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International Women's Day 2021: Heather Paunet, Untangle

This is part of a running series for #IWD2021. We sat down with women leaders across the industry for a Q&A to get their insights on the state of women in cybersecurity. Recognize Women Leaders in the 2021 Tech Ascension Awards.

Heather Paunet, Senior Vice President at Untangle:

How has the women workforce in cybersecurity evolved over recent years? Where is it heading?

I’m seeing more women in cybersecurity roles over the last few years. For example, here at Untangle, which is a cybersecurity company, three of the Untangle executive team are women, and we outnumber the two men. We have female engineers and a pretty good balance of male to female employees across other functions.

Having mixed genders in leadership roles in security gives the right balance of perspectives. Just like any activity, or any type of group, the dynamic changes if there are only men, or if there are only women. There’s no point pretending, there are differences in the way men tackle problems vs the way women tackle problems. Of course not everyone fits those trends, but there are differences that apply in general.

In cyber security, something that is absolutely key is a multi-layered security approach. You can’t necessarily secure a network with just one security product. To keep data, assets and people using any network safe, it is much better to apply a multi-faceted approach. In a similar way, when considering who to have on a cybersecurity team, diversification and having different perspectives will give a broader, more well-rounded approach.

It’s inspiring also to see prominent names, such as a lady who recently inspired me, Tarah Wheeler, who is a cybersecurity expert and also the author of Women in Tech. She has a strong image, fantastic presentation skills and talks in a down to earth manner on her well researched materials.

What advice would you give to young women looking to enter into cybersecurity?

Young women, to succeed in cybersecurity, require the same things they need in all other areas of their careers and in their lives in general, which is a passion to do something they believe in. It’s an easy sell to many women that working within cybersecurity is not just high tech, it’s a way to be part of something that makes the world a better place. Whilst, of course it would be much better if there weren’t hackers, and people trying to make money with ransomware and steal information they are not meant to, being a part of blocking that and keeping people’s assets safe and secure is very satisfying.

I’d advise young women to research and find presentations by Tarah Wheeler, a prominent cyber security expert who did the keynote at Spice World 2020. Seeing other women in prominent roles can inspire others and show them that it’s totally possible for them to succeed too.



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