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Becoming the Face of Change

One of the biggest reasons for gender disparity in cybersecurity was the lack of a role model. The problem here is the fact that men make up for a majority of key commenters and high-profile influencers.

Trade shows and industry events are also usually dominated by men, which might be another key turn-off point in the career path choice for young women. “Most young people (69% ) haven’t met anyone who works in cybersecurity at all and even fewer (11%) have met a woman working in cybersecurity. But when they have, their opinion of the role skyrockets, with 63% of women thinking more positively about cybersecurity after meeting someone who works in the sector. This clearly shows the power of role models in promoting the industry as a whole and how inspirational female personalities can be utilized to make cybersecurity a more attractive proposition for women and help to reduce today’s skills shortage,” suggested the same study by (ISC)² and its Center for Cyber Safety and Education. Without someone to look up to, it is difficult for young women to roll into the alien territory of cybersecurity.

To gain an insight into the lack of women representation, CISO MAG gauged a few women security influencers to understand the cause of this alarming trend. This article is part of a series of interviews from women cybersecurity experts who shed light representation of women in cybersecurity. In this they also talk about initiatives taken by them as well as their companies to bridge the gender gap.

1Carolyn Crandall, Chief Deception and Marketing Officer, Attivo Networks:

I strive to be a catalyst of change and a role model for changing that trend. New and diverse perspectives are the key to innovation and it is critical for the advancement in the cybersecurity and technology spaces. I am a strong advocate both in my work environment as well as in volunteer activities to help educate and drive advancement of women in technology. Attivo Networks has been aggressive in its college graduate hiring program and I have taken this opportunity to bring several millennial women on to the team. I often speak with undergrad and MBA students at Santa Clara University and I have spoken at When She Speaks, WITI, and most recently at the Silicon Valley TIE CMO Inflect event. This helps me build relationships, introduce cybersecurity as a career path, and actively recruit. For our newly hired recruits, we conduct weekly training on cybersecurity, our technology, and how to apply our technology to solve cybersecurity issues. We also encourage the team to participate in external training forums like ISC2, SANS, ISSA and Cybrary. Notably, my team is ¾ women.

I believe I have the ability to retain and continue to attract women because they feel welcome, the company culture promotes learning, and we offer on-the-job training to help them gain additional technical expertise. We also appreciate that people are learning, and openly provide opportunities for employees to apply their learnings while providing direct feedback on what went well and where they need to focus to advance. I also encourage the women on the team to stretch beyond their comfort zone. I have found that many women want to master an area before they make a commitment to advance. They sometimes tend to shy away from jobs or projects where they don’t have all the skills, whereas their male counterparts tend to be willing to go out on a limb and apply for jobs they are not fully qualified for. Throughout my career,

I have always sought out jobs that had scared me in some way. The skill or experience that I was missing, presented me with the opportunity to grow and be challenged. I encourage others to take big steps, but to also do this smartly by learning from others who have the skills, taking classes, or reading everything you can so that you become an expert in these new disciplines as well.

2Kavya Pearlman, Founder and CEO of XR Safety Initiative:

I can finally say it with ease that my hope is to become the catalyst as well as the role model in the space. Being a head-covered Muslim brown woman who has endured discrimination and faced biases with courage, I must carry the mantle and help others feel safe to pursue a career in cybersecurity. This issue is very close to my heart as we are at one of the most critical moments in human history – a crossroads between emerging technologies, data sciences, and cybersecurity – fueled by a renewed, global necessity of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in each domain. This is why just last month, February 2020 – XR Safety Initiative (XRSI) announced the Cyber-XR Coalition: A Diversity & Inclusion Effort by XRSI.

The CyberXR coalition brings together D&I-focused leading organizations to advance diversity and inclusion within the fields of XR and Cybersecurity.

3Lekshmi Nair, Senior Managing Consultant and Route to Market Leader- IBM Security, APAC & EMEA:

Role models will help to craft the goals that one aspires. I believe that catalysts are more instrumental to improve the diversity ratio in the field of cybersecurity. There is no better place than IBM to be in to drive this cause.

At IBM India, our prime D&I focus is the advancement of women in leadership roles, engaging and developing women across the organization and work-life integration. We also focus on wholesome inclusion on all other dimensions, which allows our employees to work without facing any kind of bias.

The achievement of gender equality cannot sit on the shoulders of women alone. When we take shared ownership, men and women, that’s when we stride forward together. Here are some of the programs where I am part of the global leadership team and lead in India:

Women in Security Excelling (WISE): The mission is to bring awareness in women on Cyber Security as a career option and thus to improve the gender ratio in this space. At present, this community connects about 400+ women from security services and software across India and South Asia. Additionally, we drive programs like IBMCyberDay4Girls for school girls and Hackathon competitions for college going girl students.

Guidance, Resource and Outreach for Women (GROW): Intended to foster the growth of women technologists in the newer technologies such as cloud, cognitive and security. The program involves speed mentoring, learning events and specific career counseling sessions for women.

I am also a volunteer in AnitaB.Org Delhi chapter to promote security as part of their agenda.

4Vandana Verma, Global Board of Directors at OWASP Foundation & InfoSecGirls:

I am trying to do my bit by nurturing people right at the grassroot level by coaching, mentoring and most importantly conducting free workshops, training and meetups. I also co-run two conferences – OWASP Seasides and BSides Delhi, with a single determined goal of inclusion. I believe in the millennial era of digitization- knowledge and learning are basic humanitarian rights, they should be provided to people without any costs. All my conferences/talks/ training are pro-bono. We have just started the baby-steps a few years ago with infosec girls and we have to solve the big jigsaw puzzle which technology has to offer.

Our results in terms of quantitative. We have the following 14 active chapters in India.

We’re looking to expand and increase our reach over the world. For that we require more exposure. The event is followed and watched by the world. People take up notice when they see something working. We have a working model and there are allies within who would want to collaborate but don’t have the right means.

Through this platform we intend to get all mentors and the mentee under an umbrella to move forward. If there are any collaboration or sponsorship opportunities, we will be happy to take it further.