Invest in Women, and their Privacy Too!

March 8, 2024
Wura T

When we put our pens down to write about women on this website, it’s often to warn or inform against digital threats. Today is different because we have the privilege of sharing the wealth of experience these trailblazing women in Digital Security have. In keeping with the theme of International Women’s Day, where the importance of investing in women and protecting their privacy takes centre stage, we bring you insights from three influential female entrepreneurs: Dr. Iretioluwa Akerele, Confidence Staveley, and Gabriella Uwadiegwu are influential figures in their fields, advocating for women’s investment and privacy protection. In this exclusive interview, they discuss strategies and initiatives that have driven positive change, offering practical steps for creating a safer online environment. These trailblazing women, renowned in digital security and tech advocacy, share practical steps for collective efforts towards a safer online environment.

Empowering Women through Investment

CcHUB: Could you tell us one of the most impactful ways you have invested in women?

Ireti: Mentorship has been a cornerstone in my journey and the journeys of many women in cybersecurity. I’ve been involved in programs that pair experienced professionals with aspiring individuals, providing guidance, sharing experiences, and helping navigate the challenges unique to women in this industry. These mentorship relationships not only build skills but also cultivate a supportive network that is crucial for professional growth.

Confidence: In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, the CyberGirls Fellowship program emerges as a beacon, steadfastly bridging the gender gap. Imagine a world where women, armed with hands-on training and mentorship, navigate the digital realm with expertise. Businesses, the architects of change, find their role not just in active participation but in crafting mentorship programs and investing in bespoke training opportunities. The result? A workforce that not only thrives on diversity and skill but propels the collective advancement of women in the field. It’s not just a program; it’s a paradigm shift in action.

My investment in women hasn’t just been in fundraising & training these women but also I am intentionally leveraging my visibility to attract women to a field that is typically seen as a boys club because only 1 in 10 cybersecurity professionals in Africa is a woman.

Gabriela: When we speak about impact,  my contribution to empowering women unfolds through a dual investment – capital and time. This has taken shape through close collaboration with female founders, investing in their ventures, and providing mentorship to young women in the tech sector. Additionally, I operate a syndicate focused on investments in women-led startups, and oversee a non-profit dedicated to supporting women in tech and entrepreneurship.  It’s not just about investments; it’s about sculpting a future where women thrive and lead with the least challenges possible.

How do you protect your privacy online and what advice do you have for other women?

Ireti: To safeguard my online privacy, I exercise caution regarding the information I share in public domains. Employing robust, unique passwords for each account is a fundamental practice to ensure the security of my social media accounts. My advice to fellow women is rooted in mindfulness when navigating social media landscapes, considering both the positive and negative aspects. Not all that glitters online is genuine; hence, staying informed about prevalent online scams is crucial. Verifying the legitimacy of websites before divulging personal information is a prudent step. In the face of harassment or abuse, speaking up is empowering and helps create a safer online environment.

Confidence: In maintaining my online privacy, I adopt a proactive approach by regularly changing passwords and relying on a secure password manager. This ensures that each password is both unique per platform and resilient against unauthorized access. I prioritize the use of secure and encrypted communication platforms, exercise discretion in sharing personal information on social media, and implement multi-factor authentication across all online accounts. My choice of app-driven authentication adds an extra layer of security compared to the less secure SMS-based 2FA. For fellow women navigating the digital landscape, I recommend staying informed about technological risks while leveraging the advantages of the digital economy. Exercise caution in sharing personal information, employ robust and unique passwords, and consider the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) when connecting to public internet networks. Keeping devices updated and avoiding pirated software are additional measures, and implementing two-factor authentication remains a cornerstone for enhanced security.

Gabriela: In my commitment to online security, I enforce Two-Factor/Multiple Factor Authentication across all the software I use. A critical practice is refraining from clicking on suspicious links and diligently investigating any potential malicious or phishing attempts. I maintain a proactive stance by continuously educating myself on emerging consumer and software privacy limitations. Additionally, I prioritize having supplementary identity protection services in place, ensuring an extra layer of defense against potential threats to my online identity.

The women have told us how much work they put into investing in their contemporaries but surely women aren’t the only stakeholders in the fight for gender justice in the tech industry. Our respondents have a few recommendations for businesses and organisations who want to put similar ideals into practice. 


What practical steps can businesses and organizations take to contribute to the development of women?

