at a global cybersecurity company Mimecast.
GSC director Siphindokuhle Mazibuko said that despite the rapid growth in this industry in recent years, this perception was still pervasive to this day, hence, there were so few women in the field. “How do you break down well-established barriers and encourage more women to enter a growing, yet male-dominated industry? The answer lies in building a global support centre where women would have equal opportunity to develop their technical and leadership skills in the cybersecurity space,” said Mazibuko.
Mazibuko said that they had been working hard to change this perception most notably by employing women in the Mimecast Global Service Centre (GSC) and ensuring they had the leadership opportunities they deserve. Over the past two years, Mazibuko said she has employed 12 female associate engineers (out of a team of 38) on her GSC team, and she remained devoted to their professional development and career growth. All women hired in entry level roles as part of building the GSC, have since progressed their career either within the GSC itself or in other technical teams within the organisation.
The GSC said that one study in 2013 found that women made up a mere 11 percent of the global cybersecurity workforce, with a subsequent study estimating the number had risen to only 24 percent by the end of 2019.
Being a woman in cybersecurity, Mazibuko said that she more often than not found herself in the minority in most meeting rooms. While this situation might deter some, Mazibuko said she used it as an opportunity to become more self-aware and to take ownership of her own personal growth.
Mazibuko and her team have intentionally looked at hiring people for the GSC based on potential rather than qualifications in an effort to address the skills challenge in the market. This decision has also allowed Mazibuko and her team to try to address the issue of gender diversity.
Mazibuko said that the African continent had the talent to compete on a global scale in this sector but they just needed the right technology, connectivity and continuity to make it happen. She said that with the right investment and support from the private sector, African talent could be upskilled with globally relevant digital and technical support skills.
Global IT and networking company Cisco said that while the representation of women in the cybersecurity industry had grown over the past years, which was positive, there was still room for improvement. “Interestingly, not everyone in cybersecurity started with a technical background. Some of the women currently in cybersecurity started in non-stem-related courses. Cybersecurity was also seen as a growing industry with a choice of job opportunities and diverse career paths to pursue, including engineering, consultation, leadership and entrepreneurial opportunities. There was one bright spot that all the women we spoke to highlighted and this was the importance of having allies at different stages of their journey.”
Cisco said that cybersecurity was an industry filled with opportunities ripe for the taking. It said that growing women's representation in this sector had advantages for all. According to Cisco, there was a direct link for companies who had diverse teams which resulted in increased revenue. Cisco said that there was a direct link to creativity and innovation in companies that had diversity. It said working jointly as allies and focusing on self-development would have women representation continuing to rise.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE