Organised by Eskenzi PR in media partnership with the IT Security Guru, the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards aim to shed light on the remarkable women in our industry. The following is a feature on one of 2022’s Top 20 women selected by an esteemed panel of judges. Presented in a Q&A format, the nominee’s answers are written in their own words with minor edits made by the editor for readability and where relevant, supplemented with additional commentary by their nominator.

This year, the awards were sponsored by Beazley, BT, KPMG and KnowBe4.

Dr Hadis Karimipour, Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor, University of Calgary

What does your job role entail?

My job role consists of conducting research, and teaching.

Her nominator adds:

“Dr. Hadis Karimipour is an internationally acclaimed researcher with a strong track record of success. She has shown a prodigious ability to produce high-impact research in the early stages of her career. Working at the forefront of her field in the last 5 years, she has developed a reputable and translational research program that is focused on security of large-scale cyber physical systems. 

Dr. Karimipour is an expert in the field of cyber physical systems and has developed tools that are applicable to critical infrastructure. She is among the pioneers in developing and applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to cyber-attack detection techniques. She has also built novel frameworks that have made it easier to model cybersecurity threats. Since 2016, Dr. Karimipour has published 80 peer-reviewed journal and conference articles, 2 books, and 23 book chapters. Most of her publications have appeared in the top venues in her field such as IEEE Internet of Things Journal (Impact factor —IF: 9.5), IEEE Transactions on Smart Grids (IF:8.3), Computer and Security Journal (IF: 4.5) and the Journal of Network and Computer Applications (IF: 6.2).”

How did you get into the cybersecurity industry?

I got into cybersecurity through my research during my PhD.

What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in the tech/cyber industry and how did you overcome it?

Cybersecurity is one of the most male-dominated fields, and the majority of the time you feel isolated and alone. It is very common to be in a room with many men who ignore or underestimate you. Besides that, as a Muslim international woman, I have experienced lots of barriers in my career. Being a minority always makes you more hidden and people will count on you less, so instead I had to work a lot harder to prove myself. The only key to success is to never stop, work hard and believe in yourself and your power.

What are your top three greatest accomplishments you have achieved during your career so far?

In 2022, I received the Canada Research Chair in Secure and Resilient Cyber-physical systems, which is awarded by the government of Canada to exceptional emerging researchers, acknowledged as leaders by their peers. The Canada Research Chairs Program invests up to US$311 million per year to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds. 

In 2022, I received the APEGA Early Accomplishment Award, which is presented to the members of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA), who are recognized by their peers for their integrity, expertise, and outstanding accomplishments in fields related to engineering or geoscience at an early stage in their professional career.

In 2021, I was selected as one of Canada’s Top 20 Women in Cyber Security by IT World Canada for my contributions in the security of critical infrastructure. This prestigious award was established to recognize and honour top 20 women who have driven the Canadian cybersecurity industry forward. It is an annual initiative produced by IT World Canada (ITWC) in association with the Canadian Women in Security Forum and the Women in Security and Resilience Alliance (WISECRA). 

What are you doing to support other women, and/or to increase diversity, in the tech/cyber industry?

I always ensure research opportunities and conversations are accessible to all: as a Middle Eastern Muslim woman in STEM, I have experienced barriers and challenges, and have long been committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion in mentoring and education. As a Ph.D. student and post-doctoral fellow, I joined Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) to bring attention to gender-related challenges in science, engineering and cybersecurity and to interest girls in science and cybersecurity.

Since I started my career, I have taken different roles, including chair of IEEE Women in Engineering, Active member of the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, Community Outreach Representative of Women in Cybersecurity (WiCys) Western Canada, and career mentor in The Society of Women Engineers (SWE), where I organized different events, mentorship programs, guest lectures and conferences to amplify and encourage the influence of women in cybersecurity and provide mentorship and career advice to a diverse group of trainees.

What is one piece of advice you would give to girls/women looking to enter the cybersecurity industry?

No matter what you choose for your career, there will always be challenges and difficulties on your way, so that should not affect your decision. Listen to your heart and if you love an exciting career where you learn something everyday, cybersecurity is one of the best choices for you. 

It is not all about coding or programming. There are different aspects of cybersecurity and I believe there is enough room for everyone who wants to join. It is a multidisciplinary field which needs people with different perspectives and backgrounds.

Believe in yourself and your power. 


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