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
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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.


Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,666 

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Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,666 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Sunday, losing 38.52 points, or 0.30 percent, to close at 12,666.90. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR6.28 billion ($1.67 billion) as 103 of the stocks advanced, while 122 retreated.   

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu gained 137.34 points, or 0.52 percent, to close at 26,390.11. This comes as 31 of the stocks advanced while as many as 38 retreated. 

Meanwhile, the MSCI Tadawul Index slipped 16.03 points, or 0.98 percent, to close at 1,615.00.  

The best-performing stock of the day was Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. The company’s share price surged 9.98 percent to SR110.20.  

Other top performers include ACWA Power Co. as well as Saudi Steel Pipe Co. 

The worst performer was Sahara International Petrochemical Co., whose share price dropped by 4.72 percent to SR34.35. 

Other worst performers include the Arab National Bank as well as the Saudi National Bank.  

On the announcements front, Gulf Insurance Group has announced the board of director’s decision to distribute SR78.75 million in cash dividends to shareholders for the fiscal year 2023. 

According to a Tadawul statement, the total number of shares eligible for dividends amounted to 52.5 million, with the dividend per share standing at SR1.5. 

The statement also revealed that the percentage of dividends to the share par value stood at 15 percent. 

Moreover, Scientific & Medical Equipment House Co. has announced the signing of an SR180 million contract with the Ministry of Health to provide cooked nutrition to hospitals in Madinah.  

A bourse filing revealed that the financial impact of the five-year agreement will commence in the third quarter of 2024.  

Additionally, Al Kathiri Holding Co. has announced that one of its subsidiaries, Msandh Al-Emdad Co., has been awarded a project with the Presidency of State Security to establish a building in Riyadh with a total value of SR20 million.  

According to a Tadawul statement, this project includes the supply and implementation of structural, architectural, and mechanical as well as electrical and systems works for the building in accordance with competition drawings and documents.  

Furthermore, the Saudi Ground Services Co. has announced the signing of an SR2 billion contract renewal with flynas for a duration of five years.  

A bourse filing revealed that under this contract, the Saudi Ground Services Co. would provide ground handling assistance, including ramp and passenger services, for domestic and international flights at all airports in the Kingdom. 

Meanwhile, Gulf General Cooperative Insurance Co. has announced the completion of the sale of 3,321 fractional shares.  

According to a Tadawul statement, the sale revenue of the fractional shares stood at SR44,838, with the average selling price per share reaching SR13.50.  

This comes following the decrease of the company’s capital based on the approval of the extraordinary general assembly.


Saudi master developer KEC inks 2 deals worth $78m for Al-Alya project    

Updated 35 min 17 sec ago
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Saudi master developer KEC inks 2 deals worth $78m for Al-Alya project    

RIYADH: Saudi master developer Knowledge Economic City Co. has signed two deals to deliver 396 residential apartments within the first phase of its mixed-use project Al-Alya.

In Tadawul filings, the listed firm announced the deals with Elkhereiji Commerce and Contracting Co., worth SR288.6 million ($77.92 million).

The first agreement entails fully implementing contracting works for additional residential buildings in the first phase of the Al-Alya mixed-use project. This comprises a group of four houses, offering 132 apartments of different sizes valued at SR117.5 million, excluding value-added tax.

The second contract involves the implementation of electromechanical, finishing, gardening, and site coordination works for a group of eight residential buildings valued at SR171.13 million, providing 264 apartments, the company said in a statement to Tadawul.

Based on work progress, both contracts will be paid in installments per monthly payment certificate.

The company commented on the second deal, saying: “Accordingly, the financial impact is represented in the cash outflow for the amount payable to the contractor over a period of 20 months starting from the end of May 2024.” 

The firm said that the financial impact of the first agreement is represented in the cash outflow for the amount payable to the contractor over a period of 24 months.

Al-Alya is one of the main projects in the Knowledge Economic City and represents a project with mixed-use components within a gated complex compound that combines hospitality, housing and offices as well as retail and education services.

It was designed to respond to the urban trend of humanizing cities and the quality-of-life program that relies on green areas and pedestrian walkways to create a style and vibrancy that meets the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

The project aims to enable local and foreign companies, businessmen, and digital entrepreneurs to work in Madinah.

In October last year, Knowledge Economic City Co. signed an agreement with Gulf International Bank Capital for SR3.5 billion to establish a real estate investment fund.

