Industry-led short courses leading the way for women in cyber
5 Min Read
The recruitment of women to cybersecurity is critical for the Australian economy, with modelling commissioned by the Australian Computer Society showing that increasing gender diversity in the tech workforce would grow Australia’s economy by over $11 billion over the next two decades and would create almost 5,000 full-time-equivalent jobs [1, p. 25].
People with cybersecurity skills are needed across a wide breadth of industries, including, education, communications, health care, government, finance, defence, and energy and resources, as well as technology.
‘The range of skills in cyber — and the opportunities — are endless, and it’s just going to continue to grow,’ said Mary Attard, Partner at PwC Australia in the Cybersecurity & Digital Trust Practice.
‘If you think about the future of where we’re going, organisations need to think strategically and understand the impact of the rapid growth of the digital economy on their organisations. We need those strategists to come in and help us plan out what a secure digital future will look like.’
Recognising and working to address the burgeoning need for cybersecurity experts around the nation, the Australian Government has awarded La Trobe University — along with key partners that include Cisco, Quantum Victoria, Wiley, Practera, GHD, War on Wasted Talent and Optus — with $2.35 million under the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund.
The Partnership for New Cyber Security Professionals, Skills and Employment initiative will engage high school students in cybersecurity concepts and education; upskill and reskill career-changers and current cyber professionals with unique micro-qualifications; and provide hands-on sector experience.
Jacqui Loustau, Founder and Executive Manager of the AWSN (Australian Women in Security Network), an ‘open network of people aiming to grow the number of women in the security community’ , is a passionate advocate for women in the cybersecurity industry. Jacqui and Mary Attard are both part of an advisory panel of industry experts who contributed to the development of the La Trobe University cybersecurity short courses.
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Jacqui said that while cyber has traditionally been — and remains — male-dominated, the ratio is shifting, with the percentage of cybersecurity professionals who are female climbing from 11 per cent female to 21 per cent in recent years . She identified a desire for helping people as being a reason for more women moving into the profession.
‘Many [AWSN] members have fallen into security because they want to help people. They know somebody who has been affected by cybercrime or they want to protect their family, and that’s what’s motivated them to move into it,’ Jacqui said.
Mary, who moved gradually into cybersecurity utilising her strengths in problem solving and process improvement, identified one of the most fulfilling aspects of her cyber career as ‘that human and tech element and where they cross over and come together’.
Mary said that sometimes stakeholders can ‘swing too far either way’; that an organisation can adopt the most sophisticated automated system with the latest technology but will not have a successful implementation if they fail ‘to understand the impact on people or engage with people to make that technology more successful’.
‘Technology is an enabler for people, and we can lose sight of that sometimes,’ Mary said.
Mary credited several mentors with inspiring her and demonstrating the varied careers that you can have in cybersecurity, and said she wanted to encourage others in the same way.
‘We need more people, more women, more people with a diverse background, coming into the cyber industry, so if I can be that voice and help encourage others, that’s what inspires me.’ Mary said.
The foundational cybersecurity short courses in La Trobe’s undergraduate suite of micro-credentials are suitable for people without a background in technology, while the postgraduate suite of micro-credentials offers more advanced cybersecurity topics — such as programming courses, Python courses and ethical hacking courses — which are suitable for those with a background in technology who are looking to secure a promotion or apply new, specialised skills to their current role.
Each of these cybersecurity courses has been developed by expert academics with deep discipline knowledge and expertise in partnership with industry to address genuine workplace needs.
‘I don’t have those formal qualifications, but I think it would have helped position me a lot in the beginning . . . giving you that confidence that you’ve got a little bit of the knowledge to step in, but still bring your unique experience and skillset to it,’ Mary said of La Trobe’s micro-credentials.
‘I think there’s a lot that you get out of the growth and exploration of what’s going on in the world of cyber. Cyber impacts each and every one of us every day, in our personal and professional lives,’ Mary said.
‘I encourage people to come in with their range of skills and experiences and really help us shape up what the cyber industry looks like for the future, because the stereotypes of what it looks like, or what it has looked like, isn’t what we’re going to need in the future.
- Deloitte Access Economics, “ACS Australia’s digital pulse: Future directions for Australia’s technology workforce,” Deloitte Access Economics, Sydney, Australia, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/economics/articles/australias-digital-pulse.html
- AWSN. “About AWSN.” AWSN. https://www.awsn.org.au/about-us/about-awsn/ (accessed December 6, 2021).
- C. Pales, Geelong, Australia. Episode #39: Women in security with Jacqui Loustau. (July 29, 2021). Accessed December 12, 2021. [Podcast]. Available: https://www.thesecuritycollective.com/podcast/s4-e39