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  • Anita John, Geneve Lipan, and Jared Rochat

Women in Cyber Security


Women in Cyber Security


1. Introducing our Women in Cyber Security


As a compact company, Infosec Advisory Group boasts a team of 9 skilled individuals, with 2 of them being inspiring women. It's a topic that holds significance for us — defining how we have supported and will continue to keep supporting women in this industry. Now, truth be told, we haven't inked down a formal document outlining our values and expectations. However, there's always been an unspoken commitment to equality, coupled with a strong appreciation for determination that goes above and beyond.

Curiosity piqued, we decided to pick the brains of our fantastic employees about their take on women in the cybersecurity realm. What followed was a collection of thought-provoking responses. A predominant theme emerged – the emphasis on equality and a warm embrace of women within the industry. The age-old debate lingers – are we truly doing enough to set the bar high for diversity and fairness? Perhaps, it's this precise question that should fuel our growth trajectory.

Post these conversations, we found ourselves wondering if these sentiments were shared by our two esteemed women. Thus, we invited them to join forces and piece together this narrative, offering a peek into their journeys within the industry. First in line is Anita John – a spirited young woman who's dedicated her youthful years to pursuing a degree in computer sciences while seamlessly juggling the role of a Cybersecurity consultant. Next, we have Geneve Lipan, another luminary on our team, ardently steering her career in IT and Cybersecurity. Both these remarkable women boast an infectious drive and a penchant for breaking stereotypes.


Anita’s Experience


“My story in the world of cybersecurity began around 2021. It all kicked off when I joined a hackathon with a mission to boost awareness about online security. During this event, I was fortunate to have Anna Collard as my mentor. Anna not only guided me through the competition but also showed me that women could hold influential positions in this field. It wasn't just Anna; there were many inspiring women who had paved the way.


Since that first dive into the Gov-x Hackathon, my experience as a woman in cybersecurity has been encouraging. I teamed up with a male friend, and right from the start, we had equal chances. We both ended up working at Infosec Advisory Group (formerly Infosec Consulting), where I never felt side-lined due to my gender. My colleagues treated me as an equal, giving me the same opportunities to work on projects and attend security events.

Yet, being a consultant introduced me to some bumps on the road. Dealing with clients from various backgrounds, I faced discrimination – not just because I'm a woman, but also because I'm a young woman taking on what some call a "man's job" , but I have never been one to back down. Growing up surrounded by male friends and having two older brothers toughened me up. Instead of feeling intimidated by men, I learned to stand my ground and earn the respect I deserve. This mindset has been my driving force, pushing me to embrace challenges in a field that's often dominated by men.


In my book, being a woman in cybersecurity might mean bumping into discrimination sooner or later, yet I'm convinced that the weight of bias only matters if we let it get to us. I firmly believe that when you're good at what you do and you put in the hard work, all the noise about gender, race, and everything else fades into the background. At the end of the day, it's your skills that shine the brightest.”


Geneve’s Experience


“To truly describe my experience as a woman in Cybersecurity, I need to describe my experience of becoming a woman. Growing up, I had been told that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and that even a working woman should not earn more than her husband as that is HIS purpose in life. I was told these things repeatedly by friends and family, men, and women alike. -Just make sure you marry a man with money, and that’s all you need to aim for-. I was not willing to accept this as my fate. I had dreams to change the world and be more, to create a future for my own family where anything would be possible.


So, I set out to start at the bottom and work my way up. If I wasn’t going to be given the same respect as a man, I would have to work hard and earn undoubtable respect from all in my career. This was my reality. I had many jobs, most of which were personal assistant roles in some form or fashion, but I didn’t give up. The minute I got my foot in the door at an IT position, everything changed. I joined a team of 90% male, where everyday office talk was crude and dismissive of my existence as anything more than a fly on the wall. But at least I had the opportunity to prove to the world what I am capable of. I did twice as much work as others and even learnt the skills and performed the work of my seniors in the team. After 2 years I was still denied a promotion even though I continued to prove how capable I was. That’s when I put my foot down.


I started looking for the next step… Cybersecurity, in all its shine and glory. I scourged LinkedIn for anything that could help my next move and stumbled upon a low experience position at Infosec Advisory Group. This was my chance, and I was not going to take no for an answer. Two months later I got the position. I was encouraged to voice my opinions, to contribute wherever I could, and ultimately was given the space to shine and share my capabilities with the team every day. It was the heaven of my career, a total turning point. And then came the client work. While we all would love to believe we work in a world of professionals, there have been several moments when I felt like I was that little girl again, hitting the wall of “a man’s world”. Moments that could easily have been avoided with a simple show of good faith that I would not be doing the work if I wasn’t capable. Thankfully the awareness of how we treat women is slowly creeping into every environment and there are always at least a few people who will treat a woman as equal.

