Cyber Empowerment in the Middle East

Article by CNG Editor

“Within our garden close I saw thee—I was guide for both—a little child, along with my mother, plucking dewy apples. My eleventh year finished, the next had just greeted me; from the ground I could now reach the frail boughs. As I saw, how I was lost! How a fatal frenzy swept me away!

Vergil’s eighth Eclogue (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough)

Many of us have come to the field of cybersecurity from diverse educational backgrounds and professional experiences. As a former classics major in college, I loved reading original texts in Latin, Classical and Koine Greek, and then translating them into English, French and German. The above lines are long held to be Voltaire’s favorite lines in Latin: “from the ground I could now reach the frail boughs”—this line, with its stunning syllables of interposition, embodies the promise of moving from callow childhood into adolescence, the alacrity of self-empowerment.

As the Arab International Cybersecurity Summit begins on December 6th, 2022, we take the time to honor the success, sustained contributions, and advancement of women in the Middle East in cybersecurity, notably through Women in Cybersecurity Middle East (WiCSME) organization. The WiCSME launched in 2018 through the vision and effort of founding members Abeer Khedr, CISO of the National Bank of Egypt, and Dr. Reem Faraj Al-Shammari, CISO of the Kuwait Oil Company, starting as a WhatsApp group with 20 embers. The organization grew 1400% in the first year of its inception, and now has supporting members in the UAE, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Kingdom, India, New Zealand and Ukraine. The WiCSME trajectory of growth remains strong into 2023, and its continued collaboration with global nonprofits, including Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS), evidences a substantial trajectory toward the growth of women in the cybersecurity arena in all roles.

In a recent conversation with Executive Director of WiCys, Lynn Dohm noted

“At WiCyS, we continually start the conversation to recruit, retain and advance women in cybersecurity with the power of inclusion. Cultivating a culture of inclusion is where meaningful progress in diversifying the workforce will happen. Inclusion is the foundation, and from it, diversity will expand. That’s our focus and we’re honored to have such a thriving global community of over 6.3k members, 54 professional affiliates and 214 student chapters keeping the momentum and advancement opportunities for women in cybersecurity going strong.”

Lynn Dohm, Executive Director, WiCys

WiCyS has now grown to have representation in over 70 countries in under a decade.

The theme of cybersecurity culture, specifically with women as anchors for its genesis and collaboration, continues through the work of Christiane Wuillamie, OBE:

“Cybersecurity needs women more than ever. Women are natural collaborators, which makes their contribution(s) to building culture in cybersecurity an essential part of the cyber ecosystem.”

Christiane Wuillamie, OBE

Ecosytem. Culture. Cybersecurity continues to foster opportunities to collaborate, allowing us to go beyond conventional thinking and define what will be next. As women both entering and thriving in the cybersecurity arena, it is our responsibility to both carefully curate and support this curation of culture.

As we look out from the Exhibition World Bahrain Center, we see skyscrapers that rise as sable-throated music and harmonize with the desert sky. We find and embrace our collective industry knowledge and strength, which stretches across many continents it is a roborant force that cannot be suppressed.

I invite you to connect, and to embrace building this cybersecurity ecosystem as our responsibility. Looking back at Vergil’s guidance all of its branches, across all continents, will indeed, be tangible.

Do not be afraid to stretch and aim as high as you can. We’ll find our wings on the way down, together.