#MIWIC2024: Lisa Ventura MBE, Founder of Cyber Security Unity Ltd.

Organised by Eskenzi PR in media partnership with the IT Security Guru, the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards aim to shed light on the remarkable women in our industry. The following is a feature on one of 2024’s Top 20 women selected by an esteemed panel of judges. Presented in a Q&A format, the nominee’s answers are written in their own words with minor edits made by the editor for readability and where relevant, supplemented with additional commentary by their nominator.

In 2024, the awards were sponsored by BTThink Cybersecurity Ltd. and Plexal, with Eskenzi PR, Assured and Women in Cybersecurity UK & Ireland Affiliate as partners.

What does your job role entail?

I founded Cyber Security Unity Limited (formerly the UK Cyber Security Association) to help bring the cyber security industry together to go some small way towards combatting the growing cyber threat. My role involves working on key initiatives and projects in various workstreams including for women in cyber, stress/burnout/mental health in cyber, neurodiversity in cyber security (I neurodivergent myself and diagnosed with autism in 2018 and ADHD in 2023), combatting bullying and abuse in cyber security, our “Generation Cyber” campaign, our AI and Security workstream and more. I’m also responsible for our community channels, strategic partnerships, content hub/events and ensuring our members and partners are happy with the direction that Cyber Security Unity Limited is going in, and I I love the large variety of things I get to work on. Community and awareness in cyber security is very important to me; I see a lot of siloes in our industry and my aim with Cyber Security Unity Limited is to break down some of those siloes and get the industry working together more effectively. We talk a lot about the same challenges and frustrations in cyber security, and I aim to bring about some positive change and progress for those challenges.

How did you get into the cybersecurity industry?

I spent many years working in the entertainment industry at the management company of leading TV and radio personalities in the UK, and I worked predominantly with Chris Tarrant of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” fame before Jeremy Clarkson took over as the host of the show. My ex, however, was very high up as a ethical hacker/penetration tester and she did a lot of penetration testing work for the government and the MOD, much of which she couldn’t tell me about as she was bond by the official secrets act. I was always fascinated with the psychology of hacking and cyber psychology though, and the human elements of cyber security. To help her do her day job quicker, my ex invented a software tool in her spare time that scans routers, networks and firewalls and looks for vulnerabilities in the config files that need fixing. I joined the business in 2009 to help with her increasing workload, and suffice to say I never looked back. Once I was in cyber security, I was hooked.

What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in the tech/cyber industry and how did you overcome it?

I entered the cyber security and tech industry in 2009, 15 years on and we are still talking about many of the same challenges. These are things like the gender pay gap, the cyber skills gap, the lack of women in the cyber security industry and the lack of diversity at conferences and events when it comes to speaking opportunities. Things are getting better, and some progress is being made, albeit slowly. I’ve also never been afraid to call things out when I see them, for example, in 2019 I attended the annual Infosecurity event when it was at Olympia, and on the Wednesday of the event I was walking around the exhibition. It was only 10am in the morning when I saw some trolleys loaded up with beer bottles being wheeled to some of the booths. I thought maybe they were for Happy Hours later in the day, but it turned out that some exhibition stands were offering bottlers of beer out to the men to entice them into their stands, but ignoring women completely! I didn’t want a beer but as an exercise I deliberately walked past some of the booths that were doing this, and sure enough, not once was I offered a beer, but plenty of men were offered one! I wrote about this and called it #BeerBias, and raised it with the organisers at Infosecurity. Today they only allow beer and alcohol to be offered on stands at the end of the day and during designated Happy Hours.

Another thing that happened to me was when I was working at a leading not for profit cyber security organisation a couple of years or so ago. I was offered a “Head of” role by the CEO who said that the position came with a £5k salary increase. But in real terms it didn’t, as I had already taken a salary cut of £4k to go there, so the increase was only £1k. But I believed in them and what they were trying to do at the time, which is why I took the slight drop. I then found out that the CEO had offered a “Head of” equivalent level role to a male counterpart that came with a £15k salary increase for him. I was so horrified I resigned straight away. It went against everything I believed in, and I was lucky to find something else relatively quickly. I appreciate not everyone can just leave when they find out things like this like I did, but I could not continue at this organisation after they had shown a huge amount of contempt and disrespect for women in the industry, it was so wrong.

These are just a couple of examples, I’ve seen many others where women have been treated less favourably or singled out.

What are you doing to support other women, and/or to increase diversity, in the tech/cyber industry?

I’m currently working on a range of initiatives to support other women in cyber security and to increase diversity. These include:

– the creation and launch of a campaign called #GenerationCyber which aims to get more women into the cyber security industry, as well as those from minority backgrounds and those who are neurodivergent into the industry. We are all #GenerationCyber, and cyber security is something everyone should have on their radar.

– I am a coach and mentor for women looking at getting into the industry, and regularly give up my time to support those who I coach and mentor into careers in cyber security. I also provide resources and help for tackling bullying and abuse in the workplace (something I have lived and first-hand experience of)

– the release of the third volume of my book “The Rise of the Cyber Women”. I launched this 2 years ago as I wanted to showcase some of the amazing women in the cyber security industry with a view to inspiring the next generation into careers in cyber. I also wanted to shine a light on the many different pathways into the industry and dispel some of the myths to getting into cyber security. The next volume will be released on Friday 8 March 2024 – International Women’s Day. [Editor note: the book can be found here]

What is one piece of advice you would give to girls/women looking to enter the cybersecurity industry?

You will come across bullies and abusers not just in cyber security but in life who nine times out of ten will also have narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic personality traits. Sometimes women will also target other women, which is very disheartening as we should supporting each other, not tearing each other down.

If you find yourself targeted by one of these unfortunate individuals, my advice is to disengage as much as you can and deploy what is called the “grey rock” method, which is to give these individuals responses that are as benign as you can make them. When they realise they can’t get to you or manipulate you, this makes you less interesting to bullies and abusers.

Please don’t take it to heart if you are targeted though, although I know having been targeted myself by bullies and abusers many times, it is easier said than done. It says MUCH more about them than it EVER will about you. You are more than enough, please don’t let bullies and abusers dull your shine, keep being authentically and unapologetically you.

The post #MIWIC2024: Lisa Ventura MBE, Founder of Cyber Security Unity Ltd. first appeared on IT Security Guru.

The post #MIWIC2024: Lisa Ventura MBE, Founder of Cyber Security Unity Ltd. appeared first on IT Security Guru.

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Author: Charley Nash