Investing in initiatives to recruit more women and people of diverse backgrounds into the cybersecurity industry – Limor Kessem, Executive Security Advisor, IBM Security

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Limor Kessem is one of the top cyber intelligence experts at IBM Security, as well as being a seasoned security advocate, public speaker, and a regular blogger on the cutting-edge IBM Security Intelligence blog. She comes to IBM from RSA Security, where she spent five years as part of the RSA research labs and ThetaRay, the big data analytics startup, where she created the company’s cybersecurity thought leadership programme. Limor is considered a global authority on emerging cybercrime threats. 

Limor-Kessem---IBM

Limor Kessem

“…This year we even offered scholarships to all women interested in attending the Hacker Halted conference in Atlanta, and had over 400 women register to attend the conference using this scholarship as a result…”

A growing force in cyber security

I have spent most of the past decade in the security industry, and joined IBM in early 2015 as a security evangelist. As part of this role I speak in conferences and different security events across the globe, which of course brought me time and time again to notice that women were a scarce minority in the field.

Championing women in security was a natural next step, and I am extra fortunate and grateful to do that in Israel, where women are a growing force in cybersecurity.

My role on a day to day basis

At IBM, I am part of the threat intelligence and research group. My daily work is to piece together data and timely research from across different teams at IBM, and share this information within IBM and the cybersecurity community to help the industry stay ahead of rapidly evolving threats.

This involves staying up to speed on the latest cybercrime trends, understanding the activities of various cybercriminal groups and being able to translate technical cybersecurity data into relevant information for a variety of audiences.

To get an idea about what that means, you can check out my author page on the IBM blog.

Data – the most precious resource

Laptop-and-padlockNowadays, the most precious resource for organisations in every sector is data. Cybersecurity encompasses everything that has to do with securing the human and digital environments of organisations in order to protect their data. Cybersecurity should be a core part of any organisation’s risk management strategy and can also help achieve business goals.

Evolution of the threat landscape

When we look at the world today, we realise that data is a driver for business, growth, and progress. Everything we do generates and consumes data, and as such, data is extremely valuable to businesses and individuals alike. Of course, when something carries value, it interests other types of parties, such as organised crime groups, business espionage actors, and other nations.

The evolution of the threat landscape is what drove the need for more skills and more personnel, but the pipeline of people entering the cybersecurity workforce has not caught up with demand yet. This is why IBM is working with cognitive technologies and has various initiatives in place to help bring more talent and skill into the cybersecurity sphere.

Investing in initiatives to recruit more women and people of diverse backgrounds

There are many reasons why we see less women in technology overall, and in cybersecurity as well. Some of those reasons are the existing culture, lack of opportunity, unequal pay, and difficulty in advancing compared with male counterparts.

However, more and more attention is being placed on increasing diversity within the security industry and closing the gender gap. With the shift taking place in awareness to these issues, and companies like IBM investing in initiatives to recruit more women and people of diverse backgrounds into the industry, we hope to see positive changes in the field.

Leading the charge

IBM is leading the charge in driving many programmes to attract and retain more women in technology, and the cybersecurity industry specifically. IBM Security sponsors and participates in many conference that foster career development and awareness for cybersecurity careers amongst women – such as NYU’s Women Leaders in Cybersecurity Summit or the WiCyS Women In Cyber Security Conference.

This year we even offered scholarships to all women interested in attending the Hacker Halted conference in Atlanta, and had over 400 women register to attend the conference using this scholarship as a result.

IBM also recognises that part of addressing the gender gap in security is raising awareness of this as a career option at a younger age. To help with this, IBM hosts workshops for middle school girls called #IBMCyberDay4Girls. These events invite groups of local middle schoolers to IBM locations across the US and Canada to hear from cybersecurity experts, learn tips to stay safe online, and teach them about potential career options in cybersecurity.

Additionally, we have a group within IBM called Women in Security Excelling (WISE), which is a community that includes mentoring and support for women in security at IBM, and also drives external initiatives like the #IBMCyberDay4Girls.

Empower and develop

Part of what IBM offers employees, and which really motivates me is mentoring other women and bringing them into cybersecurity roles, or helping them grow their existing role in ways that will empower and develop their security skills.

 

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