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Thoughts on International Women's Day 2023.
With March being Women's History Month, and March 8th the observance of International Women's Day, we assembled some thoughts and quotes with these themes in mind from women in our industry to share. Women make up about 24% of the cybersecurity workforce. While the disparity between the number men and women in our industry is shrinking in quantity, it is not in terms of equity.
The theme of 2023's International Women's Day is #EmbraceEquity – "For International Women's Day and beyond, let's all fully #EmbraceEquity. Equity isn't just a nice-to-have, it's a must-have. A focus on gender equity needs to be part of every society's DNA. And it's critical to understand the difference between equity and equality. The aim of the IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign theme is to get the world talking about Why equal opportunities aren't enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action." You can read more about Equality versus Equity here.
What does International Women's Day and the #EmbraceEquity theme mean to you? To the industry?
Jessie Auguste, a part of the Coding Black Females leadership team and Backend Software Engineer, CybSafe
International women’s day means the opportunity to celebrate women and the communities and spaces that support and encourage them to continue.
For me, the theme of embracing equity is the understanding that initiatives, spaces and projects to uplift women are a crucial part of levelling the playing field in a male-dominated space.
A report from Accenture and Girls Who Code found that women are 50% more likely to drop tech roles before the age of 35 — that’s 2.5 times more likely than men.
Community is a source of resilience, which contributes massively to longevity in a difficult career.
Investment from the industry into the preservation and support of these communities is crucial.
Combinations of discrimination, microaggressions and unconscious bias can be exhausting as an under-represented person in technology and cyber security. This is especially true if your identities can place you in a way that can be these ‘isms’ are combined.
Access to communities that champion you as a woman in the industry, so that you can have a safe place to celebrate yourself and others like you, and also receive the support and understanding that you need on those tough days.
I hope companies and individuals within cyber security find as many opportunities as possible to be involved in uplifting women through communities and their initiatives.
Kristen Bell, Director of Application Security Engineering, GuidePoint Security
This year’s theme is eye opening and impressive. I have always felt that “equality” never really hit the mark for me. I have always believed that women bring something unique to the table with regard to IT Security. One of my go-to quotes when I’m speaking about women in Cyber comes from Marilyn Monroe, “I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it.” To speak about, and embrace equity versus equality, encapsulates the meaning I interpret in her words. Comparing and contrasting equity versus equality is a much simpler way of conveying and articulating a message that I’ve been speaking about for years, so I will likely be using this theme as a subject for years to come.
There are more jobs than people to fill them in Application Security and we are always looking for ways to build our own workforce and we are always looking for opportunities to encourage more people to think about joining our workforce. Putting successful women in cyber in the spotlight helps to encourage other women to choose a career in cyber. It also gives us the ability to illustrate the increase in women contributing to our space and to celebrate their accomplishments. International Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to get out there and spread our message.
Camellia Chan, CEO and Founder, X-PHY, a Flexxon brand
International Women's Day shines a crucial spotlight on the inspiring work women are doing across the world. Equally important is its role in highlighting existing challenges, focusing much-needed attention on the steps needed to achieve gender equality.
In traditionally male-dominated STEM sectors such as cybersecurity, significant progress has been made in recent years. But it doesn’t stop there. To continue this upward trend, legislators and businesses must take positive measures to widen accessibility and participation, such as through training, education, and support systems.
Embracing D&I initiatives and investing in education and training can provide women with the tools they need to empower themselves, meeting the tech talent gap head on. Indeed, it’s important that business leaders make the best decisions to recruit and then retain diverse talent. That's why my co-founder May and I created our internal ‘Flexxon Innovation Lab’ - to encourage open innovation, cooperation, and collaboration among employees as well as to upskill and inspire innovation in the workforce.
Businesses play a critical role in maximising diversity across all levels in the technology sector. It’s their responsibility to allocate resources towards this issue. By championing diversity, I’m optimistic about the positive changes we can achieve in the future.
Brenda Christensen, CEO, Stellar PR
I have been in the technology industry for 37 years, starting in AI and robotics at General Motors when I was 23 years old in 1985. Throughout my career, I have faced challenges, such as comments like "what are you doing here?" and "are you a booth babe or do you actually know something about this product?". However, I have enjoyed proving these comments wrong and generating millions of dollars in revenue for Fortune 500 companies.
One of my main career goals has been to bring people together and advance the human experience through collaboration on the internet. I have worked with Bill Gates and other leaders in this pursuit. However, I also witnessed bad actors trying to disrupt this progress during the early years of the internet. Therefore, in 2005, I decided to dedicate my career to promoting safe online interactions through cybersecurity education and awareness.
Over the last 15 years, I have fulfilled this mission through various roles, including serving as a corporate officer and board member, and leading worldwide public relations for companies such as Panda Security and McAfee.
My father, who worked on the Apollo and Saturn missions where failure was not an option, was an excellent mentor to me. He instilled in me the values of confidence and persistence, and he taught me to believe in myself regardless of my gender. I have also mentored other women who have gone on to have successful careers in tech and entertainment at global companies like Disney. My only request to these women is that they "pay it forward" by mentoring other women.
