Putting a Gender Lens on the Future of Cyber Security Post Pandemic

Edel Briody is an experienced and successful corporate leader with significant experience in security within the telecommunications sector. She has responsibility for Corporate Security, Risk and Compliance including responsibility for Vodafone’s relationship with the regulator and government which gives her insight into security threats, challenges and opportunities in new technologies and empowers her to shape policy and direction of the business. Edel builds strong relationships and has experience in leading large corporate transformation programmes outside the security discipline.  She is passionate about protecting Vodafone’s people and customers data. She has just completed her qualification in becoming a Chartered Company Director – (CDir) 2020 – Institute of Directors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on business globally. Over the last 12 months, businesses have demonstrated a great ability to adapt and overcome the challenges presented to them, using technology to reach new customers, markets and opportunities.

A new Vodafone Ireland report recently revealed that 43% of small and medium businesses claim they could not have functioned productively without investment in technology over the past year. And while this move to digital is positive, with widespread adoption of technology comes enhanced cybersecurity risks.

Cyber security has become one of the most important and fastest growing areas of the technology industry globally. While this is certainly exciting to consider, what is most concerning is the lack of female representation in the cyber workforce.

Despite the continuous growth in cyber security spending and new professional opportunities, the imbalance between the number of women and men among the cyber security workforce worldwide is significant: women represent only 11% of the global cyber workforce, according to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study ‘Women in Cybersecurity’.

According to an Ernst & Young report, by 2028 women will control 75% of discretionary consumer spending worldwide. Security factors like fraud detection and encryption are set to become an important part of consumer buying decisions. Therefore, female cybersecurity experts will have an even more important role to play in product design into the future.

The future of work has been reimagined and the pandemic has presented us with an opportunity to focus on how we can encourage women to take up roles in cybersecurity, We need to redefine the workplace with the flexibility, individual autonomy and the supports for women in different life-stages so they remain within the workforce.

I have worked in the security industry for over 20 years and I am a passionate supporter of gender diversity. It is frustrating to see many talented female cybersecurity experts leave their jobs to manage family life. That is why I am proud to work for an organisation like Vodafone. The company embraces smart working, by using the latest tools and technologies to allow men and women to more easily balance family / life and work commitments. Vodafone manages by output, so employees can work agilely, whether from home, a hub, or a hybrid model with flexible hours and holiday trading available for all.

The ‘#Work your Way’ programme is open to all employees and offers them the opportunity to shape their work around their personal commitments. Vodafone encourages a system where no meetings are held before 9am and after 5pm showing respect for peoples’ individual personal time and circumstances. This is also supported by a no email at night or weekend principle, unless crucial.

The low representation of women in security is linked however to the broader problem of their low representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. We need to ensure that at a young age, we spark that curiosity in young girls and support them to take up STEM subjects throughout their schooling. The education curriculum must support this.

We also need to look at the way in which cybersecurity roles are advertised and encourage gender neutral language so women aren’t discouraged from applying. There also needs to be significant commitment to training within organizations, so that women can learn and upskill continually.

I strongly believe that now is the time to act and to change. There is a real opportunity to start a movement, a powerful coalition that supports female representation in the cybersecurity industry, and I welcome the support of the GSMA Fraud and Security Group in creating a diversity policy and encouraging gender diversity in its activities.


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GSMA Fraud and Security Group

The GSMA’s Fraud and Security Group (FASG) drives the industry’s management of fraud and security matters related to mobile technology, networks and services, with the objective to maintain or increase the protection of mobile operator technology and infrastructure and customer identity, security and privacy such that the industry’s reputation stays strong and mobile operators remain trusted partners in the ecosystem. FASG provides an open, receptive and trusted environment within which fraud and security intelligence and incident details can be shared in a timely and responsible way.

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