Ireti: To foster women’s development, organizations can undertake several key initiatives. Cultivate a culture of respect, ensuring that every member feels valued. Introduce flexible work arrangements, acknowledging the diverse responsibilities women often manage. Provide equal access to opportunities, creating a level playing field for professional growth. Address the gender pay gap, promoting fairness and equality. Implement diversity and inclusion initiatives, recognizing the strength of varied perspectives. These steps not only contribute to women’s development but also enrich the overall organizational environment.

Confidence: “In supporting women’s development, businesses and organizations can take several practical steps. Imagine thoughtful mentorship programs as guiding stars throughout different career stages. Networking opportunities, not just events but pathways for growth and collaboration. Flexible working arrangements allow women to navigate their professional journeys seamlessly. Affordable childcare provides a reassuring backdrop for a balanced work-life dynamic. Lastly, the cornerstone – investing in training and development programs tailored to the unique needs and aspirations of women. 

Gabriela: To actively contribute to the development of women, businesses and organizations should establish partnerships with entities well-versed in understanding the nuances of inclusion for women and underrepresented individuals in the tech industry. The pivotal element here is a genuine commitment from the outset. In a landscape often clouded by symbolic gestures, authenticity is paramount. Tangible steps involve substantial support—financially backing initiatives, investing in and hiring female talent and leaders, prioritizing retention, and creating a workplace that is not only safe but also non-hostile. Respect and active listening within the workplace are crucial, amplifying the voices and work of women. Additionally, providing opportunities for professional development programs or resources is essential for fostering growth and advancement. It goes beyond trends; it’s about sincerely championing support for women in tech.


How can we collectively work towards creating a safer online space for women, and what steps can regulators take to combat online gender-based violence?

Ireti: We need to continue to use our voices to raise awareness regarding gender-based violence and its impact. Everyone needs to be educated about consent, the consequences of harassment and cyber-bullying and respectful online behaviour. Additionally, we need to continually empower women with digital literacy skills and knowledge about online safety. This knowledge would help women navigate online spaces in a better way. Regulators should enforce and implement laws that will address gender-based violence. The effectiveness of the implementation should be measured periodically to ensure that it is tackling the issues. Gender-based violence cannot be solved in one day, however continuous education and awareness can make all the difference.

Confidence: Creating a safer online space for women requires collective effort and collaboration. We can start by raising awareness about online gender-based violence and promoting digital literacy to empower women to navigate the digital world safely. Women must feel safe to use digital spaces and fostering supportive online communities is essential in combating online harassment. Regulating online social channels is a relatively sensitive topic but I believe regulators can play a crucial role by enforcing existing laws, collaborating with tech companies to develop effective reporting mechanisms, and providing support services for victims. Additionally, addressing systemic issues like misogyny and gender inequality is key to tackling online gender-based violence comprehensively.

Gabriela: The major issue with gender-based violence in countries like Nigeria is the lack of accountability and gaslighting that comes when victims of gender-based violence come out. No matter what victims do, it’s always their fault. We need radical changes to our educational system, governance, and culture to change a lot of these issues. Many men in these environments think women are less than and are to centre their needs and the system also programs women to believe that they should maintain the status quo because they “have paid their dues and so should other women”. These mentalities are hostile for women and they need to be eradicated from society at large.

To actively contribute to the development of women, businesses and organizations can embark on a journey of intentional inclusivity. Instead of merely opening doors, consider laying down a red carpet, making sure that women not only enter but thrive within the organizational landscape. Create mentorship programs that are more than just coffee sessions; let them be the brewing grounds for growth and guidance. Ensure equal opportunities are not just buzzwords but woven into the organizational fabric, creating an environment where merit and diversity coexist harmoniously. Remember, it’s not about gender quotas; it’s about recognizing and nurturing talent in all its diverse forms. In essence, businesses can be architects of empowerment, constructing a foundation where the development of women is not an afterthought but a strategic imperative.


As a trailblazer in your industry, what role do you believe men can play in advocating for and actively supporting gender equity?

Ireti: Men can support women by amplifying their voices. This means they can contribute by ensuring that women’s ideas are recognized and valued. Another way men can support gender equity is by challenging gender stereotypes and norms. This may include advocating for practices that support career development and work-life balance for women. The combination of caregiving responsibilities with work can be enormous and challenging, however being in an environment that values a balance makes all the difference.

Confidence: The single most important thing they can do at first is listen, empathize and fight bias or inequity against women when they see it. They should speak up and challenge it at work, at events or parties, or at church, or even from their friends. Everywhere. They should be uncomfortable seeing gender inequity at every single point. I am also a big believer in reparations so opening their purses and pockets towards gender equity initiatives (women already do this unprovoked).

