On 27 September, Deloitte held our annual Women in Cyber (WiC) event to discuss how companies can promote diversity within the cyber security industry and what the industry can learn from other sectors.

From Katherine Johnson to Ada Lovelace, women have made remarkable contributions to the world of information technology. But the industry continues to struggle to recruit and retain female talent. In the 1980s, the percentage of women studying information technology was almost 50%. Today, less than 20% of people studying computer science are women.

So what went wrong?

It's widely acknowledged that diversity is a source of competitive advantage with different perspectives bringing fresh ideas into the mix. But despite the continuous growth in cyber security spending and career opportunities, female representation in the workforce remains low – even more so than in the broader tech industry.

This is against a backdrop of a growing skills shortage; by some estimates, there could be a global deficit of 1.8 million cyber security professionals by 2022.

The aim of the Deloitte Women in Cyber initiative is to promote gender diversity in the industry by initiating dialogue, creating awareness and fostering a community that inspires female talent to consider a career in cyber security.

Going for gold

Our keynote speaker Kate Richardson-Walsh is no stranger to success. She made her international hockey debut in 1999 and since then has made 350 appearances for her country. She won a gold medal in Rio 2016 and was awarded an MBE in 2015.

But it's not been an easy journey. Kate opened the event with a candid account of how important inclusion and diversity was to her team's medal winning campaign. She discussed how her own experience of coming out in the public eye had affected her perspective on inclusivity. She also shared the difficulties that the women's team has faced trying to make a living in the male-dominated world of competitive sport. These experiences resonated with many members of our audience.

The focus then turned to the panel discussion. This was chaired by Lianna Brinded (Head of Yahoo Finance UK), and the panel included Clare Patterson (CIO of Shell); Susan Vinnicombe (Professor of Women and Leadership at Cranfield College); Lydia Ragoonanan (Director of the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement); and General Sir Richard Barrons (Managing Partner at Wychwood Partners).

The panellists discussed how Kate's experiences reflected their own experiences in the corporate world, and explored strategies that had proven successful for promoting greater diversity, particularly in leadership roles. Debate continued in the networking session where many of the speakers, clients and Deloitte staff, from graduates to partners, engaged with the key questions that had gripped the panel.

This was the fourth annual Deloitte Women in Cyber event, and we look forward to seeing you again next year. If you have ideas for potential collaboration or would like to attend future events, please contact us for more information.