Only 11% of the world’s information security workforce are women, according to a recent report from the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC). This is especially concerning considering there are more than 200,000 US security jobs unfilled, raising the question of whether women are aware of the opportunities available to them in the cyber job market. If not, could increasing the visibility of women security pros help recruit others to apply for these roles?
So, this begs the question: what can women in the cyber market do to become more visible? Jodie Nel, event organiser with the Cyber Security Event Series discussed this question with Information Age, after she ran into challenges finding women speakers for the event group’s annual showcase.
She suggested that women security pros could make the difference in attracting a more balanced workforce, from hosting open office hours to applying to speak on panels and special sessions at big events. Women in security, according to Nel, need to bring this issue into the forefront by pushing themselves into the limelight.
Why is the percentage of women working in the cyber security workforce so low?
I think security has been a historically male dominated industry. Whether it be CISOs or white hat hackers, the image of a man springs to mind when talking about cyber security. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of visibility of women working in the space. I think organisations and individuals in cybersecurity have a responsibility to show there are women making an impact in the industry and that we need more of it.
What can be done to reverse this trend? How important are role models?
When women see a successful woman working in any industry, it is likely to encourage them to move into that field. I wouldn’t want to work in an industry when being a woman would make me a minority, because of course you would be discriminated against. Male dominated industries often have a ‘boys club’ feel, and this can lead to women being left out.
This week, we had a great example, when the Uber board member said “There’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on the board, it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board, actually, what it shows is, it’s much likely there’ll be more talking.”
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There is a danger with these ‘boys clubs’ because when these kind of jokes are made because they are just another way of excluding or isolating women. What’s more, these jokes just separate women from men; and this was at event about sexism in the workplace. I think it shows there is a lot more education needed.
How important is it to have a diverse workforce in today’s disrupted environment?
I find it hard to believe that an organisation would want to hire only one gender. It makes no sense that if you are working with men and women as customers or clients then you need both on your team because you need both perspectives. Over the last five years, tech companies have gotten much better at diversifying, and I think we will see that more with cybersecurity companies over the next few years as the cyber market grows.
What can women do in the cyber market to become more visible?
I believe organisations need to also take responsibility for increasing visibility. Organisations will more often than not use a male when they need a spokesperson, whether that be at an event or talking to the media. Women in the space should be approaching their public relations and marketing reps. about this. Women need to put themselves forward for these public-facing opportunities.
Women in cyber security should network as much as possible. More senior women in cyber security that are getting visibility should be helping more junior women follow in their footsteps. Hosting open office hours and meet-ups is a great way to meet more women in the industry. Of course, when we have women blogging and offering thought-leadership this helps too, but we need to be doing more, being more proactive.
An issue we face when trying to recruit female speakers at events is the lack of women in senior technical positions. Our events have high-level speakers and we wouldn’t want to be patronizing by having a woman for a woman’s sake. That isn’t the point. We don’t want to discriminate in that way.
Events are interesting because you will often look at a seminar program and it will have no women, which is an issue we regularly face and are proactively trying to address. However, lots of companies are missing the mark, and I think this could discourage women from getting involved. I think people strive to have 50/50 in event programs and attendance, which is not realistic nor reflective of the industry.
For example, I saw one event that turned their logo pink in order to attract a more female audience and another that sent an email ‘invite to a female colleague to attend the event with you.’ This kind of messaging says, it doesn’t matter if the female is qualified or even interested!
Can you tell me about the Cyber Security Event Series?
Cyber Security Chicago
McCormick Place, Chicago IL
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