More needs to be done to narrow gender gap to enable women to boost cyber-security industry

(From left) Dr Tan Mei Hui, Ms Sun Xueling and Ms Sherin Y. Lee at the AiSP Ladies in Cyber Dialogue Session, on July 13, 2021.
(From left) Dr Tan Mei Hui, Ms Sun Xueling and Ms Sherin Y. Lee at the AiSP Ladies in Cyber Dialogue Session, on July 13, 2021.PHOTO: ENSIGN INFOSECURITY

SINGAPORE - More needs to be done to help narrow the gender gap in industries where men outnumber women, said panellists at the AiSP Ladies in Cyber Dialogue Session on Tuesday (July 13).

The panel discussion featured Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Education and Social and Family Development; Dr Tan Mei Hui, vice-president of Singapore Computer Society Cybersecurity Chapter; and Ms Sherin Y. Lee, AiSP vice-president and founder for AiSP Ladies in Cyber Charter.

In the opening speech, Ms Lee said the cyber industry continues to play an integral role in the expanding digital world, and acknowledged that it is facing a massive talent shortage.

She said: "It's our belief that greater female representation can and will widen the pool of talents that we can tap to address this manpower crunch."

During the panel discussion, Ms Lee said that to bridge the gender gap and attract more women to join the cyber-security industry, AiSP Ladies in Cyber volunteers have run a variety of programmes such as secondary school career talks, networking sessions, and learning journeys for the institutes of higher learning to create awareness.

Closer collaboration between industry associations such as AiSP and cyber-security companies such as Ensign InfoSecurity (Ensign) will play a vital role in mentoring and supporting female students interested in cyber security, she added.

"It can provide students with practical, 'outside-the-classroom' insights that would prepare and help them succeed in the real cyber-security workplace," she said.

Dr Tan said: "What we hope to achieve is to help those who are interested in this field to make an informed choice because they know what they are going into; and for those that are not so keen on this field, at least they know what is going on and what cyber security is about."

Highlighting the importance of cyber security in a digital economy, Ms Sun said: "I would say it's a new pillar of defence that we have to have as a nation. It does not just affect government infrastructure but also affects corporations," she said.

Ms Sun also noted the need to promote Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education opportunities to girls and break down preconceived notion of gender stereotypes.

She said: "In our education system, we try to ensure that when teachers talk to students at a very, very young age, they shouldn't be saying things like boys can only do this and girls should only do that, or to have certain notions about family, for instance which suggest that caregiving... is a woman's job only, because all of these can be limitations on women and girls."

Ms Sun encouraged women who are interested to seek a career in a male-dominated industry to not be daunted and maintain a positive mindset.

"Have the courage and confidence that if the company has employed you, then you are good and able to do your job well," she said.

"Never have a diminished view of yourself just because you are entering a male-dominated industry. Have confidence in your capabilities. Always be keen to learn and ask for advice."