Women in Cybersecurity Manifesto
We have incontestable evidence that gender diversity brings benefits. Men and women complement each other in their skills, attitude towards risk, and collaboration, bringing different perspectives to the workplace. The cybersecurity field, like others, can only take advances from a diverse and inclusive workspace. However, it demands a tailored gender-gap strategy to close the gender gap. Indeed, compared to other STEM fields, cybersecurity is widely perceived as a male-dominated and highly specialized IT field, which does not encourage women to join it.
To cope with this challenge, CONCORDIA has a dedicated task – T4.5 – Women in Cybersecurity – to implement actions aiming at incentivizing women to join the field of cybersecurity.
As a first step, in collaboration with ECSO Women4Cyber initiative, we identified a set of objectives that our actions should target. This brings the creation of Women in Cyber – A Manifesto for TODAY, a document stating the CONCORDIA objectives for women’s inclusion.
Acknowledging that addressing the gender gap requires considering the problem from different perspectives, the Manifesto has been developed considering six domains, namely: education/skills, entrepreneurship industry, investment, legal/strategy, and research. For each domain, we invited an expert to examine and briefly summarize the state of women’s inclusion in that specific domain. We also asked them to identify some actions to be accomplished in that particular domain.
Analyzing these descriptions and discussing them with their contributors, we realized that they share a common problem, that is, a wrong perception of the cybersecurity field. In a simplistic view, cybersecurity is perceived as an IT field only, with few very highly specialized male technicians. The complex and multi-disciplinary nature of cybersecurity, as well as the roles of women working in the field, is not recognized by our society. To cope with this problem, we had identified the following three main CONCORDIA objectives that our actions should target:
- (O1) Reinforce the importance of cybersecurity culture: Raise awareness about the cybersecurity culture, stressing its impact on society and state sovereignty and, as a result, its profound influence on everyday life. Similar to other professions, young women should perceive cybersecurity as a career option with a concrete social impact and role.
- (O2) Consider the multidisciplinary nature of cybersecurity: Increase awareness of the multidisciplinary nature of cybersecurity, which requires complementing skills and expertise, including the utilization of both hard skills and soft skills, and the cooperation between experts with different knowledge backgrounds, such as IT, economics and social sciences.
- (O3) Promote positive role models: Increase the visibility of positive role models, putting forward in a pragmatic manner how family life and a career in cybersecurity can be combined, thus, encouraging women towards a career in cybersecurity or allowing for a career reorientation.
To validate the manifesto, in collaboration with ECSO Women4Cyber, we organized a dedicated event to engage with women active in the European cybersecurity scene: the workshop “Women in Cyber – a Manifesto for TODAY”, collocated with the “6th ACM Celebration of Women in Computing: womENcourage”, the annual conference organized every by ACM-W Europe a chapter of ACM-W, Association for Computing Machinery’s Council on Women. As a result of the workshop discussion, we identified three types of actions to achieve the Manifesto’s objectives: ”Women in Cyber role models”, ”Awards for Women in Cyber” , and ”Diversity & Cybersecurity webinars”