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We need to look beyond gender and towards a multi-disciplinary approach in order to hire more women

Like any other company in the IT-Security industry, it is a challenge to hire more women. The fact is, we have a much higher proportion of men than women, especially in the more technical roles of cyber security. I think one way to address this is to hire individuals from more diverse backgrounds, says Diana Selck-Paulsson, Lead Security Researcher at Orange Cyberdefense Sweden.

The IT security industry has long worked to increase the proportion of women in their companies. Not only because it is an important and a correct measure with regard to gender equality, but also because it adds diversity in different levels (culturally, socially, skill sets & experience, etc.), and consequently benefits the company and IT security as an industry.

Diana Selck-Paulsson, Lead Security Researcher at Orange Cyberdefense Sweden, believes  working solely on trying to recruit more women with an IT security background is a process that doesn’t seem to solve the gap that we are experiencing. Because even earlier on, in IT and IT-security university programs, women are underrepresented.
In Orange Cyberdefense Sweden, I have colleagues with backgrounds from entirely different disciplines such as political science, linguistic and cultural studies. With different backgrounds and different mindsets, we may be able to close the gap to some extent. Making use of different backgrounds helps put threats into different contexts, such as socially, politically and culturally. If anything, what we are witnessing at the moment is that cyber can become easily geo-political, having people on the team understanding these relations, is very valuable, she says.

Researcher on cybercrime

Diana herself has studied social sciences, and has a master’s degree in international criminology. She started working at Orange Cyberdefense Sweden five years ago, and has gradually moved more towards research-oriented roles within the company. Recently, she has been working on an ongoing research project on the current ransomware and Cyber Extortion threat, where she has benefited from her background in criminology.

– It gave us the opportunity to shift focus from the technical part of the ransomware threat, to the criminal part of the threat. This helped us understand why this is happening, and not just how it is happening. Applying a criminological theory, we could develop a framework to develop hands-on strategies to combat ransomware and thus deter ransomware as a crime. By shifting focus from the technological side of things to looking at the problem from a different perspective, makes the problem more understandable and thus more accessible, she explains.

Greater diversity of backgrounds

Diana therefore believes that the industry as a whole should make some changes in the way they recruit. They must get out of its own IT bubble and include a greater variety of backgrounds. Her thoughts on this, however, are part of a larger picture.

– The challenges we face in the IT security industry are greater than the ability of just one industry or one sector solving them alone. I believe we need to facilitate collaboration across the public and private sectors, technical and non-technical industries, academia and non-academia, so that we can work together on different areas of IT and IT security. With an interdisciplinary approach to the challenges, I imagine that we also become more open and accessible to diversity, whether it is about gender or background, she explains.

Cyber security is a more complex and versatile industry than many may think. This is why she believes that professionals from a much wider range will be able to find their role in the industry.

– We look for many kinds of personal qualities and experiences. People who want to apply to the industry should have an open mind and be willing to learn continuously, since the threat picture is constantly changing. Such qualities and experiences may have been acquired through both education and life experience. One must also have knowledge of, and passion for, one of the many areas of cyber security.

Women are guided to other industries

The fact that a greater diversity of backgrounds will also contribute to a better gender balance in the industry is justified by the fact that there are many competent women in fields other than IT security and technical subjects. Diana points to several reasons for this.

– Firstly, not enough girls and young women are encouraged to, or not at all considered relevant for, a career in these industries. The tendency is for girls and young women to choose more social and human-oriented career paths. It may have to do with the older generation, in that parents and teachers are not up to date on technological developments, and therefore unable to show them the full range of possible career paths that exist today.

At the same time, she adds that fortunately there are several measures that, among other things, help young girls and women learn coding. Such measures can help increase the number of women aiming for IT and IT security at an earlier stage.

An important selection

Diana thinks it is important and right that Orange Cyberdefense chooses to mark International Women’s Day as part of the work to recruit even more women to the industry.

– While we as a society work very hard to treat men and women equally, it is important to remember that the degree of equality we have achieved so far has happened thanks to the efforts of women, and advocates for women who fight for it. We have not achieved equality between men and women in all areas, or in all parts of the world. Therefore, I think it is important that a company that operates in a male-dominated industry recognizes and marks this day, she says.

Orange Cyberdefense is a company in strong growth, and will need many new employees in the future. And not least, they will need far more women. Diana has an appeal to everyone, regardless of gender and background, who would like to join and build a safer digital society:

– I encourage you who is curious, passionate and willing to learn, to join us in this work. If you do not see a suitable job advertisement, get in touch anyway! We may not have thought about you and your background yet, but we are always open to seeing opportunities, concludes Diana Selck-Paulsson, Lead Security Researcher at Orange Cyberdefense Sweden.

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