Photo via Twitter/ Randy Pestana.
Like the wider technology industry, cybersecurity faces a need for more diversity in the workforce. When it comes to gender, Laura Bate of New America’s Cybersecurity Initiative began a panel at Florida International University’s D.C. outpost with a key number that illustrates the issue: Women comprise only about 11 percent of the cybersecurity workforce.
The Women in Cyber event, held on Oct. 11, brought together three women who have worked in the cybersecurity and strongly emphasized that diversity and inclusiveness in the field of cybersecurity will only strengthen it.
A large portion of the discussion centered around the hiring process. For women looking to enter the field, Brooke Hunter of New America’s Open Technology Institute recommended applying to jobs even if your skills don’t meet the listed skillset entirely, because men tend to apply to a job if they only have six out of the ten skills required. For employers, panelists also noted the importance of standardizing hiring questions to deter against bias that causes managers to select mostly people that are like them.
Overall, the industry would also benefit from a willingness to hire women or other minorities who come into cybersecurity through a non-traditional path, or switch from another area of expertise, panelists said.
An equal part of the discussion centered around treatment in the workplace. As a manager, FIU CISO Helvetiella Longoria noted that investing in your employees to allow a work-life balance is important because, “your workplace will do more for you.” Mozilla Senior Policy Manager Heather West also brought up the example of Google, which was able to retain more women after extending its maternity leave practices. Day-to-day, Hunter also brought up the importance of men volunteering to do tasks such as taking notes and organizing work functions, adding that such things are often unnecessarily gendered.
Mentoring also emerged as an important component of strengthening the workforce, and the panelists offered tips for making the most of the interaction. For potential mentees, West advised that they show up with very specific questions. For Longoria a key part of mentoring has been putting herself out there in the community and making sure people know she is willing to serve as a mentor.
West also advised that if men take on the role of mentoring women they should be open to listening and be humble about things that their mentees bring up that might be unique to their experience and something that a male mentor is unlikely to face.