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.
Meera Rao, Senior Director of Product Management, Synopsys Software Integrity Group:
How has the women workforce in cybersecurity evolved over recent years? Where is it heading?
Simply adding more women and a more diverse workforce isn’t going to change anything if we don’t make them feel included. I encourage organizations to strive to build an inclusive workplace in which everyone’s ideas are valued, where everyone is respected, where everyone’s diverse experience is appreciated, and where everyone’s feedback is included and considered. And with that I believe things are heading in the right direction. We need to make sure everyone within an organization is responsible for inclusion and held accountable for their actions.
How can we get more women involved in cybersecurity?
It is a common misconception that in order to enter the cybersecurity industry, advanced degrees are required. In fact, I’m a prime example as I entered the field from a development background. But experience in cloud technologies, containerization technologies, automation tooling, development, among others, may position you to enter the security field in a number of logical, highly valuable roles. Many who enter this field come from a highly diverse array of backgrounds. Building technical skills through experience, a keen curiosity and interest to learn, and strong communication skills will also be invaluable if you’re interested in joining the cybersecurity industry.
What advice would you give to young women looking to enter into cybersecurity?
As a woman working in technology, I’m a strong believer that confidence is key. The true key to success is making sure your opinions and ideas are heard and being confident in your vision for what you want to achieve. In a field predominantly populated by men, women can defy the stereotype of what an engineer looks like by showcasing their expertise and taking a leadership role in implementing cutting-edge tools and processes. Early on in my career I realized that I needed to focus on my skills and ability to communicate effectively in order to gain the trust and respect of my colleagues. In other words, confidence and speaking skills are key to success.