I have learnt, with the support of this company, that it is okay to be loud and demanding and if you aren’t being heard or aren’t happy enough than all you must do is shout a little louder until you make waves. For all the times I have spent alone ready to throw in the towel, if there is anything I could teach another woman, it would be to keep shouting and to never give up.”



2. Navigating Challenges in the World of cybersecurity:

A Woman’s perspective


Women Navigating in Cyber Security

The world of cybersecurity is a fascinating realm, where innovation and technology intertwine to safeguard our digital landscapes. Women have played a vital role in shaping this ever-evolving field, bringing their skills and perspectives to the forefront. However, alongside their remarkable achievements, women often face a unique set of challenges that highlight the journey towards a more inclusive and fairer environment.


From battling biases to shattering stereotypes, these challenges mirror the larger issues in society. This exploration delves into the diverse hurdles women encounter within cybersecurity, underlining the need to overcome them for a brighter, more diverse industry future.


1. Facing Gender Bias:


In the world of cybersecurity, women often find themselves grappling with a challenge that's all too familiar – gender bias. It's like an invisible barrier that casts doubt on our technical prowess. But guess what? We're not letting that define us. We're stepping up, proving our skills, and showing the world what we're made of. By seizing opportunities to learn and contribute, we're pushing back against these stereotypes and reshaping the industry.



2. Climbing the Promotion Ladder:


Advancing in our careers is a journey filled with twists and turns, especially for women in cybersecurity. It's a path where we don't always see enough of our own at the top. But we're here to change that narrative. We're connecting with mentors who understand our journey, sharing our accomplishments, and actively seeking out leadership roles. By voicing our aspirations and showcasing our initiative, we're carving out our place at the table.


3. Bridging the Experience Gap:


Ever felt like your experience is questioned just because of your gender? It's a challenge that many of us face, but we're not backing down. We're diving into projects that push our boundaries, engaging in industry discussions, and continuously learning. Through consistent effort and a passion for growth, we're shattering those perceptions and proving that we belong.


4. Championing Representation:


When we glance around, it's clear that women are still underrepresented in the cybersecurity field. But we're not letting the numbers define us. We're forging connections, sharing our unique stories, and creating a community that celebrates diversity. By stepping into the spotlight at conferences and engaging in professional networks, we're taking the lead and inspiring change.


5. Celebrating Achievements:


At times, our accomplishments may feel like they go unnoticed. However, we're not staying silent. We're raising our voices, seeking feedback, and ensuring that our contributions are recognized. Through persistent dedication and a commitment to excellence, we're making a lasting impression and showing that our impact can't be ignored.


6. Closing the Wage Gap:


The gender pay gap is a stark reality, but we're not accepting it as the norm. Armed with knowledge, we're entering negotiations with confidence, advocating for fair compensation. By promoting transparent pay practices and pushing for equality, we're chipping away at the gap and driving change.


7. Embracing Support and Rising Above Critique:


Dealing with unwarranted criticism can be tough, but we're resilient. We're seeking allies who stand by us, mentors who uplift us, and friends who understand our journey. With a strong support system, we're able to brush off negativity and stay focused on our growth.


8. A Collective Journey:


Taking on these challenges isn't a solo endeavour. We're banding together, raising our voices, and standing our ground. By addressing biases head-on, fostering connections that empower us, and consistently showcasing our capabilities, we're shaping the narrative for women in cybersecurity. It's time to rewrite the story, making sure that every woman's contribution is valued and celebrated.


3. Key Women in Cybersecurity


Key Women in Cyber Security

Within the realm of cybersecurity, women are emerging as influential figures driving significant changes. Their profound expertise and steadfast dedication are reshaping the very foundations of the field. In the following exploration, we will acquaint ourselves with accomplished women who have not only bolstered digital security measures but have also become catalysts for progress and exemplars of leadership in this critical domain.


1. Anna Collard:


Anna Collard is a trailblazing figure in South African cybersecurity. She co-founded KnowBe4 Africa, an organisation dedicated to raising cybersecurity awareness through innovative training programs. Under her leadership, KnowBe4 Africa has provided valuable insights and education to individuals and businesses, helping them understand and navigate the evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats. Anna's commitment to promoting cybersecurity awareness has led her to actively participate in various industry events, conferences, and workshops, where she shares her expertise and insights. Her efforts have not only empowered individuals to become more cyber-aware but have also contributed to building a stronger cybersecurity culture in South Africa.


