Scheme to draw more women into cyber security

Mentorship programme includes possible internships, company visits in field that has shortage of professionals

Shifting her focus from technology marketing to cyber-security marketing in her company five years ago, Ms Sherin Y. Lee then charted her own course, attending seminars and meeting industry practitioners before joining a cyber-security firm in May last year.

Today, Ms Lee, 41, is one of 50 mentors taking part in the Ladies in Cyber Mentorship programme, launched yesterday.

Organised by the Association of Information Security Professionals (AiSP), the programme pairs the mentors, who hold diverse industry portfolios, with 50 female students from institutes of higher learning, including the Singapore University of Technology and Design, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnics.

Ms Lee, who heads the AiSP's Ladies in Cyber charter, hopes her experience can provide a sense of direction for her students.

"I had a constant passion and interest in technology that motivated me to find out more about the field, and embarked on a journey of self-learning," Ms Lee said.

Only a quarter of cyber-security professionals worldwide are women, resulting in an acute gender imbalance in the industry.

Besides fewer women, there are also not enough cyber-security professionals here.

In July, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore said the industry could potentially be short of up to 3,400 professionals by next year.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Sim Ann attended the launch at the Ensign InfoSecurity office in Kallang, and commended AiSP for its effort.

"A career in cyber security can be a rewarding one for both men and women, and perhaps especially for women. The very nature of the field lends itself to flexible working arrangements that many people seek - and which many woman rely on - in their quest to balance career and family responsibilities," she said.

Ms Sim thanked the mentors for stepping up to guide younger women. "Your willingness to share experiences and give encouragement could inspire many young minds and make a big difference to female representation in the sector," she said.

The programme, which is expected to run for a year, includes one-on-one mentoring opportunities, company visits and possible internships and attachment opportunities for students.

The programme is flexible, letting mentors and students decide their activities and meet-ups.

The association aims to double the number of mentors by the end of next year, and attract younger participants from secondary schools and get more companies on board.

Cindy Sin Yi Sua, a student from ITE College West, believes the programme will help her brush up her skills for a career in the field.

The 17-year-old, who studies cyber and network security, said her brother introduced her to the course after identifying her strong problem-solving and troubleshooting skills.

She is one of 10 women in her class of 40 students and aspires to be a network administrator.

"Programmes like this encourage us girls to build our confidence in a male-dominated environment. It helps women step up to help one another in the industry," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2019, with the headline 'Scheme to draw more women into cyber security'. Print Edition | Subscribe