Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Top tips for supporting more women in cyber security

This week we caught up with two of our HutZero graduates, Chongyan Gu and Kiran Bhagrota. We wanted to see how far they have come since last year and how programmes like HutZero can help support more female entrepreneurs.

It is stated that by 2020, only 10% of the cyber workforce will be made up of women! Being a female, working in cyber, I strongly believe that the industry needs to start to raise the profile of women in cyber security with programmes and initiatives akin to HutZero. Everyone needs to be part of the discussion!

Chongyan’s story started in 2015, when her technology, Physcial Unclonable Functions, won first prize at the INVENT 2015 competition for having the most commercial potential. Off the back of this win, Chongyan and her team set up their company, Sirona. However all 3 members of the team were researchers with limited commercial experience and lacking confidence in male-dominated arena;

“We all had limited knowledge on the business side of things and how to run a company. HutZero seemed to be perfect for us to gain as much business acumen as possible in as short a space of time, surround by people from all different backgrounds.”

When Kiran joined HutZero, she was looking for validation on her idea, ProtectBox, and connections into the cyber startup ecosystem, “ HutZero validated the market gap that I’d identified and started me on the next step of validating product-market fit which was a huge step to take in a week.”

We asked both founders what their top tips were for helping support female entrepreneurs in the cyber startup space:

  1. Boost Confidence — both founders talked about the need for validation around their ideas within a supportive environment and from the right people. It is not just about getting a female perspective but getting a relevant entrepreneur perspective most importantly.
  2. Be surrounded by ‘supporters’— There are too few women in cyber and so you may often feel very isolated. HutZero does a lot to help this by bringing people together in the very early stages of their journey but also by breaking norms and leading from the front. Kiran mentioned, “there were more women in the combined HutZero/CyLon (investment and programme delivery) team than I’ve seen at other accelerators/VCs which instantly put me at ease.” We need to see more women role models within current organisations.
  3. Apply to HutZero or be part of a cyber community! — Whether you’ve done cyber/tech innovation before or are just interested in the space, HutZero is one of the best investments to make in yourself to find your place in the industry. Likewise, find communities that can really help boost your business idea through relevant support and networks.

Kiran and Chongyan have gone on to really spearhead their cyber businesses, with Kiran hoping to launch her product in Q4 of this year and Chongyan now feeling confident enough on the commercial to really lead the team.

Kiran said, “ HutZero didn’t pick us just to make up their ‘female quota’ or make us feel different for it. They’re just very good at recognising the talent that each person, no matter gender or background, has for the cyber/tech space and empowering it in the best way that they can.”

Check out the HutZero website for more information on the programme or how you can get involved.