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Mia Landsem wants more women to build a safer digital society

As a lecturer, author and "data detective", Mia Landsem is already an inspiration to many women. She also wants to inspire them to choose the IT security industry - and to make themselves known when they get there.

When intimate photos of the Norwegian handball player Nora Mørk were spread online in 2017, Mia Landsem became known as the "data detective" who revealed the source of this privacy violation. In the wake of this, she has received a lot of attention for her fight against illegal sharing of nude photos. In addition to profiling these topics in the media, she has also made a name for herself as a lecturer and author, where she focuses on online knowledge and the importance of consent.

Today, Mia works as an ethical hacker in the pentest team in Orange Cyberdefense Norway. It was actually a knee injury that led her to what she today describes as her dream job.

- The original plan was Olympic participation with the national team in Taekwondo, and then apply to the Police Academy. However, a serious knee injury put an end to both. That was when I decided to study Network and IT Security instead, something I am very happy about today. I love my job, and have never experienced more respect, backing and equality anywhere else, she says.

Hard work beats talent

There was no shortage of job offers when Mia was nearing the end of her studies in 2020. But there was one employer in particular that stood out as a natural choice.

- Orange Cyberdefense Norway supported my dreams and wanted me to continue the important job I was doing around being safe online. I was not the best hacker at the time, but they were willing to spend time and resources on me, she says and continues:

- They saw a talent they wanted to further develop, and I was ready to do the job needed to succeed. That situation made me think of an expression I have taken with me from my sports career: "Hard work beats talent, when talent stops working hard".

Everyone wins on a better gender balance

When Mia started in Orange Cyberdefense Norway, the pentest team consisted of three people. One and a half years later, they are now 11, two of whom are women. The proportion of women in the company is now about 25 percent, but the management is working purposefully to recruit more women. It is an investment Mia is fully behind.

- It's a smart way to go. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is profitable for the company. Having a higher proportion of women has a positive effect on the dynamics and working environment here, it creates more well-being and increases both creativity and productivity. We have had this confirmed by those who have worked here since the beginning when there were only male employees.

Mia herself has recruited two of her three classmates from Noroff for positions in the company. In addition, she had a finger in the pie when her best friend was hired as Office Manager.

- Many are recruited by other women in the company, which says a bit about the environment here. We would never have recruited other women if it was a sexist or discriminatory work environment. Here we are treated on an equal footing with the men in every way. We are primarily treated as human beings, not women, she emphasizes.

Miss the women in the comments section

Although the gender balance in the IT security industry and working life has otherwise improved in recent years, we still have a long way to go, Mia believes.

- You do not solve the problem just by employing more women in the companies alone. We must also work to include women, get them talking and give them space to have their say. They must be given the opportunity to show what they are good at. Companies must dare to stand behind their ladies, and not least support them in comment section debates. It is important that we women support each other, but it is also important that we have men who believe in us and support us.

She refers to an example when she published a post on LinkedIn that was about sexual harassment. There she received many ugly comments, but she also noticed that there were a lot of men in leadership positions who responded with encouraging comments and shared her post.

- Such things may help to change the thinking of those who do not listen to us. If your male boss shares my post, and shows that he completely agrees with what I say, then it will contribute a lot.

Mia's experience is that it is largely men who dare to speak in the IT security groups online. When she has asked other women why this is the case, they answer that they are afraid of not being taken seriously, or that they will be laughed at. Therefore, Mia chose to start the group «Women in cyber security Norway», which has around 160 members.

- It is not like the ODA Network in Norway, which works for diversity in the technology industries. This will be a discussion forum where women are trained to express themselves in a safe environment so that they become comfortable enough to do so in front of a male audience.

Claim your space

Mia hopes that male leaders will become better at focusing on diversity and recruiting more women for their businesses. When they have come this far; they will also become better at supporting them - both in their private and professional life. But to get there, more women must also dare to apply for these positions.

Women generally need to venture more into working life. Just search for what you want, whether it's in IT security or something completely different. Apply for the job you think you are not qualified for. Believe that you are good enough. We all need to become better at supporting ourselves and each other.

- You should also dare to publish a professional post on social media, go to IT security festivals and present yourself to the industry. If you think you're not good enough, that's bullshit. Submit it or press «publish». If you get any negative feedback, contact me or anyone else you feel you can talk to. You are not alone in this. Take a stand, do not be afraid to make something of yourself, Mia concludes.

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