GCF2022: Inclusion of women in cybersecurity workforce is the need of the hour

The GCF’s global report found that 88 percent of women in the region are aware of cybersecurity programs at their institutions, making the region a leader in cybersecurity awareness. (AN Photo)
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Updated 09 November 2022

GCF2022: Inclusion of women in cybersecurity workforce is the need of the hour

RIYADH: Around 94 percent of women in the Middle East would be interested in studying cybersecurity, but a small percentage of women worldwide are active in that field, according to a global report by the Global Cybersecurity Forum.

Women make up only 25 percent of the global cybersecurity workforce, according to the report.

There has been a surge in cyberattacks in the Middle East and North African region in recent years, with many companies suffering larger losses than in other parts of the world. The problem is compounded by the fact that 57 percent of organizations report unfilled cybersecurity positions.

A weak line of defense increases a company's vulnerability to major damage, the report added.

Speaking to Arab News, Laila bin Hareb Al-Mheiri, founder and president of Alive Group, Alive Medical, Alive Labs, and Alive consulting and education, said that 90 percent of successful cyberattacks are a result of human error.

“That means someone fell for a phishing attack without knowing they were scammed or became a victim of a social engineering scheme,” Al-Mheiri added.

Laila bin Hareb Al-Mheiri, founder and president of Alive Group. (Supplied)

She said that women have a high level of emotional intelligence, and they have a unique perspective on problems and cybersecurity benefits from this extra flair.

Increasing the number of women in cybersecurity is a smart way to enhance the field’s capabilities and numbers. However, why hasn’t this been done? Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines, including cybersecurity, have long been perceived as a stumbling block for women.

Historically, cybersecurity has attracted males who specialize in threat response, offensive tactics, and white-hat hacking. Yet the question that remains is: to what extent are women included in the cybersecurity sector in the Middle East?

Women to the fore

Speaking to Arab News, Mary O’Brien, the International Business Machines Corp. general manager, said that throughout her journey, she was met with opportunity, respect, and inclusion. However, as a woman, she said, “I am very aware of the lack of women around the table and the lack of diverse thought that comes with that.”

Al-Mheiri also added that there is a misconception that women aren’t qualified to succeed in a male-dominated society.

“I’ve received praise and support from my male counterparts in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It’s been nothing but positivity for me,” she said.

Role models and allies are critical to creating change, O’Brien said. The report stated that over 70 percent of respondents said a role model encouraged them to learn more about the industry and pursue a degree in cybersecurity.

Many women feel more confident about pushing forward when they see another woman moving through the ranks, she added.

Ultimately, O’Brien suggested engaging young females in STEM early on and helping break some of the stigmas that limit their progress.

The GCF’s global report found that 88 percent of women in the region are aware of cybersecurity programs at their institutions, making the region a leader in cybersecurity awareness.

Speaking to Arab News, Alaa Al-Faadhel, GCF’s head of initiatives and partnerships, said: “In Saudi Arabia, a high number of the cybersecurity sector is female with the government placing significant emphasis on education and training in the field.”

She also said that in the MENA region, interest in cybersecurity is high among women.

Al-Faadhel added that the report showed that 91 percent of women in this part of the world are the most likely to take part in cybersecurity programs relative to the rest of the world.

The importance of teaching cybersecurity to women early in their education was also stressed by Al-Mheiri.

“Women need to know that they don’t always have to rely on their brothers or fathers for technical answers – they have more than what it takes to do it,” she added.

Women can become confident and lead successful careers in cybersecurity by empowering and instilling confidence at an early age before stereotypes form, O’Brien said.

Support from males

“Women supporting women is critical, but we also need the people currently sitting at the table to help,” O’Brien explained, stressing that male intervention is necessary at all times. Having male allies can be a true accelerator for women, she said.

O’Brien added that she had personally seen the benefits of strong male allies in helping women advance to leadership positions.

In a balanced gender discussion, she said people see a broader range of ideas and solutions.

“That’s an ongoing consideration for me whenever I arrange meetings or events,” O’Brien added.

As far as gender diversity in the cybersecurity industry is concerned, some progress has been made, but more can be done by companies and organizations, she said.

