In the face of a pandemic, with a disease having spread across multiple continents and affected a substantial amount of people, the entire world population is left at risk of being exposed, directly or indirectly. The current COVID-19 crisis is demonstrating this to great effect, showing us that no one is being spared of this disease. Men & women, young & old – everyone is at risk. COVID-19 is not just a health crisis though: it is an economic crisis, a societal crisis, a human crisis. Its impact on our daily lives has forced us to re-assess our habits and way of life, including the way we work. Yet, when it comes to digital and cybersecurity matters, the sudden change to our routine which has forced the majority of the world’s population to work from home, or at the very least stay confined to their homes, has also brought opportunities to enhance our digital skills, take advantage of online courses/certifications, and get to grips with the increasing digital transformation of our businesses and society. The post-COVID- 19 era will introduce a “new normal” which will inevitably be centred around the digital and online world. The question is, are we ready and who will be the key actors to drive this new era?

Humankind has an impressive ability to show great resilience and solidarity during challenging times and this has never been more evident than now. The resilience is especially reflected in the frontline healthcare workers who work tirelessly every day to fight COVID-19, putting their own lives at risk while doing so. When speaking of frontline healthcare workers, we would be remiss if we did not mention women as being particularly exposed. According to WHO, 70% of the global health and social workforce are women with a significant proportion representing nursing staff. Nurses, as we know, are at the very frontline in providing care to citizens. It therefore feels appropriate during this challenging time to pay special homage to women who have proven through history to be the very epitome of resilience, solidarity, and care. If history remembers the great – famous and infamous – men behind every event, it unfortunately tends to overlook the contributions of the women who have fought, sacrificed, endangered, marched, cured, invented, created. But women quietly persevere, and while their typical modesty means they rarely go seeking applause and acclaim, now is the time to celebrate them.

Cybersecurity is a relatively “new” field compared to other existing domains. While at the very beginning, computer-related jobs were considered mostly female-driven, they are now predominantly male-dominated. Ever since its inception, Women4Cyber and many such initiatives around the globe have been actively working towards the promotion of a more gender-inclusive cybersecurity field. With the expected post-COVID-19 financial downfall, it will be more crucial than ever to leverage on the variety of skills of all active members of society to jointly overcome the crisis and speed up the economy. Employee shortages in some areas, losses of jobs in other areas, are to be expected. Cybersecurity remains one of the fields with a quite significant lack of experts, even before the COVID- 19 pandemic. Estimates predict a lack of hundreds of thousands of cybersecurity professionals in Europe alone, with this number going up to several million globally.

Women4Cyber continuously promotes cybersecurity as a field of study and a career available to girls and women at different stages of their careers. This message is even more relevant now. In this time of lockdown and confinement measures, we encourage women to take the opportunity to explore their skills and think of a fresh direction to give to their careers. And why not cybersecurity? There are a plethora of online programmes, trainings, courses, etc. that exist to help interested people work towards their goal of skilling, up-skilling and re-skilling in cybersecurity. It is always important to keep in mind that cybersecurity does not require only technical skills, rather it offers a very wide range of jobs requiring different skills, both hard and soft.

History is not just in the past, it continues to be written. Wars, conflicts, pandemics, famine, etc. Despite it all, women have shown an extraordinary capacity for resilience, often being at the forefront of these battles. With the increased digitalisation, we need to reinforce gender inclusion and increase our resilience capabilities by leveraging on the experience of this largely untapped potential in the digital & cybersecurity fields.

We urge everyone to come together in the spirit of strength and solidarity which has become so evident during this crisis, to take advantage of the opportunities ahead and make our “new normal” more gender inclusive and gender-balanced. Let’s start with digital & cybersecurity! And who knows... maybe more women will be among the leaders we need to drive this new era.