Ladies and gentlemen
1. Good afternoon to all of you. Let me extend to all of you, a very warm welcome to Singapore and the Singapore International Cyber Week, or SICW for short.
2. Today, I am pleased to open the ‘Women in Cyber’ event co-organised by the High Commission of Canada and Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA). This is the first event of its kind organised at SICW. Through today’s event, we have a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other and exchange ideas on promoting opportunities in the cyber industry for all. This is a cause with global relevance, and I am glad to see such a good turnout from panellists and participants from around the world.
The Digital Revolution
3. We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. Technologies are rapidly advancing. They transform every aspect of our lives and society. Digitalisation holds the promise of greater convenience, participation and better services for all.
4. To maximise this potential, we must balance digitalisation with efforts to create a resilient and secure cyber-environment. At the same time, we must pay attention to digital inclusion. We must ensure that all will benefit from this technological revolution. This includes the users of new digital technologies as well as the people working to transform our lives and society, digitally.
Women in Cyber
5. However, around the world, there is under-representation of women in tech. Estimates of the proportion of women in cybersecurity range from as low as about a tenth to a quarter1.
6. Why is this a problem? Well, first, cybersecurity is not just a technology issue. It involves people and processes. Effective strategies to tackle cybersecurity must therefore be holistic. These must integrate the perspectives of all people - men and women - so that the technologies deployed and processes implemented are practical and inclusive. Cybersecurity is a team sport; we therefore need to build teams with varied experiences to tackle cybersecurity challenges effectively.
7. Second, given the high demand for cybersecurity talent, it would be a pity to draw talent from only half the population. This will undermine our longer-term cyber resilience. Our panellists and women cybersecurity professionals here today are testament to the fact that women can contribute, excel and influence in this field. We need more women to take up positions in the cyber industry so that they can contribute to our collective cyber defence.
8. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a career in cybersecurity is a good choice for both men and women. There are rewarding jobs in cybersecurity. They present a wide range of learning opportunities and offer a chance for continuous personal development. Many cyber professionals enjoy a strong sense of mission as they protect our online lives.
Promoting Opportunities for All
9. We should therefore promote opportunities in the cyber industry to all. Three ways to do this are: (a) raising awareness; (b) enabling access; and (c) strengthening communities. Let me speak a little bit about each of these areas.
10. First, raising awareness by going upstream. People often make career choices early in life. As such, we try to engage youth upstream to raise awareness of the exciting opportunities in cybersecurity. To this end, we launched the Singapore Cyber Youth Programme. Through this programme, we reach out to students at the secondary school-level through learning journeys, boot camps and career mentoring sessions to interest them in a cybersecurity career at an early stage.
11. We are pleased to have the support of our community partners who supplement such efforts. For example, the Association of Information Security Professionals (or AiSP) makes concerted effort to reach out to girls-only schools to conduct career talks. Such initiatives also help to dispel any misconceptions among the youth that cybersecurity is a “male” profession, and help to attract young women to the industry. In fact, I see students among us today. I am very happy and I certainly hope that they will receive useful advice if they are contemplating a future career in cybersecurity.
12. Second, enabling access through training and deepening skills. Cybersecurity is a fast-paced industry. To access the opportunities in the sector, women need to constantly update and deepen their skills. For those who are just beginning to embark on a cybersecurity career, Singapore has the Cyber Security Associates and Technologists (or CSAT) programme that supports training for young and mid-career cybersecurity professionals. Capture-the-Flag (CTF) competitions organised by various community partners are also good avenues for cyber enthusiasts to test and hone their skills. I had the pleasure of attending a CTF competition for women organised by Women of Security earlier this year. On top of strengthening their interest in cybersecurity and deepening their technical skills, it was also a good opportunity for many participants to plug into existing communities.
13. This brings me to my third and final point - strengthening communities. In addition to welcoming and guiding new members, strong communities can create opportunities for their members through the power of networks. These can help women stay on top of the latest technology trends and keep a pulse on the job market, which can translate to useful opportunities and resources.
14. As the cybersecurity industry grows, building communities becomes even more important. Women support networks shed light on women role models who can inspire young, aspiring professionals. They also serve as a comfortable launch pad for women to plug into broader industry and community networks. Given this, I was glad to hear that CSA has brought together the Singapore Computing Society (SCS), Division Zero, AiSP and ISACA, under the SG Cyber Women initiative to organise women-only career mentoring sessions a couple of weeks ago.
15. Promoting opportunities for women in the cyber industry will allow us to protect our cyber-space better. I am glad to see efforts in raising awareness, enabling access and growing collaboration between our local community partners. We should continue to build on these efforts. I hope we can use this afternoon’s session to exchange ideas and explore collaborations with the international community. By leveraging collaboration, working within and across countries, we can magnify our impact.
16. Before I hand over to the moderator and the panellists, let me also acknowledge the men who contribute to these efforts. Quite a number of you are here in this room today. You are a very important and enlightened part of this community to promote opportunities for all. Thank you for helping women to help cybersecurity.
17. I wish you all a fruitful discussion ahead.
18. Thank you.
1 (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Report