Al-Mheiri pointed out that the current global cybersecurity workforce is not a true representation of the talent that exists in the market.

“That said, we’ve come a long way, and we still have quite a way to go in ensuring equity of opportunity,” Al-Mheiri added.

Organizations must assume unconscious bias when it comes to recruitment and retention. In addition, they should set up and track metrics that reflect diversity in their hiring and promotion processes, O’Brien said.

According to Al-Mheiri, more than 70 percent of Alive Group’s employees are women, and many continue to excel outside the workplace, both personally and professionally.

“We found that success across various spheres of life can be achieved when systemic and historical biases are set aside,” Al-Mheiri added.

In addition, Al-Mheiri reported that the system is changing and she has seen progress toward involving women in decision-making.

“Several role models have risen in the field and left footprints in the sand for others to follow. The time has come to educate, mentor, encourage, empower, network, and provide agency to those women who aspire to enter the field,” she added.

Al-Faadhel said that the report proves women are ready to close the cybersecurity skill gap.

“To encourage women to choose cybersecurity as a profession, they need greater support during school, higher education and through their careers. To ensure retention, it is important to implement policies that cater to women, such as family-friendly workplace measures, mentoring, networking, and development opportunities,” Faadhel concluded.

Saudi housing program Sakani benefits over 32,000 families in Q1

Updated 13 sec ago

Saudi housing program Sakani benefits over 32,000 families in Q1

RIYADH: As many as 32,343 Saudi families benefitted from Sakani’s housing options during the first quarter of 2024, marking an annual 15 percent increase.

In collaboration with the Real Estate Development Fund and financial institutions, the program provides a variety of housing support packages to encourage first-time house buyers, including non-refundable financial assistance of SR100,000 ($26,659) or SR150,000.

The number of the Kingdom’s households that purchased their first homes reached 25,391 in the first three months of the year, reflecting the objective of Sakani to offer a variety of residential options and financial solutions.

Founded in 2017 by the Saudi Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund, the program aims to increase the proportion of families that own a home in the Kingdom to 70 percent by 2030, in line with the economic diversification strategy Vision 2030.

Figures from Sakani showed that the number of beneficiary households reached 12,184 in March, with 9,381 Saudi families obtaining their first residence.

In January, Sakani announced that more than 100,000 Saudi families benefited from the initiative in 2023, while the number of applicants who obtained their first home over that 12 month period reaching 98,475.

The core objectives of the Sakani initiative are to enable homeownership in the Kingdom by creating new housing stock, assigning plots and properties to citizens, and providing financing for their purchases.

The Sakani website and application provide a wide range of housing facilities and services, such as real estate consultancy, issuance of real estate transaction tax certificates and a display of financing institution rates.

It also provides electronic financing and the disbursement of land contracts, engineering design services, access to certified contractors, and additional services.

Qatar inflation dips 1.4% in March: official data

Updated 3 min 31 sec ago

Qatar inflation dips 1.4% in March: official data

RIYADH: A fall in food and beverage prices helped drive Qatar’s inflation down 1.4 percent in March as compared to the previous month, official data showed.

According to a report released by the country’s Planning and Statistics Authority, the consumer price index reached 106.67 points in March.

Compared to February, expenses for food and beverages slid by 4.74 percent in March. Prices for recreation and culture witnessed a decline of 5.58 percent during the same period. 

Similarly, costs for restaurant and hotels, as well as furniture and household equipment, decreased by 1.92 percent and 0.34 percent, respectively, in March compared to the previous month. 

On the other hand, prices for clothing and footwear increased by 1.88 percent, followed by expenses for transport, which went up by 0.23 percent. 

Cost of healthcare and communication remain unchanged in March, data showed.

However, the Gulf country’s annual consumer price index edge up by 0.98 percent in March compared to the same month of the previous year.

The year-on-year surge in prices was driven by recreation and culture (8.48 percent), communication (3.84 percent), education (3.48 percent), food and beverages  (2.73 percent), furniture and household equipment (1.28 percent), and miscellaneous goods and services (0.83 percent).

A year-on-year decrease has been recorded in the prices of  clothing and footwear, followed by housing, water, electricity and other fuel. 

