The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all spheres of life – right from businesses and economies to individuals and their lifestyles. On one side, organisations are yet to ascertain the true magnitude of the impact as they gradually reopen and on the other side, the Work from Home (WFH) model is increasingly witnessing a large number of cyber threats.
Rising demand for the number of security professionals can only be met through inclusive participation by 49.5% of the world’s population i.e. women. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on the Independence Day could not have emphasised enough on the increasing need and demand for cybersecurity professionals.
The current WFH scenario for women has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. While many people believe that virtual working may further broaden the gender gap due to increased pressure that women face on the domestic front, I beg to differ. Remote working has provided us the opportunity to be flexible and manage multiple priorities on the domestic as well as professional front.
Conducive outcome-driven work culture: The work culture is ‘consciously’ shifting from time-based to a more measurable outcome-based approach; this is a great opportunity to continue on the journey of being a gender equaliser where outputs are measurable and outcome-driven. This poses a greater advantage at lower levels -skilled professionals will come forth and be recognised, irrespective of the gender. However, at senior levels where networking and decision-making becomes essential, this could pose a hindrance as we may see selective presentism, especially in the male-dominated workforce. Some women also feel that it’s important for organisations to carve out ways that groupism is busted to allow smooth interactions for women, which was already daunting during the pre-COVID era and has become even more severe during the current scenario.
Work life fit: Working from home could also mean shared responsibilities between various members of the household. Personally speaking, I have seen this happening not just in my own household, but also with a number of my colleagues and friends where the responsibilities are shared and domestic work load does not become one person’s responsibility (read: women for this context, since that is how it has been traditionally)
Women, during caregiving phases for young children, old parents, etc. are able to manage priorities both at work as well as on the home front. With commute hours saved and each passing minute being productive, there is more time to manage both the personal and professional front.
However, it is essential that we remain cognisant that WFH does not become a source of anxiety and stress, as it can fail to provide the particular level of freedom for the very same reasons cited above.
Workforce to combat threat actors from different backgrounds: Cyber threat actors come from varied backgrounds and experiences, therefore organisations need powerful teams with a high degree of diversity to manage these. Given that the percentage of women engineers who qualify is only around 27% in our country, this period has served as a boon for those women professionals who entered (or aspire to enter) the profession without the required qualification. On a related note, I have also witnessed several women upskilling themselves during this phase.
In the cybersecurity space, there is a need to leverage the strength of women – such as empathy, compassion and collaboration. These traits can be used to better approach cyber bullying and sexual harassment cases.
Organisations need to look at both the merits and demerits of the current scenario and how this burning issue of diversity can be brought to the front seat. In my opinion, that this is a good time for women to shine and grab their share of opportunities.
Women should continue to upskill, stay connected with their colleagues, reflect and not shy away from defining personal and professional black out time, while also openly embracing “shared domestic responsibilities”.
As it is famously said, ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ so times have indeed come to reposition women in the corporate world so we move the needle towards a much needed balanced and ‘inclusive world’ that defines diversity and meritocracy at the core.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.