Saudi cybersecurity thrives on a gender-balanced workforce

Special Saudi cybersecurity thrives on a gender-balanced workforce
Participants including Saudi women attend a hackathon in Jeddah on August 1, 2018. (AFP)
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Updated 08 March 2022

Saudi cybersecurity thrives on a gender-balanced workforce

Saudi cybersecurity thrives on a gender-balanced workforce
  • Empowerment of Saudi Arabian women is at the heart of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform agenda
  • As part of its digitization strategy, Saudi regulators have encouraged companies to bolster cybersecurity

JEDDAH: Like many sectors of the Saudi economy, cybersecurity had long been a male-dominated profession. But in just the last five years of social liberalization in Saudi Arabia, women have made remarkable strides in the industry.

Among them is Nujud Al-Abdali, a cybersecurity analyst for the Saudi Press Agency. “I see more women in the field now,” she told Arab News. “They are hardworking and reliable, and they strive to be better wherever they are, and at whatever they do.”

Recalling her own journey into the field, Al-Abdali said she faced a steep learning curve, but overcame it through hard work. “It’s a rewarding field,” she said. “It requires discipline and consistency and an open mind that accepts different views on how to solve a problem.

“It also involves writing, which is something I love, and is based on constant reading, researching, and learning in general. It is hard to be successful in this field if you’re complacent, so there is always a motivation to do better.”

Suha Maghrabi entered the cybersecurity field in 2019, initially taking on various roles in the financial industry with a focus on regulation. The following year, she took on a managerial post at an insurance company with a focus on digitization.

Suha Maghrabi (Supplied)

“During the past five years, we have noticed that interest has increased in the cybersecurity field within the Kingdom to align with Vision 2030, which includes the digitalization of services and the commitment to provide world class government services,” Maghrabi told Arab News.

“The rapid increase in cyber-attacks and threats and growing adoption of cloud computing, the ‘internet of things’ across various industries, has increased the need to protect the Kingdom’s vital interests, its national security, its critical infrastructure, services and activities.”

Maghrabi says her interest in information technology began at an early age. “I always enjoyed learning and working on new applications,” she said. “Once I graduated from university, I got an opportunity in IT security, which was the gateway that made me enter this field.

“I can say that I didn’t choose information security, but rather that information security chose me. And from that day onwards my eagerness to learn more about this field has increased and will keep increasing.”

Saudi regulatory bodies, such as the Saudi Central Bank and the National Cybersecurity Authority, have encouraged all companies to bolster their cybersecurity to ensure the protection of their assets, data, and network against potential threats.

“According to the Saudi Federation of Programming and Drones, Saudi women make up 45 percent of the workforce in the cybersecurity sector,” Maghrabi said.

“Considering that the empowerment of Saudi Arabian women is at the heart of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and along with the recent growth in cybersecurity, a lot of opportunities were introduced in the market and promoted building a world-class workforce especially for Saudi women and enabling them in all sectors.”