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How to make a career in cyber security more accessible to women?

How to make a career in cyber security more accessible to women?

As Area VP of Optiv and General Manager of Canada, the world's largest cyber security integrator, Cheryl McGrath is pleased to see an increase in the number of women working in cyber security. A firm believer in equal opportunities, she appreciates the recent initiatives to bridge the gender gap in the sector, while also observing that there is still a lot of room for improvement.

take the stairs

Speaking with ITWC journalist Pragya Sehgal, among the top women at ITWC's second annual cyber security festival in July 2021, McGrath offered a metaphor to explain the growing gender diversity in the cyber security sector. "I think we can all agree that there is no ladder to success," he told Sehgal. "You have to take the stairs."

Inducted into the 2019 Canadian Women of Fame IT Channel Hall of Fame, McGrath pointed to early experiences with technology as a way to get women first on those stairs. "We need to encourage girls and young women to take an interest in cyber security," she said. "We need to help them and show them that if we can do it, they can too."

remove obstacles

On the topic of overcoming career barriers in the cyber security field, McGrath talks about the importance of role models, saying that they are most effective when they look like you, are of the same gender, and have such There is a role. It's what you want. He encouraged both men and women to spend time with youth in safety-related activities, such as coding classes and hackathons.

Responding to a question from Sehgal about the role of individuals in breaking down career barriers for women in cybersecurity, McGrath stressed the need to create a more inclusive culture within us and our companies. "And to do that, we have to elevate the people we work with and help them—in other words, to help them climb those stairs I talked about."

a corporate focus

They are pleased to report that 25 percent of Optiv's team members are now women and that in Canada, 40 percent of leadership team members are women – numbers that reflect what they describe as a corporate focus. Optiv initiatives, such as the Optiv Women's Network, Black Employee Network, Optiv Pride, and the Optiv Veterans Engagement Team, align with the company's core values ​​and highlight the positive impact of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture. "Many other companies have similar initiatives," she said. "We are placing great emphasis on programs that improve the recruitment and retention of women."

McGrath shared some interesting statistics, showing that men will apply for a new job if they have 60 percent of the skills requested, while women wait to apply until 90 percent of the criteria are met. "In the context of helping women climb those stairs, we need to reinforce that it is not necessary to have all the necessary skills," she said. "Something can be learned after getting a job."

reach the goal

Asked what success would look like in the number of women in cyber security roles, McGrath said that is an accurate reflection of the percentage of men and women in the general population. "Last time I looked, the population was 51 percent women and 49 percent men," she said. "That's what success will look like."

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