I am part of the 1%, just not THAT one percent. According to SC Magazine, women make up one percent of the C-level executives in the cybersecurity workforce. With October being Cybersecurity awareness month, I wanted to share how I got here, in this field, and maybe my past will explain why there are so few women in cybersecurity and most importantly, what everyone may be doing to contribute to this, and what we can do to prevent this from happening.
There are two events from high school that were most influential in getting me here. The first was my first computer programming class taught by my female physics teacher. I was hooked. Even then, I do not recall a lot of female students in that programming class. It did not matter to me; I had found my passion, computers. The second most influential event was of the negative type, and if I had not already found my passion, it might have stopped me from pursuing a career in STEM. In my senior year, I was just average in calculus class. My teacher one day after class asked me what I was going to college for, when I said Computer Science, he told me that might not be the right choice, and I would be better served taking Accounting. That one innocent comment could have stopped me from getting a degree in Computer Science, and I wouldn’t be in the role I am in today, as Chief Security Officer of a billion dollar company. We all need to think about how one comment may change the course of a young girl’s career choices. It could be a comment to a daughter, a niece, a student or a young stranger. Believe it or not, kids listen to what we say. Maybe a suggestion to change course when something is challenging is not what we should be doing. If a math or science class was challenging for a young man, would you offer the same advice?
With recent headlines in the sports world, we all know that gender bias still exists. Whether it is a female reporter that covers a professional sports team, a female cybersecurity specialist or a male nurse. It will take a village to make this change. I encourage all the women in cybersecurity to seek out their town’s high school and attend their next career fair. I also encourage everyone to post to this blog with their experiences, both good and bad. The more people that share their experiences, the more likely we are going to grow and not repeat the mistakes of the past. We have all seen the estimate that there will be a shortfall of qualified professionals for cybersecurity of 1.8 million by 2022. We all need to learn from our mistakes and change for the good, starting today.