As applications open for the Western Balkans Cyber Security Fellowship, we hear from two alumni about the future of the cyber security sector, and the pressing need to increase diversity within the field.

Less than 30 percent of cyber security researchers worldwide are women. We ask two Chevening Alumni why they think that is, and what steps are required to convince more women that cyber security is a good career choice.

Ganiela Egro, 2020-21 alumna, says: “There is a cultural misconception that technology and security are masculine professions.  Women often feel intimidated and discouraged to pursue a cyber security career path in a male-dominated industry.”

The opinion is shared by Chevening Alumna Stephana Mugoša: “There is still, I believe, a stereotype that cyber security, and security in general, are male career choices.”

What steps can we take to combat this challenge?

“To increase diversity in this field, we should change this paradigm and embrace the opinion that careers have no gender,” Mugoša explains.

Egro suggests some ways of achieving this, including:

  • Establishing cyber security grants to help build the cyber training facilities that are crucial to any quality cyber security education program.
  • Encouraging organisations to adopt diversity policies in the workplace to increase the recruitment of women in cyber security operations.
  • Doing more to foster women’s interest in cyber security and help them to gain the knowledge needed to be successful in this field.

How can organisations and individuals lead by example to encourage more women to join the sector?

For both Egro and Mugoša, it’s about making sure there are positive role models working within the cyber security sector.

“I am very fortunate to have been supported by female senior business leaders to influence the organisation’s overall strategy. The company that I work for sees cyber security not as an isolated task and tries to build a strong culture of cyber security,” explains Egro

Mugoša adds, “throughout my work in National Security Authority, I had the pleasure of meeting amazing women from various security organizations. They inspire other women to be more involved in this field.”

What is your view of the future of cyber security?

“Cyber-attacks are getting more sophisticated, targeted, and undetected. Organizations are struggling to protect their systems and ensure that data is not compromised,” explains Egro.

“Given the rapid increase in cyberattacks, the future of cyber security seems promising.  The demand for capable, skilled, and hard-working professionals will grow tremendously in the near future.”

Mugoša agrees. “Cyber security will be an essential component of every business.”

That means that job opportunities will be numerous, for men and women alike.

Did you learn anything unexpected during your Chevening Western Balkans Cyber Security Fellowship?

Egro explains how her research focused on the financial industry.

“The financial sector worldwide should be proactive in mitigating potential threats…” she argues. “That means working together to find effective ways of sharing sensitive financial information with consumers. Regulators should also play their part by building environments that support innovation and reassure consumers of the safety of their data.”

“Cyber security is an inseparable part of overall security,” agrees Mugoša.

Why should someone from the Western Balkans apply for this 10-week fellowship in the UK?

Egro says, “I recommend everyone from the Western Balkans that is passionate about cyber security to apply for this fellowship as I believe that this is an opportunity that can transform their careers, their perspective, and their relationship with the UK.”

“The greatest benefit of this ten-week fellowship is that it helps fellows gain a deep understanding of the various layers that make a robust cyber security platform. Throughout the programme, they will develop an understanding of cyber security challenges and cyber security governance, from technological and security aspects to analysis of international and political dimensions.

Another benefit is the networking opportunities. You’ll meet academics, professionals from the public and private sector as well as peers from the Western Balkans. You can make long-lasting friendships and find ways of collaboration to improve regional cyber resilience and security.”

Mugoša provides another reason for applying for this fellowship.

“My motive to apply for this fellowship was professional development. Although my background is not in IT or cyber security, I was able to follow and understand the lectures. It focused on the importance of cyber security in today’s digital world.

I loved every day at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, where the fellowship took place.

Finally, being a Chevening Alumni is a great personal satisfaction, and that should additionally motivate someone from Western Balkans to apply for this 10-week fellowship.”

How will this fellowship help you achieve your long-term goals?

Ganiela Egro shares her plans for achieving her long-term goal to enhance existing cyber security capacity in Albania.

“During the fellowship, I was amazed by the many initiatives of Cranfield University and the Cyber School of Defence Academy to change user behavior through games and other creative methods of teaching. This inspired me to start a research project into how much middle school and high school students in Albania are aware of and understand the importance of cyber security. My goal is to investigate new tools that will be helpful for students to develop their knowledge of cyber risks, engage in cybersecurity education, and explore cybersecurity career fields.

I am also about to launch my personal blog which aims to introduce students and young women to the cyber security field and spark an interest in cybersecurity as a career.”

For Stephana Mugoša, the fellowship complimented her existing work experience in the National Security Authority.

“My long-term goal is… to extend my knowledge into new areas. Upon returning home, I delivered my research paper to relevant individuals in the National Security Authority. I hope that raising awareness in the field of cyber security will become an even more important aspect of security culture in future.”

If you’re from the Western Balkans and are interested in a career in cyber security, find out more about the Western Balkans Cyber Security Fellowship.

If you’re not from the Western Balkans but are passionate about studying for a master’s in cyber-security, we’d love to hear from you when applications for Chevening Scholarships open in the summer of 2022.

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