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Microsoft - Bridging India’s cybersecurity gender gap

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Bridging India’s cybersecurity gender gap

Shraddha Wadighare had made up her mind and nothing was going to stop her, not even her parents’ initial misgivings.

Late last year, the out-of-work 25-year-old electronics engineering graduate packed her bags and left her tiny family home in Timki, an out-of-the way neighborhood in Nagpur near the geographic center of India. She traveled more than 1,000 kilometers north to the bustling city of Noida, near the capital New Delhi, and enrolled in an all-expenses-paid course in cybersecurity.

It was the biggest move of her life.

Four months later, she had an impressive new qualification on her resume and it wasn’t long before she landed a well-paying role at a multinational IT risk management company in Mumbai, the country’s biggest metropolis. She has just sent her first paycheck to her mother, a homemaker, and father, a railroad engineer, as a token of gratitude for allowing her to follow her dreams.

Wadighare is a graduate of CyberShikshaa–a philanthropic program that funds and trains women engineering graduates from underserved small towns across India so they can build careers in the rapidly expanding cybersecurity sector.

The program is the brainchild of two women leaders in technology—Manju Dhasmana, director of CSR at Microsoft India, and Rama Vedashree, CEO of the Data Security Council of India (DSCI), a not-for-profit industry body focused on data protection.

Photo of a woman smiling at the camera
Rama Vedashree is the CEO of the Data Security Council of India (DSCI), a not-for-profit industry body focused on data protection (Photo: DSCI)

While India produces roughly 1.5 million engineer graduates each year, less than 30% of them are women and too many find it hard to get jobs. Many of them are the products of little-known colleges where they gain limited technical skills and graduate with certificates that few potential employers recognize.

At the same time, India’s cybersecurity industry is growing fast. By 2025 it is forecast to be worth USD 35 billion as governments, companies, and startups seek to safeguard data. The demand for skilled cybersecurity workers has soared accordingly, but women still only make up around 11% of the sector’s workforce, both in India and globally.

Dhasmana and Vedashree decided two years ago to help bridge that gender gap by setting up CyberShikshaa, which in Hindi means ‘cyber education.’

“As a tech industry organization, Microsoft felt it was our responsibility to create very strong career pathways, especially for young women to join the technology sector,” says Dhasmana.

DSCI’s Vedashree says there was a need to evangelize cybersecurity as a career option for new female grads. “So, we aligned our charters for skills development in cyber fields and women in security and crafted this program together.”

CyberShikshaa is aimed at women between the ages of 21 and 26 who come from communities away from India’s major population centers. Each must have an engineering degree and be from a family with an annual income below Rs 7 lakhs (around USD 10,000).

Through a partnership with the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY), trainees who complete its four-month course are given nationally recognized certification, so they can compete for jobs on an equal footing with graduates from better-off backgrounds.

To mobilize candidates for the program at scale, Microsoft and DSCI also partnered with government-linked training partners, such as Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT), who also provide residential facilities for trainees.

More than 500 women have so far graduated from CyberShikshaa and many have taken up public sector positions–often as the first female in their assigned team.



https://www.sickgaming.net/blog/2020/10/...ender-gap/
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