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.
Taree Reardon, Senior Threat Analyst, VMware Security Business Unit:
How has the women workforce in cybersecurity evolved over recent years? Where is it heading? During Women’s History Month, it is especially important that we recognize the important role women have played in the growing security sector where they remain a minority. The percentage of women in the field is only 24%, and while this represents a slight increase from previous years there’s still a lot of work to be done. Fortunately, we seem to be heading in the right direction. What advice would you give to young women looking to enter into cybersecurity?
Imposter syndrome is normal - You may second guess yourself, but don’t worry, everyone feels that way, not just women. It’s normal and talking about it helps. I always talk through any insecurities or challenges I’m facing with management and look at the opportunity as one to learn something new.
When you’re interviewing, ask to speak to women on the team. Ask them about their role, and if they feel supported and challenged. It’s critical to vet the place you’re interviewing beforehand. Once you take the job, if it’s not working out, then give it some time and move on. Just be sure you put yourself and your growth first.
Connect with women in the industry - it’s great if you get a woman to mentor you, but otherwise, network on LinkedIn, ask questions, and speak to other women in the industry.
Don't try to do it all. There’s an immense amount of pressure on women to not only do their job well, but also to keep things at home and with their children organized. If you have the ability, ask for help because we don’t have to do it all.
Ask yourself: Are there roles at my company that I’d be interested in that are currently filled by women? If not, is my company open to it? If so, put yourself out there to meet members of other teams and immerse yourself in available training, events, and new opportunities.
How can we get more women involved in cybersecurity? In order to increase the representation of women in cyber, organizations should create an arsenal of resources that can be used to attract and retain current and future women into the field. Mentor programs within the cyber community play an important role in bringing in and retaining more women. Female mentors and mentees should have the opportunity to meet regularly to discuss career and personal advice. The key is to provide female cybersecurity workers with a resource that allows them to learn from those who came before them. Doing this will increase the number of women who are currently active in the field. Additionally, companies can look at implementing hiring initiatives such as interviewing at least one female candidate for each position being filled, or ensuring application pools are filled with a diverse range of candidates. This will also help create a strong inclusive culture with a mix of diverse representation and skill sets.