Cybersecurity innovation war can’t be won without a diversity of defenders

Yvonne Chebib, Global Partner Solutions lead, Microsoft UAE explains that we cannot hope for victory in the cybersecurity ‘innovation war’ without a diverse team of defenders

We have all heard of Alan Turing. We often call him the Father of Computing. But while Turing is an undeniable force in our industry the Mother of Computing predated him. More than a century before Turing sweated with others to turn the tide of a world war, Ada Lovelace, collaborated with her friend, polymath Charles Babbage, on his Analytical Engine, which would become the foundation of the computers we now take for granted. Ada is recorded by historians as having written the first algorithm when she was little more than a teenager.

Microsoft has long been a proponent of a simple concept: that diverse workforces in all industries are catalysts for innovation. I have had first-hand experience of this during my time with the company. We recently explored these issues at PwC’s Women in Tech morning. We ploughed through the challenges, opportunities, and future for women in the technology space, concluding (as we often do at these summits), that we have come far since Ada, who was largely ignored until the 1950s.

But we still have work to do to ensure women can make an equal contribution to cybersecurity. As of 2021, we represented just 25% of the global cybersecurity workforce. In a Microsoft-commissioned survey, we found that although 83% of respondents believed there were opportunities for women in cybersecurity, just 44% of women believed they were adequately represented in the industry. It also appears that the unfortunate biases about whether cybersecurity is an appropriate job for women are held by women themselves. Some 71% of women, compared with 61% of men, think cybersecurity is “too complex”. And 21% of men versus only 10% of women feel qualified to apply for a cybersecurity role.

Microsoft invests heavily in cybersecurity. In 2021, we announced a US$20 billion investment over a five-year period. We have more than 15,000 partners in our security ecosystem and in the latter half of 2022, we launched more than 300 product innovations to protect people from the threat landscape. Make no mistake, we are in an innovation war with cyber-aggressors, who continually find ways to escalate the volume of their attacks and enhance their sophistication. We may be sure that in pursuit of advantage, they have no qualms about building diverse workforces. We must do the same.