The initiative is poised to launch the initial phase of the Islamic World District in Madinah and will span over 140,000 sq. meters, transforming the area into a mixed-use development.

The site will include hospitality, residential, retail, entertainment, and cultural zones, providing over 5,000 hotel keys, 743 residential apartments, plus a designated area of 24,000 sq. m. for retail shops.

GIB Capital is a subsidiary of Gulf International Bank, owned by the governments of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in which Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund holds a 97.2 percent stake, according to the bank’s 2022 annual report.

The project aims to enhance the visitor experience in Madinah, a city that holds historical significance as the first capital of Islamic civilization and a destination that draws millions of pilgrims and tourists annually.


Jordan’s new mining strategy is set to create a $2.9bn industry 

Updated 14 April 2024
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Jordan’s new mining strategy is set to create a $2.9bn industry 

RIYADH: Jordan’s mining sector is set to grow substantially, with projections indicating that its contribution to the nation’s gross domestic product will reach 2.1 billion Jordanian dinars ($2.9 billion) by 2033. 

Up from 0.7 billion dinars in 2023, this ambitious target is part of the government’s newly announced initiative to transform Jordan into a mining state by 2033, as outlined in the country’s National Mining Strategy. 

This strategic overhaul aims to elevate the sector’s workforce to 27,500 and boost the value of its exports to 3.5 billion dinars from 1 billion dinars, according to a report issued by the state-owned Jordan News Agency, also known as Petra.   

The strategy emerges from its Economic Modernization Vision and is backed by directives from Jordan’s King Abdullah, emphasizing the need to accelerate investment-stimulating procedures in mineral exploration.  

A cornerstone of this transformation was the formulation of the strategy, spearheaded by the global consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie.  

In 2023, the Jordanian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources completed initiatives and projects under the EMV for the mining sector and set priorities within the vision’s executive program.  

The vision’s main pillars revolve around expediting the nation’s full economic potential while improving the quality of life for its citizens and maintaining sustainable measures. 

Moreover, the ministry’s proactive engagement has led to the signing of 11 memorandums of understanding to bolster investment in Jordan’s extractive industries.  

An additional three memorandums of cooperation were signed with various companies to further these goals.  

According to statements made to Petra, the ministry plans to continue advancing these undertakings throughout 2024, pushing these MoUs toward value-added mining operations.  

These initiatives are part of the nation’s ongoing efforts to boost its standing in the mining and minerals industry. 

In a report carried by Petra earlier in January, the ministry said that it aims to position the country on the global mining map by capitalizing on positive mineral exploration results. 

Over the past two years, the country established several partnerships with international companies in mining exploration.  

Moreover, it recently launched an investment platform to showcase national resources and opportunities in the energy sector. 


Egypt to increase funds for health sector by 25% in upcoming budget

Updated 14 April 2024
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Egypt to increase funds for health sector by 25% in upcoming budget

RIYADH: Egypt will increase health sector allocations in the next general budget to 495.6 billion pounds ($10.4 billion), according to the country’s finance minister.   

The North African country’s upcoming fiscal year is set to begin in July. 

Mohamed Maait said in a statement that this reflects an annual growth rate of 24.9 percent compared to the funds allocated for the sector in the current fiscal.   

This is in line with the nation’s goal to improve medical services for citizens, which is also an objective of Egypt’s Vision 2030.  

Moreover, the minister added that allocations for the education sector will also be raised to 858.3 billion pounds, with an annual growth rate of 45 percent.   

Scientific research reserves are also on track to increase to more than 139.5 billion pounds in the next budget, reflecting an annual growth rate of 40.1 percent.

Mait noted that the country will continue to provide the necessary funds to expand healthcare initiatives, supply medicines and medical aids to hospitals, and increase support for health insurance programs. 

He emphasized how Egypt was also working on targeting the speed of gradual expansion in extending the umbrella of comprehensive health insurance.

Furthermore, the minister said the last social package implemented in March included allocating 15 billion pounds in additional increases for doctors, nurses, teachers, and university faculty members. 

The breakdown was divided into 8.1 billion pounds to approve an additional increase in the wages of teachers in pre-university education as well as 1.6 billion pounds to approve a raise for faculty members and their assistants at universities, institutes, and research centers. 

There was also 4.5 billion pounds to approve a supplementary rise for members of the medical professions and nursing bodies.

In 2022, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed strengthening cooperation with the World Health Organization to improve the country’s healthcare sector. 


