Middle Eastern women take the lead in global cybersecurity: Report

Over 94 percent of women in the Middle East are interested in pursuing a degree in cybersecurity, according to a report from the Global Cybersecurity Forum (GCF).

Titled “Empowering Women to Work in Cybersecurity is a Win-Win”, the report, a collaboration between the GCF and the Boston Consulting Group, aims to answer concerns about the growing gender divide in the field of cybersecurity and how best to ensure women can play a role.

Women studying in the STEM field from over 26 countries in six regions around the world were surveyed regarding their opinions and views on cybersecurity.

Up to seventy percent of the respondents said their primary reason for taking an interest in cybersecurity was due to role-models encouraging them.

According to the report, women currently make up only 25 percent of the workers in the global cybersecurity field, while around 57 percent of cybersecurity companies cite a various positions in need of filling.


Regional overview

The report highlights the Middle East and North Africa as the most promising region for gender equality in cybersecurity.

In addition to 94 percent of respondents expressing an interest in the field, 88 percent said they were aware of cybersecurity programs.

Sub-Sarahan Africa showed promising results as well, with 84 percent of the respondents stating they were interested and 73 percent crediting high school for encouraging them into the field.

Next is Europe, where 89 percent of those surveyed expressed an interest in cybersecurity degrees and 82 percent are active.

However, 48 percent of the respondents feared that the field would be difficult for them to achieve the proper work-life balance, and 77 percent consider cybersecurity a male-dominated profession.

Respondents in the Asia-Pacific were more optimistic about women in cybersecurity: only 35 percent see it as a man’s field, and 41 percent believe that women in the field are received positively.

North America, despite being the home of leading cybersecurity firms, only saw 61 percent of its respondents express an interest in cybersecurity and only 45 percent were even aware of cybersecurity programs at their place of study.

And Latin America ranked the lowest with only nine percent of respondents expressing any interest in studying the field, despite having a 70 percent awareness of it.


Women leading the future of cyberspace

Lead of Initiatives & Partnerships at the GCF Alaa al-Faadhel discussed the report, saying:

“The results of this report have shown that women are ready and prepared to fill the talent gap in the cybersecurity workforce. With the right encouragement from a young age, women can not only begin to enter the industry, but can also become leaders in their field. By bringing together the leading voices and minds of the cyberspace at the GCF, we are confident that we can bridge this gap and action impactful change for women in cybersecurity.”

And the Boston Consulting Group’s Managing Director and Senior Partner Leila Hoteit said that more women in the field would “fulfill an urgent demand in the field that is only going to get bigger.”

However, Hoteit noted that at current rates, it would take over 100 years to achieve gender equality in cybersecurity.

“The escalation in cybersecurity threats and their economic impact make it imperative that urgent action is taken to address this mismatch,” she said.

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