Growing up, Kate Healy remembers being inspired by the American sitcom, Murphy Brownand the portrait of a strong woman struggling against the glass ceiling.
When – for the first time – a computer science course was offered as an elective in grade 11, she thought it would be a valuable skill to have under her belt.
“I didn’t realize at the time how important this decision would be for me.”
By the time she was in 12th grade, Kate had reached the top of the state in computer studies.
“I had a family friend who worked in tech who encouraged me to consider STEM. pushed to study a bachelor’s degree in computer science.”
Kate was just one of three female computer science graduates from the University of Wollongong at the time, but she didn’t let that slow her down.
The turning point
Kate’s first experience with cybersecurity was not positive. After being caught up in a traumatic experience where her college assignments were hacked, stolen and plagiarized by another student, Kate recognized how important it was for people to protect themselves online; and how easy it was to fall victim to cybercrime.
“Looking back, that was the single defining moment that shaped the rest of my career. I turned to cybersecurity and never looked back.”
As a cybersecurity consultant, Kate landed a unique opportunity. She found herself at age 29, on a flight to Singapore with two large suitcases and a job offer as a senior cybersecurity executive reporting to the chief security officer of one of the world’s largest banks. As Chief Risk Officer for Wholesale Banking, Kate was responsible for looking after a number of Chief Operating Officers (COOs).
“My stay in Singapore was a real taste of breaking down prejudice. I was in a new country, with a new culture, and I was one of the only women on my team of cyber specialists – and the youngest – but I accepted immediately. If you’re not challenged, you don’t grow.”
Since then, Kate has embarked on a career in cybersecurity, helping to educate Australians to better protect themselves against online cybercrime. With two-thirds of Australians fearful of being scammed, its mission has never been more important.
To achieve this, Kate has worked with a number of organisations, helping them better manage their cyber risk, including Standard Chartered Bank, CBA, Google, Telstra and NAB.
Kate Healy (right) at a cybersecurity event
Addressing gender bias in cybersecurity
Although she continues to break down the bias of female representation in cybersecurity, Kate thinks it’s a real challenge today, just like it was over 20 years ago.
“Even now, I often find that I’m one of the few women on my team of cybersecurity professionals, and that’s a real problem for the industry.”
Women make up only 20% of the global cybersecurity industry.
One of the ways NAB challenges prejudice is to bring in more women from diverse backgrounds. Laura Hartley is Manager, Cyber Security Advisory on Kate’s team, but comes from a background in criminology. This is just one example of how women are encouraged in cybersecurity from all walks of life.
Kate is now helping move more women into cybersecurity roles and pushing it forward by mentoring young girls and women and regularly speaking at public industry events.
“Visibility is so important. I want young girls to see that I did it, and they can.
“The same way I grew up watching Murphy Brown on the small screen, every young girl needs a female leader who can lead by example.”
Kate Healy is certified as a solo diver.
Kate is no stranger to breaking down prejudice in her personal life too. She is just one of the few Australian women to be a certified solo diver and underwater photographer.
“I won’t let societal norms or biases stop me from doing what I love. I think that’s my best advice for other women coming into the tech industry.”