Qatar’s economy is expected to stabilize in the near future after experiencing a surge in 2022 due to hosting the FIFA World Cup, according to the IMF.  

The Washington-based lender has forecasted a 1.9 percent growth in the country’s gross domestic product for 2024. 

Highlighting Qatar’s resilience to recent global disturbances, the IMF stated that the country’s economic prospects are promising. 

Furthermore, it noted that the Hamas-Israel conflict has not had any discernible impact on Qatar. 

“Risks are broadly balanced. Maintaining prudent macroeconomic policy and intensifying reform efforts will support Qatar’s resilience to shocks and accelerate its economic transformation,” the IMF said. 

Closing Bell: TASI gains 41 points to close at 12,708, reaches $2.59bn trade volume  

Updated 36 min ago

Closing Bell: TASI gains 41 points to close at 12,708, reaches $2.59bn trade volume  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index closed at 12,708.34 points on Monday, gaining 41.44 points, or 0.33 percent.  

The parallel market Nomu also gained 158.48 points, or 0.6 percent, to conclude at 26,548.59.   

However, the MSCI Tadawul 30 Index fell 4.77 points – 0.3 percent – to finish at 1,610.23.  

The main index posted a trading value of SR9.7 billion ($2.59 billion), with 172 stocks advancing and 54 declining. On the other hand, Nomu reported a trade volume of SR103.7 million.  

Saudi Cable Co. was the top performer on TASI as its share price surged 9.89 percent to SR77.80. Saudi Chemical Co. followed next with its share price jumping 7.62 percent to close at SR8.19.  

Salama Cooperative Insurance Co. was also among the top performers, climbing 7.19 percent to SR33.55. Al-Etihad Cooperative Insurance Co. and Al Yamamah Steel Industries Co. increased 6.82 and 6.81 percent to SR26.15 and SR42.35, respectively.  

Conversely, Saudi Tadawul Group Holding Co. recorded the most significant dip, declining 2.73 percent to SR270.40.  

Arabian Internet and Communications Services Co. and the National Co. for Glass Industries also experienced setbacks, with their shares dropping to SR368.20 and SR45.90, reflecting declines of 2.33 and 2.24 percent, respectively. Bupa Arabia for Cooperative Insurance Co. and Saudi Awwal Bank also reported significant losses.  

Nomu’s top performer was Abdulaziz and Mansour Ibrahim Albabtin Co., which saw a 9.49 percent jump to SR45. Amwaj International Co. and Meyar Co. also recorded notable gains, with their shares closing at SR55.60 and SR73.90, marking an increase of 8.59 and 5.57 percent, respectively. Alqemam for Computer Systems Co. and Professional Medical Expertise Co. also fared well.  

Raoom Trading Co. was the worst performer on the parallel market, declining by 7.72 percent to SR145.80. Other underperformers included Al Mohafaza Co. for Education and Mohammed Hasan AlNaqool Sons Co., whose share prices dropped 4.67 percent and 3.68 percent to SR20.80 and SR44.50, respectively.  

Alhasoob Co. and Mulkia Investment Co. declined during the day to settle at SR67.20 and SR34, respectively.  

Egypt’s economic reforms yielding positive results: finance minister

Updated 15 April 2024

Egypt’s economic reforms yielding positive results: finance minister

RIYADH: Egypt’s new economic path, focused on structural reforms empowering the private sector to lead growth and attracting investment, has begun to yield positive results, said the country’s finance minister.  

Mohamed Maait highlighted that despite the harsh impacts of global and regional economic crises, Egypt has seen financial indicators surpass budget estimates and targets over the past nine months of the fiscal year 2023-2024, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported. 

The minister noted that this success reflects the international recognition of the north African country’s economy for achieving better-than-expected performance metrics.  

Last month, Egypt secured an additional $5 billion in loans from the International Monetary Fund following the central bank’s decision to raise interest rates and allow the pound to depreciate by nearly 40 percent in value. 

Earlier this month, the IMF announced that it would link payments to the country under an $8 billion financial program to Cairo’s decision to allow market conditions to determine the price of its currency and to make foreign exchange available to businesses and private individuals. 

