Narrowing the gender equality gap within industrial cyber security industry

By Galina Antova, co-founder and chief business development officer at Claroty 

gender equality, gender balanceWe are currently seeing ample evidence that nation-state adversaries are targeting critical infrastructure sectors, such as water, electricity, transportation etc., around the globe.

For example, at the end of April, Israel reported that there had been a large-scale attempt at a critical infrastructure attack against its national water supply. All of this infrastructure is essential to operations that keep a country running and therefore valuable to attackers, and it is likely we’ll see more attacks as a form of economic warfare to advance geopolitical agendas in the near future.

That said, the operational technology (OT) networks that this infrastructure runs on has a lot of catching up to do to reach the IT cyber security landscape. They are about 25 years apart due to the majority of OT running on legacy networks that in the past have been unconnected and standalone entities. They are now becoming connected; however, this connectivity brings with it an abundance of risks that the industry has not had to worry about in the past.

Bridging the gender gap in the industrial cyber security sector

In order to close the cyber security gap between IT and OT, a number of companies specialising in industrial cyber security, ourselves included, have stepped onto the scene in recent years.

But there is also another gap that needs closing – the gender gap.

While the challenge exists in employing women in the technology sector in general, there is an extra consideration in the industrial cyber security sector as it tends to not only involve technology and cyber, but also automation engineering, which traditionally has been a male domain.

The lack of female representation in this space is prominent right across the board, from executives leading the industrial cyber security initiatives in large corporations, to OT engineers in the field. Securing industrial control systems as well as driving wider digitalisation initiatives require a great deal of collaboration between different parts of the organisation. Women (as a group, not individual members) tend to be better at driving consensus and enabling collaboration, so I think the lack of adequate female representation is particularly relevant to this aspect of our industry.

The opportunity for women

Despite the exponential progress made in the last few decades, we are still very far from true equality. And there will not be true equality until women and men have equal power.

Based on my experience, two things are key to narrowing the gender gap, both in the industrial cybersecurity sector, and further afield: Addressing unconscious biases, and having the gatekeepers of power structure open the door and invite more women in.

I am involved in a number of initiatives, from mentoring female founders to working with women executives in our industry to address the gap in diversity – one being All Raise, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the diversity in funders and founders in tech. However, there are some key steps, that are much simpler and can be incorporated into everyday life, that we can take to begin breaking down these barriers.

First and foremost, within our organisations we need to be able to identify and discourage the conscious and especially the unconscious biases that fuel this gap, such as overlooking someone for promotion, etc. We all carry these biases irrespective of gender. Identifying them openly is something that I do a lot, both privately and publicly, and I consider it to be a great first step in addressing and solving this challenge.

Secondly, and this is something that has improved in recent years, we need board level and C-level executives not only to be aware of the gender gap, but also to dedicate necessary resources to create projects, budgets and teams to address the issue. Having this kind of support from the top will mean that the entire organisation will develop a shift in culture, consequently supporting women, seeing them as equal to men, and giving them the power and confidence they need, and deserve, to succeed.

As a woman working in the technology sector, I am constantly reminded in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways that we have a long way to go to reach equality. But I am confident we will get there, eventually.

About the author

Galina Antova Galina Antova is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Claroty. Prior to co-founding the company, she was the Global Head of Industrial Security Services at Siemens overseeing the development of its portfolio of services that protect industrial customers against cyber-attacks. While at Siemens, she was also responsible for leading the Cyber Security Practice and the Cyber Security Operations Centre providing managed security services for industrial control systems operators. Previously, Galina was with IBM in Canada in various roles in the Provisioning and Cloud Solutions business. She holds a BS in Computer Science from York University in Toronto, and an MBA from IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland.