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.
Samantha Madrid, VP of Security Business & Strategy, Juniper Networks:
How has the women workforce in cybersecurity evolved over recent years? Where is it heading?
There are more women in cybersecurity now than there have been in the past and because of the increase in mentorship and support initiatives by security vendors, enterprise organizations and universities, that trend will continue on an upward trajectory. I’m especially proud of the fact that over 50% of the product managers on my team are women. There are a lot of smart, creative and talented women in cybersecurity. We just have to hire them.
What advice would you give to young women looking to enter into cybersecurity?
My advice is to stay focused and go for it. In addition to cybersecurity and computer science as college majors, there are so many courses online that are accessible for free or a very low cost. In fact, many of the best cybersecurity researchers and analysts don’t have a degree, but were driven by their own interest and passion to learn on their own. Don’t be afraid of cybersecurity job descriptions that list a college degree in a cyber-related field as a requirement. You don’t need to meet all the qualifications to apply. This is something men have already figured out! There are also many women cybersecurity professionals who are interested in mentoring other women in the field, so the community is open and tight-knit. Introduce yourself, listen and learn, ask for help when you need it and don’t be afraid to be genuine.
How can we get more women involved in cybersecurity?
Visible representation is important – you can’t aspire to what you don’t see! As a woman, seeing someone who looks like me in a cybersecurity leadership role is empowering. We all need to continue making visible that there many women in cybersecurity who function across myriad job functions. In addition, women need to see men actively being allies both publicly and privately. Allyship is an area more organizations need to invest in, as it will fundamentally change the trajectory for women and put them in roles they’re more than capable of performing.