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More female leaders needed to narrow the gender diversity gap in IT

Nurdianah Md Nur | June 11, 2015
The poor representation of women in the tech industry is due to the lack of female role models and existing gender stereotypes, says Nicole Eagen of Darktrace.

Nicole Eagen of Darktrace
CEO of Darktrace Nicole Eagen

According to Boardroom Insiders - a firm that maintains profiles on top executives - half of the Fortune10 companies have female CIOs as of January this year. However, women are still underrepresented in tech firms. For instance, LinkedIn, Google and Microsoft reported this year that their female employees made up less than a fifth of their workforce. We spoke to CEO of Darktrace Nicole Eagen,who has over 25 years' of experience in tech, on her thoughts on gender diversity in the industry, and what needs to be done to increase the number of women in the tech field.

In your opinion, why do you think there is lack of women in the IT/cybersecurity industry?
Women in cybersecurity may not be commonplace, but we've still had success finding women who either have relevant academic qualifications or hands-on industry experience. 

Generally, anecdotal research has shown that young girls in the region are unaware of the opportunities available in typically male-dominated careers, such as the science, technology, engineering, mathematics (S.T.E.M.) industries. They are not inclined to pursue careers in these areas as a result. A lack of female role models and existing gender stereotypes are also identified as challenges.

What should be done to pave the way for a more equally representative industry?
Quality education, mentorship programs and raising awareness on available opportunities is a sustainable way of providing women and girls with more career options across the board.

In Singapore, the Girls2Pioneers Campaign is a noteworthy initiative. It's a committee from UN Women which aims to inspire girls, particularly those from low income and at risk backgrounds, to explore careers within male dominated S.T.E.M. fields and become the next generation of innovators and leaders.

Has Darktrace embarked on any projects/collaborations with other organisations to help close the gender gap in the industry?
The Bayesian Estimation Theory, which lies at the heart of Darktrace's Enterprise Immune System technology, was developed by experts who carried out mathematical research at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. With our global headquarters located beside the University of Cambridge, we have a close relationship with the university geographically and from a R&D perspective.  

The university also implemented a program to attract more women to study math and science, with core specialisms in applied statistics, statistical signals processing and probabilistic mathematics - areas very much relevant to machine-learning in cybersecurity. As a result, we've experienced success hiring information security professionals who have graduated from the institution.

Do women CIOs face unique challenges?
The CIO role is a demanding one, having to keep up with the latest developments in enterprise technology as well as the daily IT issues that affect an organisation. Whether male or female, everyone will come to a point in their lives when they have to decide if work continues to be top priority, or if they'd like to invest more time pursuing something else.


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