Given our increasing reliance on technology in every facet of our lives, cyber is one of the most dynamic and vital sectors in the global economy. The stats prove this to be true: In 2022 alone, the cybercrimes have caused more than $2 trillion in damages. From 2021 to 2025, global spending on cybersecurity products and services will cost a projected $1.75 trillion and by 2027, it is estimated that the industry will be valued at $403 billion. Despite its pertinence, women only make up 24% of the sector, despite having higher levels of education and filling executive positions at a higher rate.
I recently sat down with Deloitte’s Global Cyber Leader, Emily Mossburg, who was featured in the recent 25 Women in Cyber project, to explore the latest developments in the field and why representation is essential in this important and growing industry. Here’s what she had to say:
Shelley Zalis: The cyber industry isn’t a one-dimensional place. In the interest of expanding future recruitment efforts, can you paint a more detailed picture about what (and who) makes up the cyber sector? What are the different kinds of roles in cyber, and what skill sets are vital to success that people may not have considered part of the mix?
Emily Mossburg: Cyber continues to expand into an increasingly broad topic. When we started in this space, it was focused on protecting the perimeters of an organization. Think about protecting a castle: If we put the right moat around it, we don’t have to put locks on the castle doors or on anything inside the castle.
However, the world that we live in today has evolved so much in terms of our dependence and use of technology. The castle doesn’t have a moat anymore, or it might, but there are also multiple bridges, and you can also drop things down from the air and parachute in. As it pertains to cybersecurity, the risks associated with a cyberattack have changed. It’s not just about keeping people in or out of the organization. Instead, it’s about understanding the primary business, the types of data that are being shared, which data is sensitive and why, the legal ramifications of the policy and what an adversary may be after.
For all of those reasons, we need different people at the forefront of the industry who are problem solving. We need a broader group of individuals with different backgrounds, ideas and experiences. We need people committed to fresh takes on how to approach a problem and invest in solving it and who are willing to collaborate with others to create a solution. It’s definitely a team sport.
SZ: What opportunities are there for women in cyber?
EM: Traditionally, we have seen cyber as a tech or engineering field, and while it is, it continues to evolve and expand. Cyber is increasingly driven by professionals who have rich experiences in privacy, risk, business and the law. It’s vital that we recruit a diverse group of individuals who can successfully navigate this more broadly defined sector. Women are making inroads in technology and engineering, and they boast even more significant power in related fields that are now vital parts of the cyber industry.
I’ve been in cybersecurity for about 20 years. It’s amazing to think about where I ended up considering that I have a degree in environmental science, not environmental engineering. Women have proven to be connectors in a variety of industries, and there are so many compelling opportunities for us in cyber.
Cyber is also a sector that is growing exponentially. Yet, the number of unfilled roles is in the millions globally. If we are not bringing a diversity of people into the industry, then we will not be able to protect businesses and society at large.
SZ: Who is your role model in cyber? Is there a woman leader who has added nuance to our understanding of cybersecurity and its evolving and expanding role in our work and our lives?
EM: I have a patchwork of different people who have inspired me in various ways. These women have inspired me to be a stronger leader, a better cyber practitioner in terms of understanding the field and expanding my competency, and propelled me to learn better ways to collaborate with others. I try to learn from everyone I work with, across all disciplines. I have a 360 degree approach to meaningful mentorship.
SZ: What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self about getting started in cyber?
EM: I’d tell my younger self to ask more questions. Looking back, I recall that I didn’t ask as many questions early on in my career as I should have. Back then, I viewed asking questions as a sign that I didn’t know something or that I didn’t understand. Now, I confidently inquire to show that I want to understand and that I want a deeper understanding. So I’d definitely say not to be afraid to ask questions!
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