International Women's Day 2021: Sanny Liao, Abnormal Security

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 your organization’s Women Leaders in the 2021 Tech Ascension Awards.


Sanny Liao, Head of Data Science for Abnormal Security:


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

I still see very few women in Cybersecurity in general, especially at the leadership level. If companies do not make a conscious effort to change that ratio, it create a self-perpetuating cycle to maintain the status-quo.

How can we get more women involved in cybersecurity?

You have to show women that cybersecurity is not a boy's club, and you have to change the top of the funnel in job applicants. When people choose careers, they are influenced by role-models. By showing the presence of women in cybersecurity, you show other women that someone who looks like them is doing this job, and it makes them think - hey I can do this too.

For example, I once ran an experiment where I added the term "Security" to the title of a job posting and what I found is that when the word "security" wasn't in the job title, the applicants were 50% men, 50% women. When “security” was reintroduced in the job title, that ratio changed to 90% men, 10% women, and the quality of the candidates that I got with the two different job titles were the same. We ended up choosing a job title that would ensure that we have a more balanced applicant pool, which resulted in a more balanced team makeup. I think there are opportunities like this in every single company – you have to focus on what end result you want to get to in company demographics, and get creative about how you get there.

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

If you find this field interesting, just apply, don't double-guess yourself!


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