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We Need To Change How We Think About Women In Tech.

At the recent ‘Women in Security’ panel at the first McAfee Asia Pacific MPOWER Cyber Security Summit in Sydney, leading women in security spoke about their role in big cyber security operations. Director of Cyber Resilience Initiatives ACS, Jill Slay, said that the cyber security industry must look beyond technically trained professionals to increase overall diversity.

Jill was accompanied by an ensemble of security experts including COO at the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network, Michelle Price, and Chief Information Security Officer at the Australian Government Department of Human Services; Narelle Devine.

Slay was quick to notice that they all had very different industry backgrounds. Michelle Price has previously worked in policy making and Narelle had a 23-year long career in the Navy.

She stated that “Many of the women who are cyber security professionals, are not ICT professionals”

Slay elaborated by saying, “The work that they will do will be based on their background in communications or marketing, and a lot of the other skills are actually self-taught.”

“I think the problem they come up against, I even come up against it too, is that some of the snobby, engineering professors hear me call myself a cyber security professional, they look at my research outputs and see that I’ve studied law and anthropology as well, and they say, ‘she’s not technical, she’s soft.’”

Jill is dedicated to the development and change of the cyber security industry and says that to do this, we need to change the way we talk and think.

“I was part of putting together a report for Prime Minister and Cabinet on how to get women into cyber security and retain them, and part of the arguments I’ve made are we need to accept nationally that cyber security is not only a technical role, it’s a multidisciplinary role.”

“The government is saying where women want to have technical skills in cyber security, they want organisations and universities to support that, but there’s a strong voice among women saying ‘I can be a cyber security expert without having a technical background’.”

In any other industry, having technical knowledge isn’t a must, but in technology, everyone is expected to know how to code. A car salesmen doesn’t need to know how to change a gearbox to sell a car, so why isn’t the tech industry the same? This needs to change so that the industry can grow and diversify.