Being the only woman on the board of directors was not easy in the 90s, and I had to fight against bias. However, I persevered because I knew that I had to pave the way for other women who would follow in my footsteps.
Erica Cronan, Global Marketing Manager, Datadobi
Although the message of International Women's Day is not restricted to just one day of the year, the chosen subject for this year urges us to think explicitly about eliminating biases. The impression of what women can and cannot do is a major source of hardship for many.
We've come a long way in eradicating some of the stereotypes about women in technology, but we still have a ways to go. Encouraging women and allies of women worldwide to demonstrate their support in a variety of ways is crucial to breaking barriers. Look inside yourself to see what beliefs you might be holding that are still contributing to the issues that women encounter in the workplace.
In the same way, I urge women in tech to be open to mentoring new team members. We can achieve gender equity and a more balanced workplace by having strong female role models in the field. I am grateful to be a part of an organizational culture that supports diversity and encourages women to express their creativity and develop new skills. The leaders and organizations we as women must select must promote equality.
Jennifer Eiben, Senior Producer, CyberWire, an N2K Networks brand
The theme of this year's International Women's Day, #EmbraceEquity, is a very powerful one. To me, it means that we should not only continue working for gender parity in our industry, but also make sure we are understanding that others who may wish to join the industry come from different places. We all do not start on the same footing and therefore, we must make accommodations to ensure that we can all partake in the opportunities. I do not have a technical background. In my time in the cybersecurity industry, I've seen this welcomed and been fortunate to have the resources to add to my knowledge and skills. I wish for others to have that same recognition and opportunities based on where they are starting. I will continue to strive to embrace equity for those who wish to join us in cybersecurity.
Riki Goldriech, Chief People Officer, Radware
International Women’s Day is a perfect time to remind women and other underrepresented populations that the security industry offers great opportunities to all! Not enough women are part of this industry. Although security is perceived as a male dominated field, it employs many successful women. We should use this day to give these women a stage so they can be positive, encouraging models to others and attract other talented women aspiring to have interesting and impactful careers.
Rachel Gelfand, Staff Writer, CyberWire, an N2K Networks brand
On this International Women’s Day, the theme is embracing equity. This is especially important in fields like cybersecurity, where men’s voices have dominated the industry since its inception. Major female leaders in cybersecurity, like CISA Director Jen Easterly and Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger have been two great examples of powerful female voices in cybersecurity, and represent a great jumping point for the field to grow and become more equitable to women, who may not have felt welcomed or ready to join such a male-dominated industry.
Roya Gordon, Security Research Evangelist, Nozomi Networks
The term "embrace equity" is an evolution of the current dialogue on diversity and inclusion. While it's important to strive for a more diverse cyber workforce and foster an inclusive work culture, equity takes it a step further by challenging businesses to provide everyone with equal opportunities and resources to succeed in cybersecurity. The theme “embrace equity” is truly a powerful message.
International Women’s Day is a day for women to be recognized for their contributions in cybersecurity. I think it’s important to highlight that, despite being a male-dominated field, there are numerous women who are driving cutting-edge research and innovation. By highlighting their achievements, we inspire younger generations to pursue careers in cybersecurity with the knowledge that it is indeed possible for them to succeed as well.
Arabella Hallawell, CMO, Mend
The fact there is an International Women’s Day means we’ve got a ways to go. When we don’t have this day, is when we should be celebrating. I find it incredible in 2023 that we still think of females as a minority. Over the years, I’ve seen examples of overt sexism and gender inequality in the workplace, but also examples of real progress. My own company is an example of a progressive culture in which gender equality is defined at the top and throughout every role. I was truly surprised when I saw how many female engineers we have. I found it empowering and inspiring and it made me feel good about my company. And while I’m proud to be a part of that, I know there’s more we can do and more the industry must do to truly embrace equality.
Chris Hare, Cyber Content Developer, N2K Networks
As a newer member of the cybersecurity industry, I feel privileged to have a seat at this important table and be part of the larger conversation of a topic I feel most passionate about. I've been in the technology industry for more than 15 years, and it's given me a wealth of opportunity to learn and find my place as a subject matter expert and writer. I celebrate International Women's Day with my peers as an opportunity to shine a light on the efforts of the many female pioneers who paved our way here, as well as to those who are carving out the path today, and to the many more who will make the world a better place tomorrow. Cheers!
Nicole Jiang, Director of Product & Design, Abnormal Security
I am fortunate to be surrounded everyday by talented people from all walks of life. It’s a special thing to be able to witness and learn from each other’s differences, while remaining closely aligned on passion, drive, and desire to make an impact.
I believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion enable us to create truly balanced outcomes in solving cybersecurity issues (and many other problems in the world). And while this industry has made great strides in improving gender diversity and inclusion, embracing gender equity requires extra special attention, by allocating resources and opportunities according to people’s individual differences. It’s not a quick fix, and there is always more we can do to embrace equity in the workplace.
Being a woman in tech, I’m constantly humbled by countless examples of strong, bold, and talented women who are at the top of their game and continually pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. It means a lot to me that we dedicate this day to celebrating these women – and all others out there – who are making dents in the world, no matter how big or small.
