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How are women contributing to targeting the insider threat?

8 March 2023

The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911, and more than a million people turned out to rallies in Europe protesting for better working conditions and voting rights. It wasn’t until 1928 that women over the age of 21 were allowed to vote the same as men.

Numerous legislative changes have been passed including the Equal Pay Act in 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975. Whilst there have been great strides to bridge the inequality gap, only 9% of Chief Executives and Chairperson roles in the financial sector are held by women, and in total women occupy just 14.8% of the most senior positions in Financial Service1.

But there is some good news. According to the latest FTSE Women Leaders Review2, some progress has been made in relation to more balanced boards in some FTSE companies:

  • For FTSE100 companies, the number of women in the Combined Executive Committee & Direct Reports increased to 32.5%, up from 30.6% last year. Representation of women on boards is now at 40%.
  • For FTSE250 companies, the number of women in the Combined Executive Committee & Direct Reports increasing to 30.7%, up from 28.5% last year. Representation of women on boards is now at 36.8%.

However, there is still some way to go. In FTSE350 companies, the appointment rate of women remains low in a continuing theme, at just 38% and almost two out of every three roles going to men.

So what does it mean to be someone who identifies as a woman working in the counter fraud profession?

According to the Female Fraud Forum, for women to flourish in the counter fraud profession they must have confidence. Yet from their poll of those who identify as female in the fraud, asset recovery and investigations professions, only 50% felt confident about their achievements and struggle to be their ’authentic self’. It is often a challenge to not create personas of ’high achievers’ – failure is not an option, you always feel like you have to prove yourself, you are the person that gets it done. But at what cost?

This is more to do with the pressure we put on ourselves, rather than those put on us by the organisations that we work for. But organisations still need to find routes to empower staff to talk about those pressures – both work and home – to mitigate the insider threat. It is not always a malicious threat that we see, it may instead be as a result of errors due to burn-out, or economic pressures leading to acts being committed out of need rather than greed. Senior leaders and managers need to be more in tune to the pressures faced by employees in a world where work and home lifestyles blur, and understand what that means for colleagues in establishing an anti-fraud culture.So why is it so important to have woman in the workplace and how can this be linked to the insider threat?

There are several reasons why it is so important to have women in the workplace. Having women and men on teams leads to better decision making as a result of having a range of diverse perspectives and ideas. We know that there is real benefit to men and woman bringing their different experiences, skills and insights to the table.

Companies are beginning to understand that taking a more balanced approach to gender recruitment will ultimately lead to higher levels of employee engagement and retention. Undoubtably, an employee is going to feel more valued and included if they see their company is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Woman play a huge role in protecting against insider threats too. By having a diverse workforce, organisations can help reduce the risk of ‘group think’ and biases that are harmful. When women and individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives are involved in decision-making, they’re more likely to identify potential risks because they are considering a much wider range of options. It’s also possible that by having a diverse workforce you’re more likely to identify and report suspicious behaviour or activities, because they may be attuned to different types of risk.

1 Fox-and-Partners-SMF-by-gender-final-06mar23.pdf (
2 FTSE Women Leaders Review 2022

Posted by: Amber Burridge

Amber is the Head of Fraud Intelligence at Cifas.


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Posted by: Amber Burridge

Amber is the Head of Fraud Intelligence at Cifas.