Further emphasizing the economic strategies, Maait pointed out the significant improvements in non-tax revenues, which saw an increase of 122.9 percent, and tax revenues which surpassed 1 trillion Egyptian pounds ($20.6 billion), marking a growth of 41.2 percent annually.   

He proudly noted these gains were achieved without imposing new burdens on citizens or investors, thanks to expanded mechanization intended to broaden the tax base and integrate the informal economy into the formal sector.   

Maait pointed out that the country’s continues effort to boost its economy is evident in the Ministry of Finance’s ongoing dialogues with over 2,000 investment institutions a year.   

The ministry’s Investor Relations Unit plays a crucial role in these engagements, maintaining open dialogue throughout the year and issuing monthly performance reports. 

These reports provide foreign investors with precise, up-to-date economic data, including details about debt levels, deficits, and primary surpluses, the state-owned newspaper reported.  

They also offer a simplified guide on the various incentives, including tax advantages available to investors, aiming to alleviate any concerns and accurately address potential economic risks.  

Meanwhile, data released earlier this month by Egypt's Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics showed a slowdown in the country’s urban consumer price inflation rate to 33.1 percent in March from 36 percent in February.  

Additionally, month-on-month prices rose by 10 percent in the third month of 2024, down from an 11.4 percent increase in the previous period. 

This development follows the central bank’s announcement in early March of a 600 basis points hike in interest rates at an unscheduled meeting, along with a shift to an inflation-targeting regime, allowing the exchange rate to be determined by market forces. 

Furthermore, Egypt’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources has announced that construction of a solar power plant at the Assiut Oil Refining Co. has begun, in an effort to lower carbon emissions.   

The project, spearheaded by the consortium of ENPPI and Petrojet, involves the creation of a 10-megawatt solar facility, with an investment of 550 million Egyptian pounds.   

Scheduled for completion within 11 months, this initiative is a part of a broader strategy for energy transition and emissions reduction across the country’s petroleum sector.  

This solar power project is complemented by another initiative at the Egyptian General Petroleum Corp., aiming to produce 6.5 MW of electricity from solar energy, with a similar investment of 500 million pounds.   

Both projects are financed through a EU grant under the Energy Sector Policy Support program, aligning with the ministry’s goal to implement actionable projects that advance the sector’s sustainability objectives.  

Budget Saudi Arabia to buy 70% stake in UAE freight firm Overseas Development

Updated 15 April 2024

Budget Saudi Arabia to buy 70% stake in UAE freight firm Overseas Development

RIYADH: Saudi car rental firm United International Transportation Co. is set to acquire a 70 percent stake in the UAE’s freight forwarder Overseas Development through a recent deal.  

The company, also known as Budget Saudi Arabia, said in a Tadawul statement that the purchase amount was based on the financial evaluation of the acquisition and came in at 13.34 million dirhams ($3.63 million).   

The new sale and purchase agreement comes following the company’s announcement in March that it will procure 70 percent of Overseas Development LLC’s shares in its subsidiaries in Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait as part of a memorandum of understanding signed at the time.   

In February, the vehicle leasing company was given the go-ahead by the Kingdom’s competition watchdog to acquire Al-Jazira Equipment Co.     

In a Saudi Stock Exchange statement, it was revealed the General Authority for Competition had issued a no-objection notice regarding Budget Saudi Arabia’s complete purchase of the operational lease and car maintenance company, also known as Auto World.   

In 2023, the firm’s net profit after zakat and tax stood at SR277 million ($73.89 million), reflecting a 10 percent surge compared to 2022 figures. 

The increase in net profit in 2023 compared to the previous year was due to maximizing the utilization of the firm’s expanding fleet, both in short-term and long-term rentals. This, coupled with the increased sale of used car units compared to 2022, significantly propelled revenue growth. 

In August 2023, Budget Saudi Arabia signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to acquire all shares of Auto World by issuing stocks to its owner, the Saudi Economic and Development Co., known as SEDCO.

Budget Saudi is the holder of the largest Budget International franchise. The company has provided its services for over 45 years while building a diverse customer base and operating a fleet of more than 35,000 vehicles. 

The firm also offers various transportation services throughout the Kingdom, including long-term and short-term car rental and the sale of used cars.