October marks the first anniversary of the opening of Women4Cyber Spain, the Spanish chapter of Women4Cyber, a non-profit European private foundation that seeks to attract female talent and boost the presence of women in the cybersecurity market.
The Women4Cyber Spain (W4C Spain) association, initially just a board of 15 leading female professionals in the security and the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industries chaired by Eduvigis Ortiz, has now grown to ten regular collaborators and more than 80 associates. In addition, it currently has collaboration agreements with a number of renowned companies in the ICT field, including Accenture, Atalanta, Bidaidea, Cipher, Mnemo, and S21Sec, all of which are committed to promote the development, and integration of women in cybersecurity.
The importance of training to attract talent
One of the challenges that define the line of action of Women4Cyber Spain is the promotion of training programs in cybersecurity and technology for women at all levels. This has been the focus of many of the actions of the board of directors, which has signed agreements with prestigious entities in Spain such as ISMS Forum, dedicated to promoting the development and knowledge of a culture of information security in the country, and the ASTI Foundation, a benchmark in the education and development of digital talent.
On a professional level, cybersecurity suffers from the same shortcomings as the entire technology sector, such as the lack of female role models. Girls and young women do not consider STEM careers to be a path for them, as if they had nothing to do with them. That is why W4C Spain is focusing a large part of its efforts on highlighting the role of women in ICT. ‘The main obstacle is the lack of visibility of the work of many women, who do not enjoy the necessary recognition, which exacerbates the lack of role models. For this reason, our association is working to create a pool of reference professionals,’ said Eduvigis Ortiz, President of W4C Spain.
At the same time, throughout its almost twelve months of activity, the Spanish chapter of Women4Cyber has organized regular meetings with different female professionals, all of them leaders in their respective fields of action. The aim of these meetings is to raise awareness about cybersecurity from a variety of perspectives, from the legal instruments to fight against cybercrime and the role of communications in cybersecurity, to the importance of security in digital transformation.
First Mentoring Program
In addition to training, another of the pillars of W4C Spain’s proposal to boost the role of women in cybersecurity is to promote their growth in the labor market in this industry and, by extension, in the ICT sector as a whole, given how closely interconnected both professional fields are.
The association launched its first Mentoring Program last June. It is designed to last six months and will host a maximum of 40 mentors and as many female apprentices. Despite being an association of female professionals, W4C Spain has decided to open the role of mentors to men as well, so that they can contribute their experience.
The challenge of the Mentoring Program is twofold and bidirectional. It is very important to support the mentees, but also the mentors. The objective is defining a process where both parties can extract solutions, techniques, and best practices for their day-to-day work. It is an excellent way to develop talent, with benefits for both the mentors and the mentees. In this model, the most experienced individual takes on the responsibility of guiding the other participant to achieve her professional goals. At the same time, new synergies are established, allowing —either directly or indirectly— for an increased visibility of the role of women in cybersecurity inside the Spanish society.
The balance of Women4Cyber Spain after almost a year of work is highly positive, in view of how well the association has been received by the ICT sector and, especially, the cybersecurity industry. W4C Spain has contributed to reducing the professional gap in the tech field by promoting female talent. We still have a long way to go, but we are heading in the right direction.
The author, Cristina López San Mateo, is a member of the MarCom team at Women4Cyber Spain. You can connect with Cristina on LinkedIn and follow the activities of Women4Cyber and Women4Cyber Spain on Twitter, @Women4Cyber and @Women4Cyber_SP.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the Global Cyber Alliance.