Within cybersecurity specifically, the prevalence of women is growing, but they still represent only 25 percent of the global workforce. Initiatives like International Women’s Day are key for uplifting more women into technology roles, and especially leadership roles. To keep this figure ticking up, we need to live the ethos of International Women’s Day for not just one day, but everyday.
Juleen Konkel, General Counsel, Imply
“Although we only celebrate it one day out of the year, the spirit of International Women’s Day is something we should take with us and remember every single day. That spirit of creating a world where we see and recognize the contributions of women on this planet.
It’s especially important that the spirit of International Women’s Day carries over into the business world. Businesses thrive on innovation and creative ideas, and it’s proven that the best way to fuel innovation is to create a workplace that is diverse and inclusive. Inviting women to a seat at the table and to participate will challenge each other to work harder and think critically and more broadly — ultimately resulting in new opportunities and more success. Conversely, teams who are not mindful of this are more likely to become complacent and stagnant, unable to think outside an ever shrinking box.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme of #EmbraceEquity is very fitting as it’s a time for businesses to look at the conversations they are having about the future and encourage those voices not often heard. Not only will it have positive effects on their bottom line, but it will also have positive impacts on their communities and the world for years to come.
Camille St. Regis, SDR Lead, Venafi
It’s interesting to talk about equity in the workplace. As a teacher in my past life, it was often on my mind; however, in my current role in tech, I haven’t really thought much about it. What matters most at Venafi are the relationships I build and the outcomes I help drive. I have often been on camera with my 14-month-old, and it’s always been a fun experience for me. Working here has allowed me to work full-time while still taking care of her.
Delilah Schwartz, Security Strategist, Cybersixgill
As a young woman in cybersecurity, I believe that "embracing equity" is crucial to address the underrepresentation of women in the industry. Women are increasingly breaking through cyber's glass ceiling, making significant contributions to the field, but inequities in access to education, resources, and opportunities still prevent many from realizing their full potential. International Women's Day represents an opportunity for us to come together, celebrate the achievements of women in cybersecurity, and continue working towards a more equitable and inclusive industry that empowers women not only to participate, but to thrive.
Neetu Singh, Security Solutions Lead, Radware
For me #EmbraceEquity is not a single-day event. It is something that needs to be worked on every day by organizations, governments, and individuals if we want to see the change that we desire. Recognizing that not everyone is same and needs different resources to be successful requires that organizations make an investment in building awareness, embracing an individual's unique circumstances and providing them opportunities to grow.
Connie Stack, CEO, Next DLP
I relate deeply to the #EmbraceEquity theme. Female CEOs are rare creatures, female CEO’s in cybersecurity even rarer still – but I am here because I’ve been fortunate enough to be associated with leaders, organizations and peers throughout my career journey who absolutely embraced equity. They not only made me feel like I could become a cybersecurity CEO, but advocated and supported me in getting there.
The cybersecurity industry has made unprecedented advances in the past ten years, but no company or organization I can think of has achieved complete gender equality. International Women’s Day provides a great opportunity for our industry to reflect on progress made, to celebrate the women who have already made significant contributions in the cybersecurity world and to call for continued change so we entice more women to choose this exciting and worthwhile vocation.
Why are you passionate about security?
Nadya Duke Boone, Chief Product Officer, Huntress
When I was first approached about the Chief Product Officer position at Huntress, I wasn’t specifically looking to get into cybersecurity. What I did know was that I wanted to be part of an organization delivering a cool product that I could be passionate about and bring value to a customer. Delivering cybersecurity to small and medium-sized businesses, who are vastly underserved, definitely fit the bill. Building our Huntress products requires not just the great product managers, engineers and designers on our team, but also the very specialized and experienced threat analysts, hunters and researchers.
I find that with the women I’m mentoring, I’m often helping them see how experiences are relevant in other fields. For example, I’ve found my experience building other deeply specialized technical products, such as products that relied on psychometrics and advanced statistical methods, has been a great start to building a strong partnership with our cybersecurity experts at Huntress. It’s nice to have my own example to point to!
For women looking to get into cybersecurity, I’d definitely encourage them to leverage transferable skills like data analysis, project management and coding. Plus, traits like curiosity, persistence, and a deep empathy for people, are incredibly valuable for hunting hackers and protecting potential victims. Depending on the part of the work that interests you, that might be enough to get your foot in the door.
For companies that are looking to add more women or other underrepresented people, definitely take a hard look at your job descriptions and hiring procedures to be sure you’re focused on what’s essential to success on day one, and what can be learned on the job. In my experience, the mindset of “we’ve always hired people who fit this criteria” can lead to a team that is too homogenous and I encourage hiring managers to ruthlessly challenge their assumptions.
I’m very proud to be contributing to cybersecurity today and celebrating Women's History Month with so many inspiring and accomplished women in the field. Fun fact: When I was in college I worked at the Women’s Resources and Research Center and was responsible for all our activities celebrating Women’s History Week. Yep, back then we just had a week, not a whole month.