Gabriela: I believe men can play a crucial role in advocating for and actively supporting gender equity by promoting inclusive workplace cultures, amplifying the voices of women, advocating for equal opportunities and representation in leadership positions, and actively challenging biases and stereotypes. Men can also serve as allies by listening to and learning from women’s experiences (not dismissing or excusing them), actively supporting policies and initiatives that promote gender equality, and being proactive in addressing and addressing instances of discrimination or harassment in the workplace. By working together, men and women can create a more equitable and inclusive industry for all. Men can only play the above role well when they have been educated about what the challenges of women are and the roadblocks. We need to move from Gender equity being a politically correct thing to do, to become men are actively invested in because they understand what the issues are and are genuinely invested in creating a better world for women today and tomorrow.


Drop an empowering quote for a young woman who might be reading this.

Ireti: You are strong and resilient. Your dreams are valid.

Confidence: My mantra is a simple nursery rhyme but is my most empowering quote and I will take liberty in sharing it with the women reading this. The quote goes thus, “Good, better, best. I will never rest. Until my good is better and my better, best”. Always be world-class, and aim for excellence always not perfection because perfection is a trap that keeps most women in the planning stage and never advancing to the implementation of their great ideas. Also set yourself up for growth by adopting a growth mindset, with little consistent steps, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Only you can truly limit yourself. Take all the challenges the world throws at you and make them building blocks of the castle that your success is. 

Gabriela: The world is nothing without women and never think you’re too small to achieve any big dream you have. Chances are that you are or will be overqualified to achieve it anyway! The world is losing out more by keeping the status quo, more than we realize.

In conclusion, the insights shared throughout this interview emphasize the critical need for intentional action to foster the development and empowerment of women. As we navigate the evolving landscapes of digital security, cybersecurity, and tech advocacy, here are three actionable steps for individuals and organizations alike: Firstly, embrace mentorship as a two-way exchange, fostering guidance and growth. Secondly, commit to the creation of inclusive environments within workplaces, where diversity is not only acknowledged but celebrated. Lastly, actively support initiatives and programs that uplift and empower women in the tech industry, recognizing that true progress is achieved when collective actions align with genuine intent. So, whether you find yourself mentoring, championing inclusivity, or supporting initiatives, consider it more of a strategic chess match—every move counts. It’s not just about mastering individual pieces; it’s about orchestrating a checkmate against inequality. Here’s to making the right moves for a more equitable future!


Meet Our Respondents

Dr. Iretioluwa Akerele is a multi-award-winning cybersecurity professional. She has over 10 years of experience as a cybersecurity consultant, academic researcher, and industry practitioner. She is a career coach who has supported several cybersecurity beginners to achieve their goals. Her zeal for professional growth made her co-found CyBlack, a cybersecurity community committed to the career advancement of Blacks in Cybersecurity through mentorship and guidance.

Iretioluwa serves on the advisory board of Cybersafe Foundation, an organization focused on protecting the most vulnerable individuals and businesses from cyber-attacks. She also founded Cybarik Limited to provide top-tier cybersecurity consulting and training services.


Confidence Staveley is Africa’s Most Celebrated Female #Cybersecurity Leader, Author – API Security for White Hat Hackers, Talent Developer and Gender Inclusion Actionist.

Confidence excels in translating cybersecurity concepts into digestible insights for diverse audiences. Her YouTube series, “API Kitchen,” explains API Security using culinary metaphors. In its debut season, the series amassed over half a million views across social media, as Confidence served up a banquet of API security wisdom. She recently won the Cybersecurity Woman of 2023 award and holds several other recognitions.

Beyond her advisory roles on various boards, Confidence leads CyberSafe Foundation, a foremost NGO devoted to fostering a digitally inclusive and secure landscape in Africa. She is also the founder of MerkleFence and Application Security as a Service (ASaaS) consulting company.

Gabriella Uwadiegwu is a seasoned software engineer with over five years of experience and has built technology for companies such as Carta, Spade (an A16z-backed fintech startup), Twitch, and Synchrony Financial. Aside from her professional pursuits, Gabriella is passionate about mentoring and supporting the next generation of women in technology and female entrepreneurs, particularly within the US and Sub-Saharan Africa. A recognized voice in the African Venture Space, she frequently shares her insights at industry events and plays a crucial role in initiatives designed to foster the growth of early-stage startups, with a special focus on ventures led by women and underrepresented minorities. Gabriella holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the City University of New York – Queens College. When she’s not coding or championing diversity in tech, Gabriella indulges in photography, travel, and exploring the forefront of technology trends.

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