Oman’s top 5 ports handle over 93.2m tonnes of cargo in 2023

Updated 14 April 2024
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Oman’s top 5 ports handle over 93.2m tonnes of cargo in 2023

RIYADH: Oman’s top five ports saw a 1.5 percent annual increase in cargo handling in 2023, surpassing 93.2 million tonnes, underscoring their growing significance in maritime trade. 

The terminals of Sultan Qaboos, Salalah Sohar and Khasab as well as Shinas, and A’Suwaiq handled approximately 91.8 million tonnes of general, liquid, and bulk cargo in 2022, according to the Oman News Agency.

It also highlighted a significant increase in the number of berthed ships in 2023, reaching approximately 11,005 vessels compared to 10,553 watercraft in 2022, marking a 4.3 percent rise.

Cruise ship passengers at the Sultan Qaboos, Salalah, and Khasab Ports increased considerably. This achievement reflects the government’s collaborative efforts with tourism partners to enhance hospitality traffic to Oman.

The news agency added that the government succeeded in attracting major cruise ship operators to several Omani connection points, including Salalah, Khasab, and Sultan Qaboos Port.

It also reported that in 2023, 229 cruise ships brought 599,000 passengers to Omani terminals, compared to around 87 ocean liners carrying over 205,000 travelers in 2022. This represents an increase of over 190 percent in commuters.

Credit rating

In another report, the news agency noted that economic experts and specialists attribute Oman’s improved credit rating to government efforts to control spending, reduce debt, increase non-oil revenues, and enhance financial performance indicators.

Mohammed Abu Bakr Al-Ghassani, chairman of the board of directors of the Oman Development Bank, emphasized that his country’s enhanced credit rating by various international agencies, notably Standard & Poor’s, rising from “BB” with a positive outlook in March 2023 to “BB+” with a positive outlook in March 2024, underscores the government’s commitment to optimizing spending, increasing state revenues, and persistently reducing public debts, particularly those with high costs.

Al-Ghassani said the progress in credit rating is a crucial indicator of confidence for investors and borrowers in the economy and the banking sector, adding that Oman stands to benefit from potential future loans with lower interest rates, encouraging foreign investors to engage in diverse investments and large capital inflows.

This, he said, aids in accelerating the economic diversification strategy and achieving the goals of Vision 2040.

Trade balance

According to preliminary statistics released by the National Center for Statistics and Information, Oman’s trade balance showed a surplus of 877 million rials (nearly $2,280 billion) by the end of January 2024, compared to a surplus of 686 million rials during the same period in 2023.

The figures also showed that the value of commodity exports by the end of January 2024 reached over 2.3 billion rials, marking a 16.7 percent increase compared to the same period in 2023.

Meanwhile, the value of commodity imports for Oman amounted to 1.43 billion rials by the end of January 2024, reflecting a 10.6 percent increase compared to the same period in the previous year, which stood at 1.28 billion rials.

According to the state’s news agency, the significant increase in export value is primarily attributed to the rise in Oman’s exports of oil and gas, reaching 1.45 billion rials, marking a 9.6 percent increase compared to the end of January 2023, when it amounted to 1.32 billion rials.

It is noteworthy that Oman’s crude oil exports by the end of January 2024 amounted to approximately 1.13 billion rials, marking a 30.5 percent increase compared to the same period of 2023. 

However, the value of refined oil exports decreased to 95 million rials, reflecting a 36.5 percent decline, while the value of the country’s liquefied natural gas exports dropped to 229 million rials — a decrease of 26.1 percent compared to January 2023.

The same statistics also revealed a 38.5 percent increase in the value of non-oil commodity exports by the end of January 2024, reaching 749 million rials, compared to the end of January 2023, when it was at 540 million rials.

Metal products achieved the highest value among non-oil commodity exports, reaching 356 million rials, indicating a notable increase of 115.9 percent. They were followed by ordinary metals and their products at 122 million rials, reflecting a rise of 21.3 percent. Subsequently, chemical industry products, with export values amounting to 86 million rials, saw a decline of 11.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the statistics also showed that Saudi Arabia led non-oil commodity export trade operations, with a value reaching 103 million rials by the end of January 2024, marking an increase of 82 percent from the end of January 2023.

On the other hand, the UAE led the trade in re-exports from Oman, with values reaching 31 million rials by the end of last January. Furthermore, the Emirates also secured the top spot in the list of countries exporting the most to Oman, with a value of 315 million rials, up by 4.2 percent from the end of January 2023.