Mona Ghadiri, Director of Product Management, BlueVoyant
Despite starting my career as a process engineer/project engineer, I wanted to get into software project management and move out of plastics manufacturing. At the time, I had applied to work for a company called Trusted Computer Solutions, which is in the University of Illinois Research Park in their startup incubator space. As you may guess from the name, the name really gave me very little indication of what exactly they did. It didn’t stop me, and in a lot of ways, I’m glad I went in with an open mind about software design and engineering instead of thinking that I wasn’t competent enough.
Once I started learning about Linux and network security, and I realized the commercial cloud was just picking up steam, I got hooked. I knew I had to be part of product development and designing the ways security teams were fighting (and keeping out) the bad guys during this age of digital transformation unseen in our collective histories. I had the honor of working on tools and systems that protected warfighter counterterrorism missions and safeguarded protected intelligence information early in my career, so doing something meaningful was my other inspiration to enter and remain in the security industry.
A career in security was not planned but I couldn’t be more grateful that I found my way regardless. My path largely shifted because I felt I hit the glass ceiling in manufacturing. I started getting into six sigma and quality assurance and realized the same things need to be in software. Then I learned about Agile, and software development felt like more of an open world with more options for me, and that’s what changed my direction. After getting into software project management, my path shifted slightly from agile project management to product management, but overall I can’t see myself not doing cybersecurity something for the rest of my life.
To promote diversity in the security industry, business leaders should look in nontraditional places and partner with national or local affinity groups and organizations. Undergrads through PhD graduates in social sciences are my personal treasure trove. I also have a lot of respect for retraining programs. We all have the skills to identify patterns, do semantic analysis, and often just really want a chance.
When thinking about diversity in the security industry I consider socio-economic diversity or age – did you grow up with a computer in your house? Did you learn how to type in school? The answers vary widely and that diversity is what we need to be talking about. BlueVoyant supports a STEM program in Baltimore every year to bring coding to students who wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to it. I was lucky, my dad taught classes on or about computers, and we always had them around when I was younger. I think about what difference that has made in my life, and I want that for others.
There probably isn’t a single woman out there who hasn’t felt like their gender has been challenged in their career. It was hard to figure out what was because I was young and thought I knew a lot of stuff and what really was because I am a woman. I don’t think I can separate out what challenges were because of what factors; the reality was it was hardest to find others who were like me in the meetings I was in, or at conferences I attended. I was just at Microsoft BlueHat 2023 and the gender split was such that every time I went into the bathroom, there was another woman in there! Veteran cyber ladies will know what I mean. I can’t think of a single conference I’ve ever been to that was like that. For example, 7 years ago, for example, at AWS Reinvent, I couldn’t say that.
I’m not particularly surprised that Forrester’s report cites women as 24% of the cyber workforce globally. However, I am more curious about what Forrester thinks the projections will be 5 years from now and for us to discuss whether that is satisfactory progress.
Julie Igorevna, Partner Marketing Manager, Radware
Overall, I am passionate about working in cybersecurity because it offers a challenging and rewarding career with many opportunities for growth and advancement. It’s important work that helps protect people and organizations from cyber threats. By working in this field, I take pride in knowing that I am making a meaningful contribution to society. I can help increase diversity and bring a fresh perspective to the work.
Lorri Janssen-Anessi Director, Director of External Cyber Assessments, BlueVoyant
I began my career serving in the US Air Force as a technical language analyst working on one of the US government’s highest priority missions, counter-terrorism, after 9/11. As national priorities evolved and cyber attacks became more pervasive, I was called to work in the Cyber Security Mission at the National Security Agency, an organization that was truly a pioneer in the field of cybersecurity.
Finding this new field to be extremely rewarding, it kick-started my passion for all things technology and cyber related. As a result, I enrolled into the master of Electrical and Computer Engineering program at the Naval Postgraduate School.
My experience highlighted the need to foster passion and interest in STEM for both women and the next generation which were and continue to be grossly underrepresented in this field. Although my path to cybersecurity was non-traditional, I found that my diverse experiences and career opportunities have contributed to my success as I continue to challenge perspectives in the cybersecurity field and consistently seek out innovation.
In an effort to help promote diversity in the security industry, it is critical to ensure that there is cross-functional recruitment and teaming to achieve the most successful outcomes. A key part of this is ensuring there is a cross-representation of perspectives. Different skill sets, sector experience, cultures, and gender all facilitate removing bias that individuals may or may not have from their traditional roles or jobs. Bringing this diversity together will challenge the hypotheses and goals that the team has and will most likely drive a more comprehensive result, product, or service. I have experienced this firsthand.
When you have a team lacking in diversity, the results are not necessarily poor – but they are usually one-dimensional. Cybersecurity is more effective when played as a team sport.
Some of the misconceptions surrounding diversity in the security industry are that you must be highly technical to have an impact or that you must have many years of experience. These ideas are simply not true. The cybersecurity industry needs background knowledge from all kinds of fields. To the end, threat/cyber actors are people. Their behaviors and techniques come from their own knowledge and experiences. Threat actors’ targets include all sectors and differ in complexity. In order to be on equal footing, it's imperative that cybersecurity teams leverage all kinds of experiences and challenge problem sets with fresh perspectives. This will naturally foster and drive innovation.
Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me that women represent 24% of the cyber workforce globally. In any field, people want to see their own characteristics and attributes represented in the current structure of an organization. They want to be able to see clear growth and career paths that are realistic and achievable. When you look at the majority of achievements there is a homogeneous representation of leaders at the highest levels of cybersecurity. It is changing, but slowly and definitely not equitably. The fact is there are many women that have been historically foundational in the fields of cybersecurity and STEM. I think that perhaps changing the narrative to highlight those successes more often and more explicitly will pave a way for women and minorities in younger generations to be motivated to pursue opportunities in cyber. Breaking down barriers, and clearly defining what is needed to be successful in a career in cybersecurity will also encourage a more diverse applicant pool.
My advice is that it is important for individuals to find something they are passionate about, then learn and continue to grow in their knowledge of that “thing”. Expertise will always breed confidence. If you know what you are talking about and have built up your subject matter expertise, the composition of the people around you won’t always matter. You will be able to drive innovation and successful outcomes. Don’t be afraid to be heard, use your voice, and share your knowledge and opinion. Also, apply to positions that scare you. Human nature makes us question our capabilities and abilities, but if you are offered an opportunity and you don’t feel quite ‘enough’ my advice is take it anyway. You will learn, challenge yourself, and grow. Your teammates will reap the benefits of that growth and encourage everyone to grow together.
Michelle Lees, Field Marketing Director, APJ, Radware
Security is a topic that has become top of mind for most people, as we are all affected by the data breaches that we hear about every day in the news. I am proud to work in a growing industry with smart and ever-evolving technology that protects businesses and individuals.
Liz Mills, Software Engineer, Kasada
What excites me the most about cybersecurity is the never-ending opportunity for growth and development, and the ability to make a positive impact on the world. Security is integral in today's culture; our banking, shopping, communication, and lives are deeply entrenched in the online world. It is crucial to ensure that our personal information, accounts, and data are safe. This is what initially drew me to cyber security; the opportunity to develop technology to solve real-world problems that affect everyone. The field has fascinating and unique challenges that are constantly evolving. Tech will continue to change. Our skills and ways to combat bots must constantly adapt to keep defenses effective. As an engineer that constant problem solving and learning really excites me!
How can the security industry work to promote diversity in the field?
Francesca Corsini, US Regional Sales Manager, Datadobi
I am very fortunate to have strong female role models and to work for a company that values growth, support, and opportunity for everyone, equally. Their mentorship, guidance, and support helped me establish a career in tech. Hard work and dedication should not go unrecognized regardless of social, economic, racial, and religious differences and choices.
Innovation and technological breakthroughs are driven by our unique ideas, differences, and perspectives. It is our responsibility to continue building a world that fosters equal opportunity and brings a diverse set of minds to the table.
Erin Dertouzos, Chief People Officer, StrongDM
In honor of International Women's Day, I want to encourage company leaders who are looking to improve gender diversity to start with their hiring processes. The way a job description is written or having a requirement for a specific degree can result in the exclusion of certain applicants. In fact, I have encouraged recruiters to push hiring managers to think about whether or not degrees are even required for certain roles. Several studies indicate that women may be hesitant to apply for jobs if they feel they do not meet every single qualification, creating an obstacle to attracting more female talent to your team.
Companies should consider how women experience the interview process as well. Research has shown that people are more inclined to join teams where they see themselves reflected. If a female candidate is interviewed exclusively by men, they may not feel entirely at ease in that setting, resulting in potentially losing out on exceptional talent due to the recruiting process not being designed with them in mind.
By looking at every facet of the hiring experience, company leaders can create more space for underrepresented talent which will benefit the organization in the long run.
Dominique Fougerat, EVP People & Culture, Axway
Companies must implement better female-centric approaches to attract more women, especially in technical disciplines. This could happen through partnerships with universities and high schools, which give women channels to consider a technical career at the company or at least the industry.
Promoting more young women and maintaining equity in pay when they become mothers are always crucial, but attention to a more balanced pro/personal life is especially necessary as a new parent requiring more flexible working time. Companies must go the extra mile in countries without strict maternity leave or fair pay laws.
Aurelie Guerrieri, CMO, DataDome
Generally speaking, what’s great about the cybersecurity industry is that by its very nature, it is open to diversity of thought. There is no school or degree to become a cyberattacker. Likewise, the best cybersecurity experts come from a variety of backgrounds and bring creative perspectives to anticipate threats and outsmart bad actors.
Relatedly, I have great admiration for female CISOs and CTOs. Not only have they had to break through the glass ceiling, but they also employ the full spectrum of hard and soft skills – creativity, caring, strategic thinking, etc. – to address a threat that is amorphous, extremely fast-moving, sophisticated and distributed. These women are true warriors!
Cybersecurity is also a broad, high growth field, creating lots of job opportunities. You don’t need to be a “techie” in order to succeed; there are jobs for everyone, from finance, business operations, marketing, sales, customer service, and so forth. This opens up the door to so many different types of people.
Speaking of hyper growth, this is one of the reasons why I entered cybersecurity. I very much enjoy working in growth industries. Unfortunately for the world, the cyber threat landscape won’t be shrinking any time soon. It’s an ideal industry to join and help scale.
