International Women in Cyber Day is a global observance dedicated to celebrating and empowering women in the field of cybersecurity. This annual event aims to recognise the contributions of women who work in various aspects of cybersecurity, from threat analysis and network security to policy development and digital forensics.

It also serves as a platform to inspire and encourage more women to pursue careers in this vital and growing industry, where gender diversity remains a challenge. International Women in Cyber Day highlights the importance of diversity in tackling cybersecurity challenges and promotes the idea that a diverse workforce leads to better problem-solving and innovation in the digital world. It provides opportunities for networking, mentorship and knowledge sharing, fostering a supportive community for women in cybersecurity. The day underscores the significance of women’s roles in safeguarding our increasingly interconnected digital world.

Chanda Azam, DevOps Engineering Apprentice at BAE Systems 

Chanda Azam, a DevOps Engineering Apprentice, previously worked in a range of different industries – from HR to retail to insurance. After having been made redundant whilst on maternity leave during the pandemic from her previous role, she ultimately pivoted to and found her calling in cybersecurity through an apprenticeship at BAE Systems. Although Chanda opted for an apprenticeship slightly later in life, she hasn’t looked back since.

“Women like me who are at the ages where they have mortgages to pay or children to raise and lots of commitments outside of work, might be put off signing up to an apprenticeship programme. But I would just urge them not to let their fears hold them back.”

“As clichéd as it sounds, the only person getting in the way of pursuing an amazing opportunity like the one BAE Systems offers, is yourself. Yes, it is scary to start from scratch. Yes, it is scary having a temporary pay cut – particularly right now. And yes, it is scary thinking about how to balance all your commitments. But that’s where BAE Systems Digital Intelligence comes in.”

“Not only is it a very flexible employer but I really like how the company champions women in tech and how much effort is put into persuading more women to enter the industry. I personally feel very valued here. Since I joined I’ve published content on our website and taken part in a video for National Apprenticeship Week – all of which is helping me progress and get on.”

Hiring managers: Look beyond the ‘norm’ and seek out the transferrable skills that the tech sector needs 

Liz Steyn, Cyber Security Project Manager at BAE Systems

Liz Steyn is the epitome of a career-changer. Coming from a non-technical background and after working in the home care industry for 15 years, she decided it was time to make a change. Unknown to her, she would become a force in BAE Systems’ Cybersecurity department, embedding operational efficiencies and optimising data gathering for cyber postures:

“I’ve come from a female-dominated industry into a very male-dominated one, but I’ve been really lucky that my current team is very diverse with a great gender balance. Since joining BAE Systems, one of my greatest achievements so far has been getting the opportunity to be involved with Women In Cybersecurity (WICS), matching mentors and mentees and putting more structure into our strategy to attract more women in the Cyber security industry.”

“Someone once told me that imposter syndrome has nothing to do with you, but the environment you work in. I agree to an extent, but despite working in a great environment I definitely still question my own abilities.  When you step into a new industry it can be overwhelming to think about everything you don’t know. It’s during these moments that I have to take stock and remind myself of how much I have learned compared to last year.”

“For any aspiring women who are looking for a career change, please look past job titles and focus on job descriptions that share details on some (or all) of the skills that you already possess. You’ll be surprised how many skills you can bring to Cybersecurity even if you have never worked in this industry before. Focus on progress and not perfection – taking the bold decision to change your career will be your first step to progression. Just start and don’t look back. Get out of your comfort zone every now and again, challenge yourself.”

I also would like to share some advice with hiring managers. Please think outside the norm when hiring people for certain roles. There are people from other industries who have strong transferable skills that will be a great fit for some roles that you are hiring for.”

Sometimes exposure is all girls need to become interested in cyber – we need to help bring cyber to life for them and spark that interest to build the future talent pipeline.

Kirsty Perrett, Lead Cyber Engineer at Thales

Meet Kirsty Perrett, a skilled Lead Cyber Engineer at Thales, stationed at the Thales Ebbw Vale Campus in South Wales. Currently, Kirsty plays a pivotal role at Thales, splitting her time between engaging customer demos in the cyber labs, representing Thales by visiting global clients, collaborating with schools to teach essential cyber skills to students, and contributing to the development of the next generation of cyber security experts.

Advice for Women in Cyber Security

“The industry is very male-dominated still, and while it’s improving, we still need to see a shift in attitudes. It’s easy to see how women can develop imposter syndrome in these scenarios. We need to stop gender-classifying certain job roles or sectors. If you ever feel like you are a ‘tick’ box – just know that you are there because of your own skills and merit.”

“It’s been great to work with young children and girls at the NDEC centre (National Digital Exploitation Centre) at Ebbw Vale. In the space of one session, I’ve seen a few little girls decide that when they grow up they want to be an engineer. It just shows that sometimes exposure is all girls need.”

“To any women or girls who are passionate about a career in this sector – let that passion shine through and pursue it. Invest in yourself and seek out any training opportunities that you can. There’s also a large community of women in cyber groups where you can join, network and ask questions.”

Investing in Future Talent

“Through the NDEC project, delivered out of Ebbw Vale, we engage with schools to bring cyber to life in the hope that it will raise aspirations and open potential career paths to children in the local area. It also helps us as a business to identify future talent and secure a talent pipeline for the sector. I believe we need to bring a spark to STEM education. In school you’re not necessarily given the best foundation for the working world or taught real-life applications. You’re taught a subject to pass an exam in that subject. It can all feel very much like a ‘tick box’ at times.

“I love working with schools to bring cyber to life. It’s been a great experience to work with school children and actually translate that learning into something real and tangible. Raising future talent requires a collaborative approach from education, industry and government. It needs to be a joined-up approach.”

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