Facing the challenge of women in cyber security

11 July 2018

Facing the challenge of women in cyber security

The cyber security industry is experiencing huge growth, but women are significantly under-represented in the field, globally and locally. The 5th annual NZ Cyber Security Challenge at the University of Waikato is tackling the issue head-on for the first time, targeting women for the event and highlighting what is a worldwide issue.

The 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cyber Security states:

  • Women compromise only 11% of the information security workforce
  • Women reported higher levels of education than men, yet they earn less at every level
  • 51% of women surveyed indicated they have experienced various forms of discrimination.

The report also points out that with a projected workforce gap of 1.8 million cyber security professionals by 2022, the problem of under-representation and under-utilisation of women needs to be solved to shrink the gap.

This year, the NZ Cyber Security Challenge is holding a Women in Cyber Security Workshop, including a panel of women who will speak about the issues they face in the industry, and how they can be addressed.

Director of the New Zealand Institute for Security and Crime Science Associate Professor Ryan Ko says finding a way to raise and discuss the issue of the lack of women in the industry has been a useful learning process in itself. “We need a diverse workforce in cyber security to provide different ways of thinking and increase New Zealand’s overall capability. We are hoping to contribute to the increase of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (Stem) and cyber security through this event, and we thank our panelists and sponsors for their support in making it happen. There are close to 60 participants signed up for the Women in Cyber Security Workshop, we are also encouraged to see a fivefold increase in women participants at the Cyber Security Challenge itself.”

On the panel

Rebecca Trapani, a penetration tester from Australia. She says diversity in technology is not just about getting more women, people of colour, LGBTQI+ individuals or those with disabilities involved so people can have feel warm and fuzzy inside. “Technology companies are designing, controlling and influencing how we communicate, what we eat, and even how we vote. A lack of diversity means a lack of incredibly important voices in these decisions and will ultimately lead to harmful blind spots in our near future. Fixing diversity problems isn’t as simple as buying a newer bigger pipeline. We need to fix the problems in the old one, and the solution to that isn’t something that can be captured in a sentence or two. It involves people sitting down and listening to the stories instead of shrugging them away as a one-off,  and fixing the problems at the root cause.”

Meenakshee Mungro, a Senior Software Developer who has been involved in the NZ Cyber Security Challenge in the past. “We need to see women involved because we could be missing out on the next Ada Lovelace or the next Grace Hopper by not actively encouraging young women to pursue a career in tech. It's easy for young girls to feel intimidated and apprehensive at the thought of a career in a male-dominated field and this is a big barrier that we need to overcome.”

Erica Anderson, a Senior Incident Manager at CERT NZ. She says increasing the number of women in security is just one facet of improving the mix of people in the industry. “Diversity creates opportunities to make security accessible for users. We need to recognise that if everyone in security looks the same, we won’t get the right outcomes for the broad range of users who have to interact with cyber security concepts every day. Creating opportunities for people from different backgrounds to learn from each other is an important part of helping the industry grow and thrive. Whether that diversity comes from your technical background or your life experience, having different perspectives in security makes the products we create better.”

Sai Honig a Senior Security Advisor for cloud-based accounting software company, Xero and a (ISC)2 Board of Directors Member. “The diversity of online threats require diversity of thought on how to address them.  Women are one group that needs to bring that diversity of thought."

The NZ Cyber Security Challenge will take place on July 13-14 at the University of Waikato.

Related stories

University of Waikato partnership with Genomics Aotearoa

University of Waikato extends partnership with Genomics Aotearoa

Key leaders from the University of Waikato met with representatives from Genomics Aotearoa (GA) today…

Eibe Frank

Learning to discriminate: Can machines learn to identify pest species from photos?

University of Waikato's Professor of Computer Science Eibe Frank will discuss machine learning at a…


Torutek, truly a Waikato business

There’s a technology start-up based at Waikato Innovation Park whose workforce have something in common…

Dylan smart shirt

One smart shirt

A shirt with sensors could help improve forestry worker safety.

University of Waikato climbs international rankings

For the sixth year running, the University of Waikato has climbed up the QS World…

The country’s biggest Cyber Security Challenge is kicking off

Run by the University of Waikato’s CROW lab, the 2019 Cyber Security Challenge has started…

University of Waikato launches 2degrees Esports Scholarship

Ryan Holt is the inaugural recipient of the University of Waikato’s Esports Scholarship for School-Leavers.…

Waikato computer science graduates making an impact

Hamilton-based internet service provider Lightwire is always on the lookout for the best and brightest…

Waikato computer scientists have the X factor

While some employers look overseas for computer scientists to cover their needs, Hamilton software firm…


Fieldays scholarship for agri students

Masters and PhD students studying at Waikato can apply for the National Agricultural Fieldays Sir…

Shane Alcock WAND web

Hi-tech for public good

The university's WAND Group in the finals of New Zealand’s Hi-Tech Awards for its lawful…

Why it might be time for New Zealand to reconsider the legal definition of murder

Dr Brenda Midson looks at why the country should reconsider the way in which murder…