What’s more, our clients’ customers are very diverse, often representing a significant percentage of women, particularly in the e-commerce, media, ticketing and travel industries. I’m very proud to help make the internet a safer place for everyone to shop.
As a leader of a hypergrowth company with an amazing culture (don’t take my word for it, check out our Great Place to Work rankings), what’s top of mind for me is how to we keep and enrich that culture as we scale, particularly in a remote-first or remote-friendly environment. Making culture a mandate and establishing cadences, processes, and KPIs ensures that DEI remains woven in the fabric of our company, even as we add diverse talent around the world.
Jamie Hawkins, Marketing Director, DH2i
Today more than ever, women have more opportunities to create the future we want. While overcoming biases, the world’s workplaces continue to make great strides, with prevailing research touting the benefits of doing so. According to McKinsey, companies with significant female representation are 25% more likely to outperform male-dominated competitors. Likewise, Gartner research states that inclusivity can improve team performance by as much as 30%.
I myself am fortunate to work for a company that fosters an inclusive workplace that empowers every individual to reach their full potential. Beyond ethical motivation, DH2i recognizes that an inclusive workplace is a powerful business strategy that brings a rich variety of backgrounds, experience and thought-processes to the table. In doing so, organizations can enjoy fresh approaches to problem solving, original thinking and innovation that result in significant competitive advantage, greater profits, increased shareholder value and long-term success.
Heelee Kriesler, VP of Customer Success, Checkmarx
Promoting diversity in general is certainly not easy and in the tech industry it is very difficult. In terms of what businesses can do to promote diversity in the security industry, the common answer is that the low representation of women is driven from the lack of women applicants/candidates for the relevant positions. While this is true, it can be changed.
In my experience, I believe that two elements will always inspire and drive diversity:
- Tone at the top – If you are a business leader that understands the importance of diversity to the business success of your company, don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Make a conscious effort to diversify your leadership team. You will have to be highly intentional about it, and many times you will have to work harder to find the perfect fit, but it will be worth it.
- Mentorship Programs – Launch mentorship programs where senior executives will mentor mid-level female employees, and help them navigate the various challenges they are facing. It will be a lot easier for women to make their way up the corporate ladder and bring others with them if they have an adequate support system in place.
Michelle Lees, Field Marketing Director, APJ, Radware
As a woman who has always worked in technology, I am used to being 'the only female in the room' and I think it's a shame. Much has been written about the risks of groupthink, where suboptimal decisions are made by a group due to social pressures. This kind of thinking negatively impacts an organisation’s ability to innovate. It is therefore critical for the security industry to promote equity in the workforce by ensuring that the right workplace culture, hiring practices and mentorship is in place to shift the balance. Diversity of perspectives is needed in the workplace to meet the changing environment in which we work.
Liz Mills, Software Engineer, Kasada
Promoting diversity must come from within companies and can’t simply be how they advertise themselves to the world. Diverse leadership and supporting women already within security is crucial to effecting change and creating work environments that women actually want to work for. Hiring practices are of course the first barrier to entry and should be reviewed to ensure they are not indirectly adding to bias. On average, women are less likely to apply for jobs unless they meet all requirements so evaluating what is needed for a role versus a “Wishlist” of skills is a great start to attracting qualified and diverse candidates.
Deborah Myers, Senior Director, Corporate Marketing, Radware
As a woman working in the security industry, I've seen some progress towards promoting gender equality, but we still have a long way to go. It's no secret that the industry is male dominated, with women being underrepresented in technical positions and leadership roles. However, I'm optimistic about the growing recognition of the importance of diversity in the workplace. Many companies are prioritizing gender equality, changing their recruiting practices and taking steps towards creating a more inclusive environment. From my perspective, true progress towards diversity and equity in the security industry requires a deliberate and consistent effort across the organization - from HR to sales to R&D. We need to actively create a safe space for voices that have been marginalized to be heard. It also means seeking out and promoting diverse talent and cultivating a culture that embraces differences. By doing so, we can build a stronger, more inclusive industry that reflects the diverse communities we aim to protect.
Clar Rosso, CEO, (ISC)2
I encourage women to figure out where their passions lie, to be intentional about their career goals, and find a path to get there. Women and underrepresented groups often talk themselves out of advocating on their behalf and pursuing opportunities that they really want. The reasons are varied, they aren’t ready, they don’t have all the qualifications, their kids aren’t the right age, and on it goes. To get past these barriers, I find simple, yet effective advice is: ‘If you had a friend in the same situation, what would you advise her?
Once you have committed to pursuing a career goal, build your network of women and men who will help you break into your desired industry or obtain your next role. In addition to checking in with your existing network, attend as many in-person networking events as you are comfortable, but also take advantage of the powerful virtual networking opportunities presented in this post-pandemic world. Personally, I always find connection through a 15-30 minute virtual coffee inspiring.
For women who are thinking about a career in cybersecurity, welcome! We need you and there is a place for you in cybersecurity. In recent years, we have seen growth of women entering the profession and steps to increase equity and inclusion.
