Women in cybersecurity play a crucial role in driving innovation, diversity, and resilience in the digital world. Their unique perspectives and skills help tackle complex challenges, bring new ideas, and enhance decision-making. Encouraging more women to join the field is essential for building a stronger and more inclusive cybersecurity community. The Security Industry Association's (SIA's) Women in Security Forum is a group for both women and men that offers programs, professional development opportunities, and networking events to support women's involvement in the security industry. Alice DiSanto – vice president of global marketing at Rajant – serves as the Women in Security Forum (WISF) Steering Committee chair, with Candice Aragon – vice president of marketing and education at PSA Network – as vice chair.
In these roles, DiSanto and Aragon lead the SIA Women in Security Forum in presenting programs, professional development opportunities, and networking events to support women's involvement in the security industry. In assuming the role of WISF chair, DiSanto succeeded past chair Kasia Hanson – global director of security ecosystem strategy and partnerships at Intel Corporation. Together these three women lead the WISF steering committee with pragmatism and determination to succeed in their mission to promote diversity and inclusivity in the security industry. We heard from them about their experience in the industry and how we can support more women in cyber. As female leaders in the security field, can you share your perspective on the current representation of women in the industry and any challenges they may face in advancing their careers?
The male-female ratio within the security industry is imbalanced. The great news is that this is acknowledged, and progress is being made in the present tense with industry-leading organizations, such as the Security Industry Association (SIA). SIA provides ongoing proactive encouragement and supported the establishment of its Women in Security Forum (WISF) in 2019, that is exponentially shifting the paradigm. SIA WISF is bridging the inequality gaps through workforce development initiatives, scholarships, committees, and events. Brighter yet is the fact that WISF is comprised of women and men leading the change with a mission to engage all security professionals to promote, recruit, and cultivate women's leadership for a more inclusive and diversified industry.
While security has historically been predominantly male, there has been tremendous progress in recent years. I have been in the industry for four years and in this short period of time have seen incredible strides for women in the industry. At each event industry event I attend, I see more and more women! There is still work to be done to attract new female talent to the industry though. Representation is extremely important. Women need to see others who look like them to understand what they can achieve. While there are more women coming into the industry, there is still a lack of female representation in leadership positions.
We have started moving the needle but must continue the work. I’d love to see additional SIA member companies involved in the Women in Security Forum by enabling their female colleagues to participate in WISF education, networking, and conferences like Security LeadHer but also create advancement opportunities within their organizations.
What initiatives or strategies can organizations use to promote gender diversity and inclusivity in the security sector? Have you observed any positive outcomes or significant changes as a result?
Begin following the Security Industry Association’s (SIA’s) Women in Security Forum (WISF) on LinkedIn. Look to align with the efforts and activities WISF is offering by freely allowing employees to engage and attend. Further, look to sponsor WISF through event underwriting or scholarship contributions. Being an organization that says “yes” through attendance and financial support makes you a trailblazer in safety and security. Positive outcomes, such as the June 2023 LeadHER conference, are being seen in the collective. Shout out to the LeadHER sponsoring companies of Allegion, Altronix Corp, Apple, Axis Communications, Boon Edam, Brivo, dormakaba, GSA Schedules Inc, IDEMIA, Intel Corporation, Prosegur, SAGE Integration, Securitas Group and Wesco.
Creating communities for women to support one another is key. At PSA, we have created a women’s community for women to collaborate, share challenges, encourage one another and, ultimately, provide a safe space to ensure female talent to stay in the industry. Likewise, we are working to ensure our live events don’t have “manels” but rather ensure we have a fair balance and male and female speakers. Likewise, there are other groups in the industry working to support women, such as the Women in Security Forum. Engage with these groups and encourage your female employees to get involved.
In 2022 WISF launched the Power 100 program to recognize women in security annually. Women plan a critical role in security, so being able to showcase talented women and recognize their contributions was a big highlight for the growth of WISF. We held our 2nd annual Power 100 and the list of females nominated was extremely impressive – I’d love to challenge the industry to double the number of nominations next year. The Power 100 is not just for executive-level females but females across all lines of business in security. It recognizes women who are leading the way in diversifying the industry but also giving back to their communities.
With the increasing reliance on technology and cybersecurity, what advice would you give to young women interested in pursuing a career in security? What skills and knowledge do you believe are essential for success in this rapidly evolving field?
Pursuing a career in security is not limited to young women. The industry is ripe for seasoned “second life” talent to prosper. All women can step into an industry ripe to hire and fill talent shortfalls in an array of much-needed disciplines. The security industry is in a state of expansion and transformation. Integrating the female perspective into the development, creation, and go-to-market processes will further the effectiveness of tomorrow’s security solutions.
Women are equally capable of holding technical roles or pursuing careers in cybersecurity as men. Again, representation is important though. Women who rise into these positions will pave the way for others to realize they can too. There are plenty of opportunities within the industry – marketing, sales, engineering, finance, etc. Likewise, this industry is rapidly growing and evolving. Our industry makes the world a safer place… that’s a mission most people can get behind! As a mother who has watched my friends rise to the occasion of raising families and balancing careers, I believe women can accomplish anything! Our industry needs you!
Security is a great career whether starting out or pivoting into the industry. There are many roles women play in the sector, both technical and non-technical. I was in Information Technology for 18 years and then pivoted to a role focused on physical and cybersecurity. I leaned into my network and started asking for guidance and coaching which helped me learn so much about the current state but also where the industry was headed. AI has become central to what we do in both physical and cyber – having a good base level understanding of physical and cyber can help as well. Conferences, industry websites, and published reports can help accelerate, in addition to certifications (technical or non-technical) can help accelerate and ease the learning curve. ###