Women Speak Cyber: championing gender diversity in the cyber security industry

Women Speak Cyber

You can listen to AustCyber’s podcast ‘OzCyber Unlocked’ here: https://bit.ly/3dbwzri

Gender diversity in the cyber security industry isn’t a new problem; but it still remains a relatively unaddressed problem, which only further aids the vicious cycle that is inequality.

Women Speak Cyber is an Australian initiative founded by Louisa Partridge and Louisa Vogelenzang in response to the lack of gender diversity in speakers at cyber security conferences in Australia. The goal of the program is to add more women to the speaking pool at cyber security conferences; something they achieved with their first cohort of women.

“It equips women with the confidence to be able to speak for the first time at a cyber security conference. We offer professional coaching, that’s both in workshop style and one on one, to get women ready,” said Louisa Vogelenzang.

According to the Australian Government’s STEM Equity Report, women’s participation in STEM qualified occupations (of which cyber security is included), increased only two percent over the course of 2009–2020, from eleven percent to thirteen percent. In over ten years, a two percent increase is cause for concern.

Louisa Partridge said “women aren’t the best at promoting themselves. Creating a place where event organisers could look for female speakers specifically, allowed our speakers to promote themselves through an online platform”. Partridge hopes that creating more accessibility for women in cyber security will help increase participation rates in the sector.

Last year, Women Speak Cyber officially became a social enterprise, a nod to the crucial and valuable work the organisation was delivering, in empowering women to speak up. Additionally, Women Speak Cyber also received sponsorship from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to expand the number of participants it can cater for, increasing that number to 20 in 2021.

Partridge said “having a social enterprise has taught us a lot; the support of the broader cyber security industry has been absolutely crucial to the success of our program and has allowed us to grow from a LinkedIn group, to a well funded social enterprise.”

Support for the organisation has come in spades; with ten industry veterans stepping up and becoming mentors and providing feedback on the presentations to the cohort of participants. The championing of Women Speak Cyber’s success from the Australian Women in Security Network, coupled with the sponsorship from the ASD has been crucial to the ongoing success of the organisation.

When speaking about the future of Women Speak Cyber, Louisa Vogelenzang said “the plan is to absolutely keep growing and expanding. We know that we’ve tapped into a need that is not just specific to Australia, there are other countries that might want to have their own version of what we do. Plenty of exciting things are in the works.”

At the end of the day, getting people from a range of different backgrounds; technical, non-technical and everything in between is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to solving the complex challenges inherent in the cyber security industry.

Learn more about how to improve diversity and workplace culture in AustCyber’s podcast ‘OzCyber Unlocked’: https://bit.ly/3dbwzri

You can visit www.austcyber.com to learn more about cyber security.