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.
Prutha Parikh, Sr. Manager, Security Research, SpiderLabs at Trustwave
Diana Lopera, Senior Security Researcher, SpiderLabs at Trustwave
How has the women workforce in cybersecurity evolved over recent years? Where is it heading?
Prutha: From personal experience, I had minimal resources at my disposal when I first got a job in cybersecurity 15 years back. The number and type of resources available to anyone wanting to get started in cybersecurity, women in particular, has evolved in recent years. A lot of organizations have started highlighting women achievers in order to motivate and inspire more girls. The number of opportunities for women workforce in security has also recently grown. There are definitely more options today than there were, say ten years back, and there is more awareness to attract and build a more diverse workforce. In terms of where it is heading, I am hopeful that the industry strives to achieve gender parity not just for entry-level roles but also for executive and leadership positions.
Diana: Research shows that 24% of the workforce in the field of cybersecurity are women. I believe the primary contributing factor to this number is that this field is still an unpopular choice amongst women. In the near future, this number might significantly increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of cybersecurity, and hopefully, this has reached more women.
What advice would you give to young women looking to enter into cybersecurity?
Prutha: Passion towards security or willingness to explore security and technology is one of the most important factors for anyone looking into entering the field of cybersecurity. However, networking events have helped me quite a bit over the past few years. For the past six years, I have been attending Girl Geek X talks when time permits. I would recommend attending to women looking to enter cybersecurity. Girl Geek X is mainly technology-oriented, but there are great talks from companies that focus on product security and application security. Once every few months, there will be a security-focused talk which I have personally found useful. Girl Geek X events are free to attend for everyone, at least during COVID times, and even before that, the cost was nominal. Finding local networking chapters in your area like Girl Geek, that focus on helping women would be a good place to start. Women in Cybersecurity is another great resource, particularly for students and even for women looking to start or advance their careers in cybersecurity. And finally, I would recommend following influential women leaders on social media platforms to get insights, stories of struggles and advice that they have shared to get to where they are.
Diana: Cybersecurity is an exciting and fulfilling career field. There are many interesting areas to focus on like threat hunting, and malware and spam detections. This is a fast-growing industry and so women should take this opportunity and join us in making the cyber world a better place.
What can the industry do to increase diversity and inclusion for security leadership roles?
Prutha: Creating leadership development programs curated for women can help with mentoring candidates who have demonstrated competence or are willing to take on more responsibilities. Sponsoring growth and learning opportunities that are easily accessible is vital. Executive leadership across the industry should consciously advocate for inclusiveness, be a champion for women and provide a platform that allows them to voice their opinions.
Diana: Organizations need to continue to strive towards being truly equal opportunity employers.