Women in technology: ending stereotypes

Télécom SudParis

Only 25% of students on Engineering and IT courses are women. Stereotypes persist in this sector, meaning that certain areas like cybersecurity are deprived of countless talented female candidates. Magda Chelly is the Managing Director and Chief Information Security Officer at Responsible Cyber Pte. Ltd. IFSEC Global listed her as one of the top 20 global influencers in cybersecurity. In 2011, she completed a PhD in Telecommunications at Telecom SudParis. Here, she gives us her thoughts on the role of women in the digital sphere.

At present, there are more than 4.5 million cybersecurity experts in the world. However, in this lucrative, booming sector, there are hardly any women. It is a worrying situation, as described by Magda Chelly: “Women represented 20% of the global cybersecurity workforce in 2021. According to UN Women, there is an even greater deficit in the Asia-Pacific region, where women represent less than 10% of the workforce. This percentage does not reflect the number of women with the potential to add value to the industry.”

Stereotypes: the glass ceiling for women

According to the 2021 (ISC)² report, women in cybersecurity have higher levels of education and certification than their male counterparts. So why do they have such difficulties establishing themselves in this sector?

The answer to this question is simple - it is because of the stereotypes that remain in this profession. For many years, careers in digital technology have been made the province of men, with people saying that it’s a highly technical sector, only for geeks, not for women, etc. “There’s one experience that I will never forget. At the beginning of a work meeting, the person opposite said to me, looking me straight in the eyes: ‘You seem young to know about all this. I expected a far older man with gray hair,” Magda recounted.

For employees with similar levels of education and positions, there are still significant wage gaps.  “[...] Women in management positions in cybersecurity earn around $5,000 less yearly than men on average,” (source: ICS - Women In Cybersecurity 2019). Concerns around a lack of work-life balance and the absence of female role models in the industry are just some of the obstacles to more women moving into this sector.

“If you are passionate, never give up”

It is undeniable: women are a minority in the digital sector. But things are beginning to change, with female role models sharing their experiences to get as many young girls interested as possible. And we are starting to see the results, particularly at Telecom SudParis, with 25% female students enrolled for the 2021 academic year. Magda Chelly has a message for them: “If you are passionate, never give up - be the best in your team, the best in your class. The rest will follow. The situation is getting better and there are more and more opportunities.”

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Header photo credit: Cisco APAC

Samuel Piqueur