A year ago we got in touch with Leonor Loureiro from the Portuguese chapter of Women4Cyber. Their team was onboarding Hypervault as a solution to store and share their confidential data. We learned about their organisation along the way and grew respect and admiration for what they do and the principles they uphold.
We love to put our customers in the spotlight. Today we’re giving the stage to Leonor and W4C PT, because we firmly support their cause.
Could you tell us what Women4Cyber (W4C) does?
Leonor: I can say that Women4Cyber is a nonprofit private European foundation with chapters all over the continent, one of which is W4C in Portugal.
It is relatively new and aims to promote, encourage, and support women's involvement in the cybersecurity industry.
The foundation works across several functional areas to achieve its goals. Training programs are specifically tailored to our needs. We include awareness-raising, best practices, and female role models for women, particularly younger ones, and those attempting to enter the cybersecurity workforce.
Another initiative is that our mentors published a book featuring +100 influential women in Europe. This can serve as a role model for many people looking for role models in cybersecurity and I think it could be very useful for women who want to enter the field.
In addition, we’re running a mentoring program. Many of the mentors are in fact the women who contributed to the book; they all have extensive experience working in cybersecurity.
What are the primary issues with the lack of women in this field?
Leonor: From my point of view, the primary cause is a lack of representation, which is why developing role models is our priority.
Another problem is significant differences between young boys and girls drawn to IT and tech-related areas (in terms of schooling and top markets).
This is undoubtedly due to cultural factors, and there is also a stereotypical view of what cybersecurity is, namely an antisocial male with a solid technological concentration.
Unfortunately, women don't seek this as their career because they believe they lack the mindset or aren't capable of doing so.
The field of cybersecurity is much larger and more diverse. Of course, it's technical, but it also includes many other elements, such as legal and social considerations and a lot of communication.
Every year, the number of open positions in cybersecurity increases dramatically. And since they cannot meet that demand, it is apparent that they must address the gender discrepancies.
How many people are currently on your team in Portugal?
Leonor: Well, actually, we are in expansion. There are currently 15 of us.
As I said before, we’re organized into various work streams. We have a workstream devoted to Research & Innovation, Education & Training, Marketing & Communication, HR, Legal and Partnerships.
Who can participate in the workstream? Can students engage?
Leonor: To be honest, one of our main areas of focus is working with the younger population to support and encourage young people who want to pursue careers in the cyber sector; for this reason, we also have a training and education side centered on reskilling.
A workstream for the youth or younger population for school-aged children and university students.
I have witnessed that many women in the firm had made career changes. For instance, one tech woman studied forensic science before transitioning into cybersecurity.
Would you like to scale up this project?
Leonor: I love to say that the organizational structure is set up so that the foundation operates at the European level and that various chapters are then concentrated at the National level. The foundation corporates as a national chapter while considering all the elements of the European Union as a whole.
"Every chapter is therefore quite new, and each has a unique structure."
For instance, we will shortly begin a group ambassador recruitment campaign that will run concurrently with the foundation and be a global initiative. We’re also be launching other initiatives at the national level as well.
At present, Women4Cyber has another dozen chapters in the pipeline. As the foundation is also new, all chapters are not established simultaneously. As a result, some chapters are more mature and older (2–3 years old), while others have just started.
Some of it depends on the laws of the various countries because there are multiple requirements for establishing nonprofit associations in different nations. Since we all operate inside a similar framework in terms of the work streams, objectives, and goals, each chapter can naturally determine what activities and purposes it has at the national level as well.
What brings the future?
Leonor: W4C Portugal is a relatively new organization. We are still striving to complete the infrastructure in all familiar elements. There is also a focus on working on several new initiatives.
We also hope to start mentoring programs at the international level and want to create training resources in Portuguese because we do not currently have any.
In terms of actual initiatives, we concentrate on growing the group ambassador programs at the international level, creating more engagement with school-aged children and university students, and expanding the group ambassador programs.
The legal sector is vital, so we want to raise awareness, and develop resources connecting the legal and cybersecurity professions.
We’re actively seeking to collaborate with other nonprofit organizations in Portugal to develop cybersecurity training and educational tools.
Plus, our podcast is launching very soon. The first episode will be in Portuguese and air in the coming months. It will feature interviews with experts in the field of cybersecurity who can explain the area to those who are interested in it and offer advice.
Later episodes will also cover other cybersecurity-related topics.
How can we get in touch with the organization?
Leonor: For this, there are two possibilities. One of them is our website or get in touch with us on LinkedIn; our community is vibrant. There is a closed group as well where we regularly share cybersecurity opportunities and resources in Portuguese and encourage anyone interested to join that.
Thank you, Leonor. Great to see your team is doing so well and that the contributions make a significant impact on influencing women of today’s generation.