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Emotional intelligence and diversity will make Europe fit for the digital decade

On the 12th October, ECSO and Women4Cyber opened a workshop hosted by Microsoft on increasing women’s participation in policy and technology in Europe. The discussions throughout the workshop centred on the broken cyber pipeline and growing gender gaps in company boards. The issues were discussed from both a humanitarian and security perspective. It was concluded that without women and emotional intelligence (EQ), Europe will not be fit for the digital decade.

Women4Cyber is an initiative launched by ECSO in 2019, primarily as a response to the growing demand for cybersecurity professionals in Europe. Cybersecurity is a complex field that requires a variety of skills, and emotional intelligence is the common denominator between people. Even in a field as technical as cybersecurity, it is not sustainable to have solely technical backgrounds and solutions to human problems, which is the dominating case today. Behind every organisation and system, there is a person. There may be technical intelligence, political intelligence and business intelligence, yet, emotional intelligence is how people work together and understand cognitive behavioural sequences (how thoughts are shaped by emotions).

According to Nadja El Fertasi (Thrive with EQ) and Patrick Wheeler (CyberWayFinder), who moderated the workshop, there are two main reasons for why there are not enough women in cybersecurity: the broken pipeline and the demand for cybersecurity specialists which is growing faster than the number of people studying cybersecurity.

Boards are responsible for the risk profile of an organisation and one of the biggest challenges organisations face is to understand the business risk (not just the technical risk). When it comes to re-skilling and up-skilling, different behaviours are required. A paradigm change needs to happen, shifting from information overload to teaching people how to do things differently. Along these lines, Women4Cyber, above all, advocates for inclusion and diversity. The ECSO initiative works towards the common goal of encouraging and promoting the skilling, up-skilling and reskilling of girls and women towards cybersecurity education and professions.

With this in mind, the attendees of the workshop agreed that women in Boards are fundamental, as they offer different dynamics. In order to reach the desired level of diversity and cyber resilience in Boards and across organisations, it is therefore crucial to support the education and skilling of cybersecurity experts and opening up pathways for more women to enter the field. Women4Cyber intends to do just that  with one of its upcoming flagship projects: the Women4Cyber Academy. This will be a one-of-a-kind online platform gathering training offerings across Europe. The Academy brings in the unique advantage of vetting, selecting, and curating all levels and areas of cybersecurity training and certifications at European level with the objective of:

  • Facilitating women’s access to cybersecurity courses/trainings
  • Empowering users, learners through discounts and dedicated benefits
  • Giving visibility to European cybersecurity training providers
  • Serving as a platform for women’s networking
  • Harmonising European trainings on cybersecurity using ENISA’s Skills Framework taxonomy

In concluding the workshop, the moderators stressed that emotional intelligence is key to properly communicating the challenges of an organisation. The better an issue is understood, the easier it is to come up with solutions. Emotional intelligence facilitates communication and the feeling of a shared burden and being self-aware before trying to understand others is the enabling glue to finding solutions. If we learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, we can all play a part in fixing the broken cyber pipeline.

ECSO & Women4Cyber would like to thank Nadja El Fertasi and Patrick Wheeler for their contribution to the workshop. If you would like to know more about the work that they do, visit their websites here: Thrive with EQ and CyberWayFinder.

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