Unsung Heroes Awards celebrate diversity in cyber community

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The UK’s cyber security community descended en masse on a central London venue on 12 October to celebrate the 2022 Security Serious Unsung Heroes Awards, which recognised champions of diversity and mental health in security for the first time.

Set up by cyber public relations specialist Eskenzi PR seven years ago as a means to celebrate the people of cyber as opposed to the products, the awards highlight the achievements of some of the brightest stars of the community, as well as the best security awareness campaign, security team and the coveted godparent of security prize.

“Cyber security is often one of those thankless tasks that goes largely unnoticed when it’s going well and then it’s all anyone can talk about when it goes wrong,” said lead organiser of Security Serious Week and co-founder of Eskenzi PR Yvonne Eskenzi.

“By hosting this event, we are bringing recognition to those doing a wonderful job with openness and transparency, working hard behind the scenes to protect organisations from the threat of cyber crime. Thanks to our incredible sponsors, we can put on this free event to acknowledge all the amazingly talented people who make this industry so fantastic!”

Two new categories – diversity champion and cyber security wellbeing advocate – were added this year to reflect the increasing focus within the community on building diverse teams to effectively tackle the ever-evolving threat landscape, and the growth in strategies to manage the stress and burnout experienced by under-pressure security professionals, particularly during the pandemic.

The winner of the diversity champion award, Holly Foxcroft, is head of neurodiversity in cyber research and consulting at recruitment consultancy Stott and May.

Foxcroft is a Royal Navy veteran who began her cyber career at Advanced Resource Managers, a Portsmouth-based cyber recruitment specialist. She became a champion of neurodiversity in the industry in 2014, when her son was diagnosed with autism, and has since thrown herself into researching the subject, including putting herself through university as a single mother and campaigning for change.

“Driving for change to be neuroinclusive and supporting the neurominority community is my passion. Winning the [Diversity Champion] award for me is shining a light that mine and other neuroinclusive supporters’ work is really being recognised in the field of diversity and cyber”
Holly Foxcroft, Stott and May

In her role at Stott and May, Foxcroft is working on the development of policies in best practice, guidance, training and consulting around neurodiversity in cyber, and better supporting neurodivergent cyber professionals, not just through the recruitment process, but through effecting cultural change and challenging biases in the workplace.

“Driving for change to be neuroinclusive and supporting the neurominority community really is my passion. Winning the award for me is shining a light that mine and other neuroinclusive supporters’ work is really being recognised in the field of diversity and cyber,” said Foxcroft.

“It was an honour to be in the company of so many inspirational cyber professionals – the room was buzzing! We are such a passionate industry; the event really focuses on the individual efforts of our community – the unsung heroes!”

The winner of the cyber security wellbeing advocate award, Christine Gordon-Bennett, is cyber security awareness manager in the Chief Information Security Office of Nedbank, a position she has held since 2017.

South Africa-based Gordon-Bennett is a long-standing cyber professional and an advocate for changing user behaviour through raising awareness, having run security awareness roadshows, mazes, escape rooms and more. A pioneer of understanding the link between mindfulness and cyber security, Gordon-Bennett “creatively combines staff wellness with cyber wellness” through her work.

The full list of winners recognised is:

 

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