International Women’s Day 2023 focuses on embracing equity and digital technology for all

International Women’s Day 2023 focuses on embracing equity and digital technology for all

According to (ISC)2’s Cybersecurity Workforce report, women working in cybersecurity currently account for about one-quarter (24%) of the overall workforce – a rise of 13% since the last report in 2017. While International Women’s Day (IWD) follows the theme of embracing equity through collective action in 2023, the United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day is highlighting the improvement of access to digital tools through its theme, ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’. 

Here, we’ve highlighted some industry experts’ insights regarding women in technology and industry trends and opportunities.

Embracing equity

Larissa Crandall, Vice President Global Channel and Alliances, Veeam Software

I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredible men and women leaders throughout my career, challenging my growth and supporting me. We’ve come a long way in empowering women since I first began my career in the tech space, be it through the growing demand for women of all backgrounds, races and ethnicities to be acknowledged for their contributions leading to greater efforts in implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs across enterprises and industries. 

This year, we speak of embracing equity. #EmbraceEquity validates and reinforces the idea that women must be given the same opportunity to succeed as men, and it provokes internal reflection for women in power to seek the same equitability and work to drive this for future generations. 

In the world of tech, I have spent more than 20 years successfully growing my teams and transforming global ecosystems. While the effort involves creativity and strategy, the end goal is quite simple: 3e grow together. We help each other. No one is an island. 

This year’s theme is about pushing for a global ecosystem of interconnected humans to work and grow with each other’s support and skillset. As a woman in the tech space, especially a female leader, I feel it’s my responsibility to give back by mentoring women, sharing my learnings from my career to help women grow. I would urge young women to continue pushing the norms and know they deserve to succeed. Also, to be an ally themselves with other women of different backgrounds to help support each other. Create your network and expand your inner circles to foster a more diverse and inclusive cohort of powerful women who can support each other and grow together. Grateful to work at incredible organisations in my career including Veeam, where the culture strong is strong and supportive.

Innovation drives success

David Flynn, Founder and CEO at Hammerspace

Challenging the status quo within the technology industry is increasingly important. Business models are leaning toward SaaS and software solutions, supply chain constraints have forced the move away from legacy IT architectures and the next generation of leaders needs to be effective in highly decentralised work environments. 

Innovation is the core driver of technological advancements, and diverse talents, experiences and perspectives from people of all genders and walks of life are vital to delivering revolutionary solutions to address these challenges.

Although more women work in technology than ever, they remain underrepresented. As a successful IT innovator, I’ve learned from experience that attracting, growing and retaining the very best talent is crucial.  Attracting women can mean another change to the status quo. It may require business practices that embrace a flexible work schedule, or it may require the business to do nothing beyond recognising the individual’s talent without calling out gender, race, or other social differences. Successful leaders that can attract and retain the best talent will understand that there is no single solution that will attract the individuals they most desire in their organisation.

The most successful leaders of the coming years will know how to build a team that enables each individual to feel engaged, productive and heard.

Training opportunities

Melda Akin, Founder and CEO, D14.AI

On this year’s International Women’s Day, while it is important to recognise just how much progress has been made for the advancement of women in science and tech, there are still many challenges faced by females in these industries in the Middle East and globally. 

MENA’s women are better-educated than ever – 57% of STEM graduates are women. Yet the problem arises when we look at the number of women in the workplace – women are just 22% of the workforce.

The gender gap in the tech industry is a global issue. In 2022, the number of women in big tech fell by 2.1%, despite only 19% of the total global technology sector workforce being women. As a woman in tech in the Middle East, I am committed to improving female representation in science and tech. Working together and supporting each other will continue to be crucial in the push to increase representation of females in tech. 

As the first woman to conduct AI and ML training for women in the MENA region, with the KSA Ministries of Cyberdefence and of Communications and Information Technology – and as a mentor for the United Nations and the NAMA Women Empowerment program – I believe creating awareness and education is an important factor in increasing the number of women in technology.

Following the challenges I encountered on my own journey as a female building a successful tech career in the region, my mission is to support women in MENA and Turkey building careers in tech, equip them with in-demand tech skills, connect them with leading business mentors and help them find their dream jobs.

Diversity and inclusion

Renée Tarun, Deputy CISO and Vice President Information Security, Fortinet

Public and private sector organisations need to create initiatives with the goal of attracting and retaining more women in cybersecurity. These organisations need to make inclusion a priority and measure and track progress, train leaders and create an environment for open dialogue and communication to help make this happen. Beyond enhancing the diversity of the industry and bringing individuals with more varied backgrounds and viewpoints into the profession, there are plenty of other tangible benefits for businesses, ranging from better employee retention to improved financial results.

A wealth of data demonstrates just how valuable women are to the overall workforce. For example, studies show that women bring crucial soft skills to the workplace regardless of what industry they’re in and often outperform men in areas such as taking initiative, communicating, demonstrating resilience, building relationships and developing others.

Organisations that successfully build more diverse teams experience a variety of benefits. Not only is diversity good for an enterprise’s bottom line, but it also cultivates increased creativity and innovation and lays the foundation for better problem-solving and decision-making. Additionally, diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets and 120% more likely to achieve financial goals.

Attracting more women to the field of cybersecurity plays a crucial role in filling important roles and closing the skills gap. As cybercriminals find new ways to infiltrate networks, filling open cybersecurity roles is table stakes for all organisations as they work to defend against increasingly complex cyberthreats.

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