However, women still only make up 25% of the cybersecurity workforce, and in some parts of the world, the percentages are much lower. Additionally, our 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study revealed that 30% of female employees feel discriminated against at work. And, professionals have told me they lack a sense of belonging when they are the only woman in the room. More can be done. Beyond recruitment, organizations should take the necessary steps to retain and advance women professionals in the cybersecurity community.
Our workforce study also tells us that organizations with DEI programs in place have significantly smaller workforce gaps than those that do not. Among the most impactful programs are ones that focus on pay equity, removing bias from hiring and advancement practices, and prioritizing inclusion over gatekeeping.
The benefits of an inclusive culture, especially in cybersecurity are plentiful—and critical. Organizations that commit to inclusion bring problem solvers, analytical and critical thinkers, and diverse skill sets and backgrounds to the table to solve challenges and build opportunities. This is how we secure information and systems globally. It takes all of us.
Additionally, we all need mentors. Organizations don’t necessarily need a formal mentorship program; mentorship can be informal, but women and other underrepresented groups within the profession often say that having a mentor helps them feel valued in their roles and encourages them to ask for advice and opinions on success in the industry. And while there are benefits to in-house mentors and sponsors, seeking mentors outside your organization also can provide valuable perspective.
Organizations can also enhance retention by providing professional development resources that invest in women and enable greater access to growth opportunities. Many women leave jobs due to a lack of career progression opportunities. Organizations will benefit from being more intentional and transparent about career advancement opportunities that ensure that women have equal access. Achieving gender equity takes all of us. Every time you share a best practice or take a step to reduce bias from your processes and practices makes a difference.
Bindu Upadhyay, Lead Service Designer at Mendix and founder, GEM (Gender Equity at Mendix)
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to workplace equity is the lack of awareness about why we still need to address an issue like gender equality,” said Bindu Upadhyay, Lead Service Designer at Mendix and founder of GEM (Gender Equity at Mendix).
We often live in a bubble and think, for example, that there is no discrimination. It is therefore important to provide safer spaces to share and to empower people to listen without giving unsolicited advice. A greater focus on equity allows us to improve our individual awareness and embrace different perspectives of colleagues. Diversity of ideas leads to innovation and can therefore also have a major business impact.
Phanneth Wood, Global Solutions Director, Deep Instinct
The idea that bringing more cybersecurity awareness, prevention and protection to the world can make a difference in helping keep people digitally safe as our web-based lives continue to expand.
I didn’t know I wanted to be in security until I got here! I started my “career” post-college thinking I would be a financial advisor. I was working as a lender for a financial institution before the collapse of the housing market leading up to 2007 which changed the trajectory of my career and led me to a position with an IT Distributor's Security division. I found that I excelled in the areas of leadership, strategic sales, sales ops and running cybersecurity vendor programs. Doors open when you expand your aperture. I can geek out on security stats and products and help people and companies as much as I could have in the financial sector.
Early in my career, I would be asked if I would take notes in a meeting. But I always come to the boardroom prepared. Having done my research and gathered data on the meeting's topic, I would not be afraid to question what is working and what is not working. When addressing what is not working, be sure to always have suggestions to improve the issue and be ready to take point on the task of working to make it better. Don’t let other people tell you the assumed “role” you play based on gender. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to have leaders support me without my gender being a factor. On great teams where everyone has a seat at the table, a teammate's gender is neutral.
My advice to everyone is: Don’t box yourself in or box yourself out. Don’t assume there is anything you can’t do.Don’t be afraid to apply for the job you think someone else might do better than you and get out of your own way! Go for it! Find a mentor who has overcome similar obstacles, make sure your performance and work ethic demonstrate persistence and perseverance, learn the technology and highlight your experience and expertise.
Please share tips for combating gender bias in the workplace and inspiration for women seeking careers in tech.
Megan Barbier, Vice President, People & Culture, Jumio
Start with understanding: while some of the challenges professional women face are universal, "women" are more than a collective. We are individuals with unique hurdles. Don't presume that one size fits all or that everyone will benefit from the same solution.
Grace Burkard, Director of Operations, ioXt Alliance
Women’s History Month honors and celebrates women’s contributions in a variety of industries. In the cybersecurity sector, women make up only 24% of the field, according to the (ISC)2 Women in Cybersecurity Report.
Early in my career, I was mentored by one of the smartest women I have ever encountered. She sagely advised that you should work to surround yourself with individuals who are better and smarter than you, because they will push you to better yourself. Define your top five—be they colleagues, friends, or a partner—who offer exceptional knowledge, skills, talent or personality that improve the lives they touch.
Regardless of the industry you find yourself in, respect, communication, and listening are the key characteristics of inspirational professionals and leaders. Leaders should listen as much as they talk, to absorb perspective, insight, and ideas. Champion your peers and subordinates, as people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. If you are there for your people, they’ll be there for you.
While the highly technical aspect to my position within the IoT industry can be perceived as a challenge, it’s also the greatest opportunity. By immersing myself in the space, I’m learning from “the smartest people in the room,” all of whom help me to better understand the inherent nuances and framework around decisions being made that have global impact.
Sam Maxim, Director of Product Management and Operations, Tamr
Getting into the tech arena
Given my non-STEM background, I've always felt a bit of imposter syndrome as a woman in tech, especially when taking on a new challenge. Was I good enough? Could I do this? What I've learned is to ruthlessly believe in myself and find people who would give me candid feedback on what's working and what's not. You have to believe in yourself.