2. Amanda Berlin


Amanda Berlin is an accomplished cybersecurity professional known for her expertise in incident response and threat hunting. She is the CEO of Mental Health Hackers, an organisation that combines cybersecurity awareness with mental health advocacy. Amanda's efforts have contributed to destigmatising mental health discussions within the cybersecurity community.


3. Eva Galperin


Eva Galperin serves as the Director of Cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), where she's been a staunch advocate for online privacy and digital rights. Her work has focused on defending individuals and organisations from digital threats, contributing to a safer digital environment for all.


4. Heather Adkins

Heather Adkins is a pioneering cybersecurity figure who has played a pivotal role as the Director of Information Security at Google. Her contributions include shaping Google's strong security practices and advocating for open-source security standards. Heather's work has set a high bar for security in cloud-based platforms.


5. Katie Moussouris


Katie Moussouris has been a pioneering figure in vulnerability disclosure and bug bounty programs. Her pivotal role in launching Microsoft's bug bounty initiative was instrumental in establishing responsible vulnerability disclosure practices that have now become industry norms. Katie's dedication has led to enhanced collaboration between researchers and organisations, resulting in strengthened security measures.


6. Lillian Ablon


Lillian Ablon is a cybersecurity researcher and policy analyst who has made significant strides in cybercrime research and threat intelligence. Her work has informed governmental policies and strategies to address cyber threats, contributing to more effective cybersecurity practices and policies.


7. Parisa Tabriz


Known as Google's "Security Princess," Parisa Tabriz leads the Chrome security team. Her contributions to web security and advocacy for secure coding practices have enhanced online safety for users. Parisa's efforts have helped make the internet a safer place.


8. Runa Sandvik


Runa Sandvik is a cybersecurity expert known for her work with organisations like The New York Times and Mozilla. Her focus on privacy and secure communication tools has empowered users to protect their digital privacy. Runa's advocacy for safer online interactions has left a positive impact.


9. Tarah Wheeler


Tarah Wheeler is a cybersecurity expert, author, and diversity advocate. She has championed diversity and inclusion in the industry and authored works on cybersecurity awareness. Tarah's efforts have promoted a more inclusive cybersecurity landscape.


10. Thuli Sibeko


Thuli Sibeko's contributions to the South African cybersecurity ecosystem are remarkable. As the founder of Sibeko Consulting, she has established herself as a trusted authority in cybersecurity consulting and advisory services. Thuli's company has worked with organisations to strengthen their cybersecurity posture, helping them navigate the complex challenges of the digital age. Beyond her business endeavours, Thuli is a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion in the industry. She actively engages in mentoring and supporting young women aspiring to enter the cybersecurity field, helping to bridge the gender gap and empower the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. Thuli's dedication to both her business and advocacy efforts has left a lasting impact on the cybersecurity landscape in South Africa.


11. Tracy Z. Maleeff


Tracy Z. Maleeff is an accomplished cybersecurity professional and educator with a focus on security awareness, threat intelligence and education. Her contributions to industry initiatives and organisations have spread cybersecurity best practices and raised awareness among various audiences.


12. Window Snyder


Window Snyder is a cybersecurity leader with an extensive background, including roles at Apple, Microsoft, and Mozilla. Her efforts in security and software development have led to the adoption of secure coding practices and improved software security.


13. Candice Wilson


Candice Wilson is a Partner leading EY’s Western Cape Consulting Practice and is also responsible for EY South Africa's Cyber Practice. Candice leads a team through extraordinary market growth and has previously led technology transformation programmes in the financial services sector and internal audit portfolios for the largest insurer in Africa. Her leadership is inspirational to many.


4. How you can empower women


How you can empower Women in Cyber Security

The first challenge would be to combat your own gender bias and start levelling the playing field. This is arguably the most difficult social challenge we face as people today. Studies have shown that gender bias against women have been found in both men and women. A startling amount of “almost 90 percent of people have at least one bias” as was stated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) when referring to both men and women in a report on the 2023 Gender Social Norms Index released in June 2023.



So how does one combat gender bias? Well, look around you. How many women do you interact with every day? How many mothers, sisters, colleagues, friends, neighbours’ lives do you touch in passing every single day without even realising it? That is where you can make your difference. But how does one empower women…


1. Encourage her:


A simple “you did that well” can go a long way to encouraging women, but don’t just encourage her to do well, encourage her to be well. Ask her what her opinion is and really listen to what she has to offer. The more you do, the more she will share her ideas. Show women that they are valued and should never fear speaking up.


