“Women’s share in the technology sector remains very low”

April 7, 2024

“Women’s share in the technology sector remains very low”


n an exclusive interview with The News on Sunday, cyber security expert Genie Sugene Gan discussed the intricate dynamics of government relations, women’s empowerment in technology sector and the evolving landscape of cyber security in Pakistan.

Prior to joining Kaspersky, she had held a diplomatic position representing Singapore in New York. During her tenure in New York, she engaged in negotiations at the United Nations as part of the General Assembly, focusing specifically on matters pertaining to the Third Committee. The Third Committee addresses issues concerning the advancement of women, children, disabled individuals and various human rights matters. She says this experience has instilled in her a deep commitment to advocating for these causes and that the commitment is integral to her work at Kaspersky, where she serves as a key spokesperson on women in technology.


The News on Sunday: How has the political situation in Pakistan in recent weeks impacted your plans? Have you been successful in engaging with the government?

Genie Sugene Gan : I am primarily focused on engaging with the primary government rather than the caretaker administration. I believe it prudent to await a period of stability before revisiting any engagement initiatives. Uncertainty can present obstacles to fruitful collaboration. It is essential to ensure a conducive environment for productive discussions.

TNS: What is your perception regarding the role of women in the technology sector?

GSG: Women’s representation in the technology sector, particularly in fields such as cyber security, remains very low. While Kaspersky boasts a female workforce that surpasses industry averages, one in five employees being women, there is still progress to be made. I often find that women tend to self-disqualify from pursuing careers in technology. Drawing on my background as a diplomat advocating for women’s rights at the UN, promoting gender diversity in technology is a personal passion for me. I have recently completed a project titled Letters to Our Past. It was released on the 8th of March. Despite transitioning from government to the tech industry, navigating the male-dominated tech and cyber security landscape remains a challenge.

TNS: In your opinion, what role do women have in the field of cyber security?

GSG: Women play a crucial role in cyber security, yet cultural perceptions and societal norms often discourage them from pursuing technical fields. Efforts to educate and raise awareness are essential in addressing this disparity. Furthermore, the lack of dedicated cyber-security programmes exacerbates the talent gap. While only a small percentage of universities globally offer bachelor’s degrees in cyber security, there is a growing recognition of the importance of empowering women to pursue technical education and careers. At Kaspersky, we are proud to have female security researchers and experts contributing to our team.

TNS: Have you explored partnership opportunities with the Pakistani government?

GSG: We are open to exploring collaboration opportunities with the Pakistani government and eagerly await invitations for constructive dialogue. Kaspersky offers various opportunities, including internships, with a focus on prioritising women. Successful interns may also receive full-time employment opportunities upon graduation. We believe in nurturing local talent and fostering partnerships to contribute to Pakistan’s cyber security landscape.

TNS: Pakistan has recently created draft legislation on data protection, cyber security and AI. Have you shared your opinion and feedback on such regulations to make them more relevant and futuristic in approach? Do you plan on being a knowledge partner and creating regulations on the latest technologies?

GSG: Definitely. If the government is interested in pursuing such a conversation, we will be interested. We never say no? The Pakistani government is one of the most proactive ones that I have met already. The conversations started with the previous government and then the caretaker government came. So, the conversations have paused. But we have a plan to continue the conversations once a regular political government is in place.

Sanctions, regulations, policies are not the answer to every problem. What we should do when cyber security is concerned, is not to wait for the legislation and policies to catch up. It never will unless we live in a perfect world, which we do not; so instead of curative, look at it from a preventive point of view. Education, awareness, partnerships rely on the private sector. Work together; that may be faster than waiting for legislation.

TNS: What potential do you see for Kaspersky in Pakistan?

GSG: Pakistan’s growing economy and youthful population present significant opportunities for Kaspersky. While there are bureaucratic hurdles, they are not unique to Pakistan and can be overcome through strategic initiatives. Our focus is on capacity-building initiatives aimed at nurturing local talent. Collaborating with government ministries and universities to provide training and education can help equip individuals with the necessary skills to address cyber-security challenges. We envision Kaspersky playing a prominent role in Pakistan’s cyber-security landscape in the coming years.

TNS: Regarding transparency, what measures has Kaspersky undertaken? How does the company mitigate internal security risks?

GSG: Kaspersky’s commitment to transparency is evident through initiatives such as our Transparency Centres and capacity-building programmes under the Global Transparency Initiative. These efforts underscore our dedication to openness and education in cyber-security. Empowering individuals to scrutinise ICT products is crucial in safeguarding against cyber threats. Internally, Kaspersky employs stringent protocols to ensure accountability and prevent unauthorised access. No single individual, not even Eugene Kaspersky himself, holds complete control. This ensures robust security measures across all processes.

TNS: What role do you see artificial intelligence playing in the future of cyber security?

GSG: Artificial intelligence holds great promise in enhancing cyber-security capabilities, particularly in threat detection and response. AI-powered technologies can analyse vast amounts of data in real time to identify patterns and anomalies indicative of malicious activity. This enables organisations to detect and respond to threats more effectively, reducing the time needed to detect and mitigate cyber attacks. However, it’s essential to recognise that the AI is not a silver bullet and should be used in conjunction with other cyber-security measures to achieve comprehensive protection.

In the next decade, we anticipate cyber security becoming even more integral to organisations across all sectors as digital transformation accelerates. This will necessitate a shift towards more proactive and adaptive cyber-security strategies that leverage advanced technologies such as the AI, machine learning and automation. Additionally, we expect to see increased collaboration and information sharing among industry stakeholders to address emerging threats collectively. Ultimately, the future of cyber-security will require continuous innovation and collaboration to stay ahead of evolving cyber threats.

TNS: How does Kaspersky approach the issue of emerging cyber threats?

GSG: At Kaspersky, we adopt a proactive approach to addressing emerging cyber threats. This involves leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect and mitigate threats in real time. We also invest in threat intelligence research to identify new attack vectors and vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. We also collaborate with industry partners and cyber-security experts to share insights and best practices, ensuring that our solutions remain at the forefront of cyber-security innovation.

TNS: How important is a collaborative approach among different regions, such as the United States, Canada and the Western countries, in addressing global cyber-security challenges?

GSG: A collaborative approach among different regions is essential in addressing global cyber-security challenges effectively. Cyber threats are not constrained by geographical boundaries and often require coordinated efforts across multiple jurisdictions to mitigate. By sharing threat intelligence, best practices and resources, countries can collectively strengthen their cyber-security posture and respond more effectively to cyber threats. Collaboration also fosters trust and cooperation among nations, which is crucial in combating cybercrime and safeguarding the digital economy.

The interviewer is a senior economic correspondent at The News. He can be reached @Jawwadrizvi

“Women’s share in the technology sector remains very low”