Microsoft partners with SheHacks to interest more girls and women in cybersecurity careers




Girls and women are globally under-represented in STEM courses and form a minority in ICT careers. A report by UNESCO titled “Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in STEM” states that globally, only 35% of STEM students in higher education are women while only 3% of female students in higher education institutions pick ICT studies.

The situation is even much dire when one considers women in IT security and cyber security roles and careers. In 2013, research firm Frost and Sullivan in a report noted that women make up just 11 percent of the global cybersecurity workforce.

(TOP: Hayden Hainsworth, the GM for Cybersecurity Engineering at Microsoft – centre – with SheHacks founders Evelyn Kilel – right – and Laura Tich – left – during the #SheHacks2019 Festival held at Strathmore University).

However, the status is changing, albeit slowly, for the better. Another research firm Cybersecurity Ventures authored a more optimistic report, predicting that women will represent more than 20 percent of the global cybersecurity workforce by the end of 2019. Even Forrester, in another report, Forrester also predicts that the number of women CISOs at Fortune 500 companies will rise to 20 percent in 2019, compared with 13 percent in 2017.

And to further help in addressing the issue of women in IT security careers, has been partnering with SheHacks to organise and host the annual HackFest Festival in Nairobi. This year’s event was held on Friday October 18, 2019 at Strathmore University.

During the event, Microsoft – through its Cloud and AI Security Engineering team – reiterated its commitment to advocate for women with an interest in security engineering through the annual SheHacks HackFest Festival. The company also emphasised its commitment to support and develop, sponsor and advocate for women with an interest in Security Engineering.

Speaking during the #SheHacks2019 event, Hayden Hainsworth, the GM for Cybersecurity Engineering at Microsoft highlighted the importance of such strategic partnerships and events in developing competency in tackling cyber threats in a rapidly evolving tech ecosystem.  “my mission is geared towards empowering our customers and partners to get and stay secure on their journey to cloud while inspiring the next generation of cybersecurity engineers”.

“We are really delighted to be partnering with SheHacks for this year’s Hackathon, with a focus to prepare women to thrive in the technology industry. We want to make it easy for anyone to take their next step forward in technology,” Hainsworth added.

On their part, SheHacks Founders Evelyn Kilel and Laura Tich emphasized the need for increased support towards youth in Kenya. “Since we founded this initiative, we have seen tremendous growth in the number of women and young people who want to take part. This year alone, we are hosting close to 300 young ladies from Kenya to equip and empower them with the required technical know-how to combat cyber-crime”, they said.

In conclusion, Pratik Roy Modern Workplace and Security Business Group Lead for Microsoft in North, West, East, Southern Africa, Levant & Pakistan, noted Kenya has one of the highest number of internet users with over 46 million people having access to the service, according to Internet World Stats. But with the acceleration of digitalisation comes insecure consumer habits. This coupled with inadequate cybersecurity measures in key sectors and eventually turning Kenya into a lucrative target for cyber criminals. Our collaboration with SheHacks provides a great opportunity to empower more youth with the right skills – most urgent cybersecurity skills to accelerate digital success in the region.

SheHacks, a community of women in cybersecurity from various backgrounds and counties across Kenya – connects learners and experts who share knowledge, experience and mentorship through various platforms and programmes they have through annual events known as HackFests.

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