2. Take a stance against negativity:


Be the change you want to see in the world around you. If you see someone being negative about, or to a woman put a stop to it and shut them down. Most people don’t even realise how negative they are towards women and just need to be reminded that its unacceptable.


3. Advocate for the women in your workplace:


If you notice unfair treatment/judgement, or maybe you just learnt that she is being underpaid, speak up for her with the bosses. You know it’s happening and it’s not right.


4. Become a mentor:


This one is especially needed in the Cybersecurity industry. Many women just need a bit more guidance and exposure to the right kind of thinking. And you don’t necessarily need a mentorship program to do this. You can focus on the women you know and are closest with. Pay it forward.


5. Support women-run businesses:


It’s a struggle for any business to keep things going. Supporting a business run by women will undoubtedly empower every woman in that business who will then empower other women around them. All it takes is a little support.


6. Recognise and appreciate:


Women are always doing meaningful things around us. For example, a mother enduring multiple jobs to afford an education for her children, or maybe your wife tirelessly cleaned the house or cooked a big meal after also working her 8-hour job (just like you did), or maybe it’s even something smaller like always thinking of how your day went and if you are coping with stress at work. Make a point of thanking them for all their efforts and that you appreciate what she is doing.


5. Communities for women in Cybersecurity


Communities for Women in Cyber Security

1. Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS)


Established in 2012 by Dr. Ambareen Siraj of Tennessee Tech University, WiCyS is committed to bringing women cybersecurity professionals together across academia, government, and industry. Members have ample opportunities to expand their networks by joining community groups, participating in career fairs, accepting speaking opportunities and more. WiCyS also has a community specifically in South Africa and maintain both a LinkedIn page and a Whatsapp group.



2. Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC)


Thousands of women look to WSC to cultivate their awareness of and advance their careers in cybersecurity. The organisation is also committed to encouraging girls to pursue a career in STEM. WSC uses its Cyberjutsu Girls Academy to provide girls with a hands-on curriculum focused on securing information technology that professionals might find in any organisation.



3. CybHER


The purpose of CybHER is to empower girls and women in cybersecurity. It provides resources to girls in middle school all the way through college (at which point they’re eligible to join the CybHER club) to help them build meaningful relationships in the cybersecurity industry. The goal of the organisation is to foster greater diversity in the industry by introducing girls to cybersecurity at a young age.



4. International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP)


ICMCP is committed to achieving greater representation of women and minorities in cybersecurity. It does this by funding scholarship opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate level, using mentorships to help existing professionals advance their careers, as well as disseminating helpful information to members.



5. The Diana Initiative


A conference around women, diversity and inclusion in cybersecurity, The Diana Initiative uses multiple speaker tracks, expanded “villages” with hands-on workshops, as well as a Capture the Flag competition to welcome all genders, sexualities and skill levels.



6. International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Women Leading Privacy


A subsection of IAPP, Women Leading Privacy seeks to help women privacy professionals overcome unique industry hurdles and challenges. It does this by encouraging professionals to share career advice with one another, as well as to expand their personal and professional networks by participating in web conferences, special events and more.



7. Women in Technology (WIT)


WIT is all about advancing women in technology in every stage of their careers, from the classroom all the way into the boardroom. WIT’s Cyber & Tech SIG is specifically focused on helping to advance the educational and professional opportunities of girls and women in cybersecurity. It works with other WIT committees to hold networking events, offer professional mentoring and more.




8. Women in Security and Privacy (WISP)


WISP focuses on education in the form of security and privacy training, advancement tools and conferences, networking events including chapter meetings and a mentorship program, leadership training for women, as well as ongoing research efforts to explore how more women can enter the security and privacy industries.



9. Uniting Women in Cyber (UWIC)


Founded in 2018, UWIC regularly holds several events a year to help women cultivate relationships in the cybersecurity industry. Those events include a year-long program, a sponsor-led advisory board, a symposium held in May each year along with quarterly receptions. Each of those offerings give attendees the opportunity to network, collaborate and promote women leadership.



10. LATAM Women in Cybersecurity (WOMCY)


This non-profit organisation (NPO) serves women in Brazil, the Mexico and Central America (MCA) region, and the United States. Its aim is to support children and women of varying ages with educational programs, college guidance, mentoring networks, and leadership talks through which they can learn from one another and enter into the cybersecurity industry.



11. InfosecGirls


A community that uses networking and virtual meets, an education sponsorship program, and other efforts to encourage more women to participate more frequently in cybersecurity events like conferences.



12. Connecting Women in Cybersecurity by Cisco Secure


A community created by Cisco where you can expect to network with other women, be inspired by diverse stories and career journeys, and gain access to free resources.












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