International Women's Day 2021: Jill Orhun, Devo Technology
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.
How has the women workforce in cybersecurity evolved over recent years? Where is it heading?
Security people were early to recognize the benefits of having a diversity of perspectives. Beyond women to all minority populations, good security means guarding against a wide variety of attacks and the innovative humans who launch them, threat modeling thus benefits from holistic situational reviews that take social relationships into account, which plays to women’s strengths. Women are also amazing at OSINT and social engineering, which only adds to the tool kit of security teams looking for novel ways to gather information and protect their organizations.
While we've been heading in the right direction in diversifying the security industry, I worry that the pandemic is going to have a material and long lasting effect on forward progress. Since the beginning of the pandemic and lockdowns, women have disproportionately borne the burden of childcare, household responsibilities, at-home education and more in their households. Women have tough choices to make, and many rightly prioritize household over office. As a result we're seeing an exodus of women from the workforce. The only way to stop this regression is for organizations to step up and establish a different value structure and culture, that helps organizations and their people to thrive in this new normal.
What advice would you give to young women looking to enter into cybersecurity?
Women (and men) looking to enter into cybersecurity need a sense of curiosity and tenacity, to have faith in themselves and resilience to adversity as they build their individual approach. Security is still a male-dominated environment; awareness and tolerance of this reality will help women persevere past expected obstacles to an organization that fits them. The good news is, the security industry is growing so fast and companies want to bring women into open roles, so there's plenty of opportunities for women to get into the industry. Security teams that have embraced diversity will benefit by being able to hire from this rich group of talent.
How can we get more women involved in cybersecurity?
Women need to take the plunge, and organizations need to welcome them (and other minority groups) with open arms to help take the anxiety out of entering a male-dominated field. Many security people believe diversity adds value, evangelizing this belief will help women to understand the true benefit they can bring. With remote work being more accepted than ever before, organizations need to make security holistically an attractive opportunity for women, in terms of benefits, flexibility or work/life balance, company cultures, training, etc.