Career Cybersecurity

Empowering Women in Cybersecurity with Her CyberTracks

Her CyberTracks equips women with the skills and mentorship needed for cybersecurity careers. Explore its focus areas, eligibility, and issues.

Her CyberTracks is an ITU initiative that aims to empower women in cybersecurity through specialized training and mentorship. Empowering Women in Cybersecurity with Her CyberTracks offers three tailored tracks – Policy & Diplomacy, Incident Response, and Criminal Justice, as specialized learning paths in ITU’s Academy.

Evidently, the Cybersecurity landscape is dynamic and a constantly changing one that presents exciting opportunities in the digital era. However, it comes with its own set of challenges and uncertainties. There is undeniably an increasing demand globally for skilled cybersecurity professionals. Her CyberTracks is an ambitious attempt to address the global lack of diversity in cybersecurity efforts. According to ITU, as of 2023, disturbingly less than 26% of those who work in cybersecurity worldwide are women. Cybersecurity just like other technology fields is not a male field. While cybersecurity itself is gender-neutral, the industry needs to be more representative of all people.

Empowering Women in Cybersecurity with Her CyberTracks

Her CyberTracks therefore appears to have been developed to address the unequal access to training opportunities, the lack of influential female role models, and the low awareness of important and valuable career options in cybersecurity. The essence is to promote the full, equal, and meaningful representation of women in cybersecurity.

Already, the ITU’s Women in Cyber Mentorship Programme appears to have laid a solid foundation. Accordingly, it’s about ensuring the leadership, voices and expertise of women are included meaningfully in shaping the future of Cybersecurity.

The provision of expert training, mentoring platforms and inspiring networking for value, personal growth and success in Cybersecurity are the three defining pillars of the program.

The Tracks: Empowering Women in Cybersecurity with Her CyberTracks

Tailored to different interests and career goals, Policy & Diplomacy CyberTrack builds capacity in cybersecurity policy and cyberdiplomacy. The Incident Response CyberTrack equips participants with a strong foundation in cybersecurity and basic incident response skills. Lastly, the Criminal Justice CyberTrack builds capacity of cybercrime cases investigations and prosecutions.

Eligibility Criteria
The target audience is specifically women residing in selected countries in Africa and Europe/CIS regions. In Africa, the countries are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. The program offers limited sponsorship opportunities to support participants in their travels to on-site formats.

Interested women must have a good working knowledge of English. Since the webinars, online trainings and mentorship circles will be via Zoom, a computer and stable internet connection are necessary. A big and unique positive is that there are no age restrictions. Interested? Visit the official site for all the eligibility requirements.

Worthy and Commendable

Her CyberTracks certainly appears to be a worthy and commendable effort to empower women to pursue careers in cybersecurity. It provides women with unique career advancement and leadership opportunities, equipping them with specialized Cybersecurity Skills (technical and soft). The mentorship and networking aspects are critical for career guidance and building connections within the cybersecurity community. While the information available about Her CyberTracks doesn’t explicitly mention data protection and privacy as part of the curriculum, the program tracks, especially Policy & Diplomacy and Criminal Justice, deal with areas that connect with data protection and privacy laws and regulations.

Relevance for African Countries

Africa’s rapid digital adoption and low cybersecurity awareness have been accompanied by a rise in cybercrime. The need to secure digital systems and infrastructure is obvious and growing. This creates opportunities for skilled professionals and entrepreneurs. But Africa’s cybersecurity skills gap is massive.

In view of the significant cybersecurity skills gap faced by Africa, limited resources and lack of diversity in the field, Her CyberTracks can help. It can enhance the development of local cybersecurity expertise by providing cybersecurity training and career opportunities for women, who are certainly underrepresented in the field in Africa.

Showcasing role models is a massively effective way to change perceptions and demolish stereotypes. This approach can help to inspire and encourage other African women to pursue careers in this field in areas that are important to African countries. Increased diversity in the field strengthens the cyber defense and cybersecurity strategy of African countries.

Optimizing Empowering Women in Cybersecurity with Her CyberTracks

Critical evaluation of the Her CyberTracks program enhances its ability to achieve its goals of empowering women in cybersecurity. For example, there should a focus on mobile security in programs for Africa in view of the high mobile phone penetration rate in Africa.

The societal divides too should be seriously considered as unequal access to finance, technology and the internet in Africa could limit the ability of some women to participate and contribute. In this regard, limited travel sponsorship could hinder inclusive participation.

Funding is a sustainability concern as Her CyberTracks relies on funding from several organizations funding. What happens if funding stops? If Africa is serious about leveraging technology to achieve sustainable development, it must prioritize continued investment in Cybersecurity education and awareness programs across the continent through public-private partnerships and other creative approaches. Scaling it to reach a wider range of women in Africa and globally is a key challenge.

Furthermore, it is important to measure the program’s long time effectiveness over time. Where and how is it making a difference? What are the areas for improvement? How many of the participants eventually build successful cybersecurity careers? Participants should be encouraged to build a strong professional network and connections during and after program completion. Ongoing support for graduates in areas like mentoring and career development should be encouraged.

The importance of continuous learning should also be emphasized as a necessity to be embraced and enjoyed not a burden to be avoided or tolerated. As new technologies emerge, so too will new cyber attack strategies and changing demands from the cybersecurity job market. The program’s curriculum and participants will themselves need to be adaptable to remain relevant and effective.

Not a Magic Fix but can make a Big Difference

The program is not a cure-all. The program has limitations. It cannot directly address cultural biases within the cybersecurity industry that hinder the career advancement of women. However, having more women in cybersecurity as innovators, professionals and leaders can eventually lead to a change in attitudes and practices.

Despite the challenges and uncertainties, the opportunities in African women in cybersecurity are significant. Cybersecurity professionals play a critical role in an increasingly digital world.

HerTracks is in line with Africa’s need to invest in skills development, infrastructure, and collaboration in cybersecurity and other critical areas to build a more secure digital future for their citizens and economies. Find out more about the program, HERE.

Author: Jide Awe

Science, Technology and Innovation policy advisor.

Find him on Twitter @jidaw

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