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International Women's Day 2020 - The Women of BRIM


With International Women’s Day approaching, we spoke to some of the women within the BRIM Network of Cyber Resilience Centres about their experience working in the male-dominated world of Cyber Security.

Gender disparity in the workplace is still a big challenge in the UK, especially for jobs within STEM industries. According to STEM Women, just 17% of workers in the UK tech sector are female, and in 2018 only 15% of graduates in computer science-related degrees were women.

The problem often begins at a young age, where gender stereotyping means that girls feel discouraged from pursuing maths and science subjects at school. The government is working alongside schools and education charities to try and break down these barriers, but we still have a long way to go before anything close to equality could be declared in the sector.

Our panel from the BRIM Network is selected from a variety of Centres and the National Programme Policing office:

The panel:

From left to right: Wendy Henderson, Rebecca Chapman, Lizzie Buckler, Samantha Hancock and Michelle Nichols

Wendy Henderson (WH)

As a National Programme Manager with Police UK, Wendy is responsible for keeping everything running efficiently. From scheduling work and managing budgets, to keeping risk registers up to date, she ensures that the programme is always delivering results.

Rebecca Chapman (RC)

Rebecca, seconded from Police UK, works across the North East Region to deliver digital forensics, forensic collision and Team Cyber UK. She is one of the first leaders of a Cyber Resilience Centre within the national network being rolled out by BRIM, which are being established to improve cybercrime prevention for small and medium enterprises.

Lizzie Buckler (LB)

As Project Support for South Yorkshire Police at the North East Business Resilience Centre, Lizzie is the Centre’s Manager for customer relationships. She also manages the website and social media sites to reach SMEs with key information about their cyber resilience.

Samantha Hancock (SH)

Samantha is the Cyber Protect Officer for Leicestershire Police, where she raises awareness of cybercrime, fraud and scams among staff, local businesses and community groups. Samantha is supporting the East Midlands Cyber Resilience Centre which is soon to launch.

Michelle Nichols (MN)

Working as Communications Lead for the National Cyber Crime Programme, Michelle

writes about all the great work being done by force and regional Cybercrime Units, to inform the public about the support network that exists for victims of cybercrime. She has also launched and continues to produce a national newsletter for all officers and staff involved in Cybercrime, which is distributed across the UK.

Who or what inspired you to work in cyber security?

LB: I left Sheffield Hallam University having done a criminology degree with the initial aim to pursue a career in Policing and Law enforcement. I saw an opportunity to work in the North East Business Resilience Centre (NEBRC), and I thought it sounded really exciting.

I like the fact I am working with small to medium businesses, as they tend to be more vulnerable to Cyber-attacks. Helping protect these businesses has inspired me to pursue a career in Cyber Security.

WH: While I was working as a project manager in Derbyshire Constabulary, I met Chief Constable Peter Goodman who is the NPCC lead for Cyber. He approached me to discuss an opportunity to work on a programme to enhance the capability and capacity of forces to respond to cyber dependent crime incidents, and support victims of these types of crimes. The passion and drive Mr Goodman demonstrated in his vision to help victims of cybercrime really struck a chord with me.

With the Government working to address the gender imbalance in STEM fields, what do you think needs to be done to encourage more women and girls into STEM courses and careers?

SH: It needs to start early on in schools so that girls know they can be anything they want to be!

LB: Women need to feel welcomed and supported in these types of roles. There could be increased support for work-life balance, like giving people the opportunity to work from home (for parental or child-care). I also think it would be useful to use guest speakers – women who have made successful careers in STEM fields – as real-life examples, to encourage more women to follow similar paths.

RC: I think that schools need to make cyber more interesting for pupils. Coding on its own turns people off – what’s needed is more focus on the security angle and practical experience in ethical hacking. I think female role models would help and they should be invited in from the business world to present to students.

What’s a misconception about working in a STEM career that you’d be happy to dispel?

SH: That it’s mainly a male environment – in the last three years there are loads more ladies in our field and that is great!

LB: One I come across A LOT is that STEM careers are a ‘man’s world’. My role gives me the opportunity to work with many individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, and I have met a lot of highly skilled women that have made very long and successful careers in this area.

RC: That you need to know how to code and know everything about computers! I’ve been on a basic cyber foundation course which was very challenging for me, but I’ve picked up most of what I know along the way.

WH: That it’s too technical, it’s all about sitting behind a screen and punching zeros and ones into a programme, that it’s boring – it’s not true! The types of roles available are varied and many, so you could end up designing the next big system that everyone uses!

The theme of International Women’s Day 2020 is #EachForEqual. What part can companies like BRIM and the National Cyber Resilience Centres have in bringing about a more equal world?

SH: I think it’s important to cover the wide range of different jobs there are and show that it isn’t all techy and geeky – my role certainly isn’t! It’s amazing how many people are surprised that my role exists within the police.

RC: For me, it’s about evening up the balance between big businesses and smaller ones – those who can afford professional protection and those that can’t. It makes me very proud to be part of the national BRIM network, with two really strong and respected female ambassadors as CEO and Director of Programmes who have inspired me to keep going!

WH: Cyber Resilience Centres will be in every region across England and Wales, so women in policing, communications and technology have a significant role to play. I would actively encourage anyone to grasp this opportunity and think differently about any opportunity that presents itself.

A big thanks to all these fantastic ladies for giving us a glimpse into how it is to be a woman working in this industry! Are you a woman working in a STEM sector? Let us know about your experiences with gender equality in your career.


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