Opening Remarks by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Communications and Information at Women in Cyber, 8 October 2021

08 Oct 2021

Empowering Diverse Talents to Defend Our Digital Tomorrow

  1. Good evening everyone. Welcome to our Women in Cyber event. As an advocate for gender diversity across all fields, I am thrilled to be part of this event.

  2. I would also like to thank our international partners, the High Commission of Canada and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, for their sustained support in co-organising this event.

  3. Your partnership speaks volumes about the global commitment towards promoting greater representation of women in fields such as cybersecurity. 

  4. 2021 is a special year for us to hold this event. Singapore has dedicated this year as the Year of Celebrating SG Women – in honour of our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends and colleagues who have shaped our homes, schools, workplaces and communities. Amidst the challenges of COVID-19, it is surely a recognition of the resilience and strength of women in our society.

  5. This is the third edition of the Women in Cyber Event and I am glad to see that the event has grown from strength to strength. During the inaugural event in 2019, the discussions touched on the greater participation of women in cybersecurity. 

  6. Today, we have expanded the conversation to discuss how we can nurture leadership skills, and also the deep technical skillsets of women cybersecurity professionals. Let me elaborate on both issues. 

    Nurturing Cybersecurity Leaders

  7. First, leadership. Across all domains, leaders have to make difficult, critical decisions on behalf of their organisations. In cybersecurity, leaders manage a trilemma between security, cost and usability. 

  8. I recall hearing once that the most secure computer is the one that is unopened and in a box! Alas, that would not be a very usable computer. 

  9. At the other end of the spectrum, you could spend millions of dollars fortifying your IT system, but that would not be affordable for the majority of persons and organisations. 

  10. We recognise that security is not absolute. Rather, it is a careful risk assessment that takes into account the trade-offs to be made across the entire business spectrum. 

  11. Leaders must find the appropriate balance point within the cyber trilemma to ensure their company remains competitive and efficient while managing growing security risks. The objective is not just to be as secure as possible, but to seize the opportunities that digitalisation and new technologies offer, and to do it securely.

  12. [Announcement – Strategic Leadership Programme] I am pleased to announce here that CSA will be rolling out the Strategic Leadership Programme later this year. With this programme, we hope to expand the worldview and perspectives of existing and aspiring leaders, both men and women through curated training and international exposure. We aim to grow a collaborative professional community of leaders through peer networking opportunities. We need to ensure that our cyber leaders are confident and competent in guiding our enterprises and people towards a more digital way of life.

  13. Later, you will hear from prominent speakers during our SICW Women X Leaders panel. In the panel, we have my parliamentary colleague Ms Rahayu Mahzam, who co-chairs the Singapore Together Alliance for Action on online harms, especially those targeted at women and girls. 

  14. Joining her, we have both local and international speakers from the private and public sectors. Our speakers may have diverse backgrounds and focus areas, but have all . contributed much to the safety of our cyberspace. I hope some of you will be inspired during the event to follow in their footsteps.  

  15. In terms of the absolute numbers, we still have much work to do. Out of the 2.8 million cybersecurity professionals in 2019, it was estimated that only 24% were women. But these numbers look more encouraging when we consider the proportion of women cyber professionals that progress and hold top management roles.  Globally, 28% of women in cybersecurity rise to take on executive-level positions as compared to 19% of men. 

  16. Research has shown that companies with greater women representation in their leadership teams benefit from greater innovation. A diverse leadership team also encourages acceptance and openness of divergent perspectives  which are vital, when it comes to making decisions on cybersecurity trade-offs. 

    Upskill Deep Expertise and Develop Specialisation

  17. Besides growing women to take on leadership positions in cybersecurity, we want more women to see the possibilities within the field. 

  18. Operational Technologies, or OT for short, are systems and processes that control physical entities and devices, such as buildings, lighting systems and transport systems.

  19. However, as OT systems were typically not designed to be connected to the Internet, they can be exposed to significant risks as they come online if they are not adequately secured. 

  20. [Announcement – Launch of the Operational Technology Cybersecurity Competency Framework] We must ensure that we have the talent and expertise to secure such systems. I am therefore pleased to make my second announcement today to launch the OT Cybersecurity Competency Framework, jointly developed by CSA and Mercer, supported by SkillsFuture Singapore and Infocomm Media Development Authority. 

  21. The framework outlines and charts the different cybersecurity skillsets that OT professionals should be equipped in across different sectors such as energy, water, manufacturing, transport and more. 

    a. This allows OT and cybersecurity experts to identify gaps within their technical skills or domain knowledge.
    b. We hope that this will facilitate cross- and up-skilling of our workforce to better secure our critical engineering systems while reaping the benefits of digitalisation.

  22.  Alina Tan is a great example of a highly-skilled, cross-domain talent that we hope to develop more of through this programme. Having been intrigued by car racing from her younger days, Alina leveraged on this interest, to specialise in automotive security. In her previous role in Government, she was part of the team that looked into Singapore’s adoption of self-driving cars. She tested the security of the networks underlying these cars, tirelessly seeking out loopholes that attackers might leverage on.

  23. Talents like Alina ensure we have a smooth road ahead of us as we progress towards a more digital way of life.

  24. Increasing more women representation in the cybersecurity field is a big plus. On a national level, women’s participation help us to achieve the strongest fortification. 

  25. At the enterprise level, we need more women to fill in the talent gap, especially with a global workforce shortage of more than 3 million within the field. 

  26. At the individual level, we want women to be empowered to develop and fulfill their potential in high growth sectors such as cybersecurity.  

  27. Regardless of your age, you can be future leaders in cybersecurity or in whatever field you choose. Continue to upskill yourself and build deep domain expertise. Make the most of the many opportunities in the digital age. 

  28. I wish you all a most fruitful and inspiring discussion ahead. Thank you very much.