Working with women to develop a truly cyber smart nation

Working with women to develop a truly cyber smart nation

Cyber Security Women in Cyber Security
Monday, 29 May 2017

Office of the Cyber Security Special Adviser

A woman sitting at a computer reading a digital interface.

The Office of the Cyber Security Special Adviser held a Women in Cyber networking event at Cisco Live in Melbourne to coincide with 2017 International Women’s Day celebrations.

The event helped to capture ideas about the causes of low participation by women in cyber security careers.

As the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study, Women in Cybersecurity reports, only 11% of the world’s information security workforce is made up of women.

What is not fully understood is why, and what can be done to address this. The Women in Cyber event was designed to ‘crowd source’ information from a wide range of stakeholders, and develop those ideas into concepts that can inform future Government policy.

Participants were first asked what barriers exist to women choosing cyber security careers and what can be done to address these barriers. A significant portion of the responses were directed at three key areas of interest: marketing, role models and hiring practices.

Of particular concern was the many different ways marketing appears to impact on both girls and women’s career choice. This included the lack of emphasis on aspects of a cyber security career that might attract more women. Participants suggested an emphasis on the ability to nurture, protect or improve society by mitigating threats might appeal more than propagating the old stereotype of a destructive hacker.

The need for positive role models and mentors – both male and female – within the industry was another significant factor participants pointed out as crucial when pursuing a career in cyber security, as were unfavourable hiring practices.

Having more women apply for and recruited into jobs in the cyber security industry is critical to increasing the female participation rate, but the real challenge here is retention.

Participants highlighted three key areas to help boost retention of women in the cyber workforce: workplace culture, the need for flexible working environments, and a fear of failure.  

According to participants, a workplace culture that has long left women feeling left out, and one that favours male participation, has been a significant factor for why many women leave, or consider leaving the cyber security workforce.

PM&C is now gauging interest from industry organisations, as well as Women in Cyber participants, to undertake further research in what actions can be taken to address the key areas identified as part of the event.

Partnership is arguably the cornerstone of the Cyber Security Strategy, and what is known is that the desired change sought within the industry cannot be achieved by government alone.

Businesses, industry associations and academia may already be undertaking work in this field, and PM&C would like to facilitate information sharing and collaboration across the Australian cyber security eco-system to reduce redundancy and amplify efforts.

The Office of the Cyber Security Special Adviser would like to hear from you to help identify areas in which you would like to contribute or highlight work that is already happening to promote your efforts. The Office can be reached via email at  

Read the full report from the PM&C Women in Cyber event.