Recently, I was in Washington DC to support Cybersecurity Week where our media partner The CyberWire hosted the 4th annual Women in Cybersecurity networking event in Baltimore, MD.
CyberWire honored Cylance as one of their premier sponsors, and it was a great opportunity for myself and some of our staff to participate, network, and speak from the heart to a room full of talented women.
Diversity in the workforce and being able to support other women in the security field are really important initiatives for both myself and for Cylance. Diversity drives creativity and innovation, and without it, companies become stagnant.
But with robust diversity in the workforce, companies tend to grow, expand, remain competitive, and deliver more meaningful solutions to the marketplace, which are some of the issues I spoke about at the networking event.
- Over 1 million cybersecurity roles unfulfilled (why do you want to be in this sector?)
- 20%-23% women in technology sector (not all in a tech role, as many are in HR, administration, marketing, customer service roles)
- 11% of cybersecurity workforce globally are women (too few)
- Less than 10% of those women are in leadership roles director level and above (way too few)
- Gender pay gap: Women earn about 14% less than men (yet they do the same work)
These statistics have not really improved over the years, except for the number of cybersecurity positions that continue to rise due to the fact that we have a skills gap, regardless of gender.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself:
Why be Part of Cybersecurity?
- More Opportunities: Great opportunity to learn and be involved in something to make the world a safer place (passion in what you do and what you believe in).
- More Leadership Roles: Great opportunity to take on a leadership role; Many companies are supportive of diversity and can’t find the talent to fill those leadership roles.
- Better Company Performance: In a DDI consulting firm study, 20% of best performing companies had 27% of women in key leadership roles across the organization.
- More Money: Salary compensation tend to be higher in cybersecurity roles due to a shortage in skills and demand.
What Kind of Leadership Roles Fit Women, and What Can We Do to Find Them?
When I asked the audience how many of them have mentors, only 20 hands went up in a room of 200 attendees (10%). When I asked how many of them have champions, less than 10 hands went up.
This is simply not enough. If the same questions were asked to a room of men, I’m guessing a great deal more hands would go up, right?
As a woman in security (or any other field), if you want a promotion or to work on really strategic projects, you need to be engaged, put yourself out there, get noticed, and ask the right questions to people that matter.
More exposure creates a more authoritative persona, and you will gain more self-confidence and the ability to deliver - and this will make a big difference in identifying the right mentors and champions who are key resources that will help accelerate your career roadmap goals.
By leveraging mentors and champions, you can increase your chances in finding those great roles for yourself.
A mentor is someone who you can develop a relationship who you feel that provide an unbiased guidance in areas that you want to focus on (find at least three). They could be peers, or someone in a leadership role in another department.
Your mentors are people who you can collaborate with on a regular cadence to work on your development plan. Also, try to provide some value back to your mentors as well.
A champion is someone who is selling for you when you are not there. Somehow you have mastered a key person in the organization who people look up to for comment or influence.
It is not always the person with the highest title, and your champion is someone with whom your relationship is created over time. You earn it by getting noticed, adding value to the organization, and by executing consistently.
How Do We Help Each Other?
I applaud all the women who attend networking events. It is not always easy to find the time given our busy schedules and it can be awkward to introduce yourself to new people. I can assure you that the more you practice putting yourself out there, the more self-confidence you will gain. Successful people are consistent and they have a cadence in what they do every day. Their consistency builds discipline. We should support each other and encourage others to try new challenges, get the right exposure and be advocates for diversity.