What to do if the “feedback” you get makes you uneasy
If feedback doesn't feel right, don't let it slide. Most people, in my experience, have been well intentioned. However, I have been given feedback that used words and connotations that didn't feel right, like when I was told I was too "bossy.” It's easy to ignore these moments, but it's better to lean into them. Stop to explain why it's a problem, even if it is uncomfortable.
Advice for women who are new to tech
Find a community. If there isn’t a “Women in Technology” group - create one! Previously, my coworkers and I started a small get together in the conference room at lunch because we craved that community feeling. When I left that company, they had over 200 members in the group and a yearly operating budget that we put towards community outreach, speaking engagements, and corporate events with other companies. It was surprisingly easy to get started and the company wanted to help us.
Deepshikha Pareek, Senior Manager, Marketing Research Team, Jumio
Speak up when you see or experience bias. This could be during meetings, conversations with colleagues, or even in performance reviews. By respectfully and firmly addressing the biased behavior and suggesting ways to improve it, women can help to create a more inclusive workplace. Also, leading by example is essential. Women can model inclusive behavior, be open-minded, and work to create a workplace culture that values and supports diversity and inclusion.
Tia Phillips, Chief People Officer, Digibee
There is still a lot of work to do. One example includes hair discrimination. In the U.S., hair discrimination begins early and follows women of color throughout their lives. In fact, in many states, Black women can still be sent home or fired for the way they wear their hair. Treatments and processes to straighten or force natural hair into unnatural styles is not only expensive, time-consuming, and severely damaging to the hair, but also extremely dangerous. The FDA found that most hair smoothing or straightening products actually release formaldehyde gas in the air during the heating process, which is a known human carcinogen. Having to make these changes to women’s hair is literally killing us. Progress is being made, albeit slowly, to pass legislation across the U.S. to protect women in the workplace and in schools against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles. Learn more about the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Coalition.
In terms of leadership positions, statistically, women make up less than 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs, and women of color make up only 2% of that. While there is progress happening in terms of gender equality, and we are seeing many talented women successfully taking on leadership roles, as the data shows, the majority of those women are White. It is important to recognize these numbers. We need to continue to support gender diversity, but also be intentional in recognizing the need to further diversify so we can open more doors for women of color.
In the Ted Talk, “Color Blind or Color Brave,” speaker Mellody Hobson shares some astonishing facts: “Even though White men make up just 30% of the U.S. population, they hold 70% of all corporate board seats. Of the fortune 250, there are only seven CEOs that are minorities. Of the thousands of publicly traded companies today, only two are chaired by Black women.” Hobson, herself, is one of those two.
The data speaks for itself, indicating we are at a tipping point—on the brink of small actions bringing big change. It is very exciting to see the number of women of color choosing to leave Corporate America to become entrepreneurs. I am equally encouraged by those who choose to stay and effect change. It is important that we look fairly at educational impediments in terms of hiring, so when we talk about representation, and how “everyone deserves a seat at the table," we must be intentional in recognizing the disproportionate barriers different people may face to get to that table.
Veronica Torres, Worldwide Privacy and Regulatory Counsel, Jumio
You have to identify that while you may feel at a disadvantage at times, you are not the only one so when looking to make an impact you must advocate on behalf of yourself and all the others who cannot find a seat at the table. We have often been told there are a finite number of opportunities for women in tech — that is false. There are just people with finite opinions about how the world should be.
Susan Walker, CFO, Jumio
I believe childcare is a huge issue for working women. As a manager, be flexible around "working hours" — allow team members to work from home, complete tasks in the evening so they can attend their child's sports event, etc.
Jackie Wheeler, Senior Director of Strategic Marketing, Jumio
It's the most amazing career with constant opportunities to learn about exciting new technology! You'll deal with bias, and men in authority positions will try to tell you who you are and what you're capable of, but you don't have to listen to them. Keep a strong sense of who you are and focus on the ideas that are on the table, not the persons in the room.
Dorota Wróbel, Chief R&D Officer, G2A
I was always interested in new technologies and finding ways to develop myself in many areas. To be honest I've always been drawn to areas that are considered more masculine. I wanted to prove that these are just unnecessary stereotypes. E-commerce is one of those kinds of areas. Or it was when I started. As a girl I was always drawn to dynamic actions, I liked when something interesting was happening and the very important factor was helping others. E-commerce looked like the most promising way to do it all. You can spread your wings much more in digital areas. Changing things very fast, challenging the status quo, and being the pioneer in technological solutions – that’s why it excites me.
My advice for girls who wish to pursue a career in technology and e-commerce is to certainly have the courage to speak up. There will often be times when you will be the only one or one of the few women on your team, don’t let that discourage you. Every voice is important, and if you know you’re right about something, make sure you have listened. Additionally, it is very important to believe in the skills that we have. We do not lack determination which I think is key to being successful in life. The second one is very important – do not resign from your career because of your family and kids. It is possible to have both, nevertheless, it is very difficult sometimes. But the key is finding the right, supporting partners – in life and in your job.