Females in Cybersecurity: 5 Inspiring Women to Follow
There should be no place for gender-specific jobs in 2020.
Yet only 20% (!) of the cybersecurity workforce is made up of women. Meanwhile, the industry is facing a massive shortage of professionals, with 51% of security job openings predicted to be unfilled by 2021. And though women are not considered “good in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM),” they can and are ready to overturn this negative perception.
In fact, gender-diverse teams make better decisions than their all-male counterparts. On top of that, women-led teams achieve 12% higher revenue than the male-led ones. Pretty impressive right?
To highlight and personalize these figures, we’ve cherry-picked five female cybersecurity experts. Their incredible careers and achievements demonstrate that viewing cybersecurity as a male-only industry is based on the old-fashioned status quo, not on scientific evidence. Enjoy reading and be inspired by the women who have helped transform our cybersecurity landscape.
Becky Pinkard is the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at the Aldermore bank. She is also a co-founder of the “We Empower Diversity Startups” group (WEDS), a monthly podcast host, and a CyLon mentor, providing cybersecurity guidance to entrepreneurs. She has also shared her expertise in various books, publications, and live interviews.
Despite an impressive track record in tech, she began her career path as a … psychology graduate. But her passion for tech really exploded when she worked for a travel agency straight after college. Helping her older colleagues work on their computers, Becky realized what she wanted to do.
With limited studying options in computing back in 1995, Becky surrounded herself with books, asked questions, and worked her way up by offering help and advice whenever possible. As a result, she was headhunted to the UK to be Global Head of Attack at Barclays, then later becoming CISO of Aldermore.
As a woman who has progressed from being a psychology graduate to a top international CISO, Becky knows what it means to swim against the tide. To help other women just starting out on their tech careers, she co-established WEDS, a network of women who realize the importance of diversity and inclusion in tech.
“I want women to know that they are just as deserving as men, that if you don’t ask you don’t get — and that it’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life,” she says.
A physicist by training, Scarlet is an experienced product & UX/CX executive and a VP of experience at Clario. She is a driving force behind our main product: a privacy and security solution enabling users at all levels of tech literacy to secure their digital lives. She uses her broad expertise in product management, UX/UI, CX, and leadership to make the product seamless and user-friendly.
Scarlet’s track record is beyond impressive. She started out in her late teens as a customer experience specialist at Apple. Since then, for ten years, her career has seen her work as an IT digital consultant, management consultant, product director, product & CX consultant, and CX director. No wonder she’s the youngest professional featured in Top 10 Women to Watch in Tech and STEM 2020 — an annual list of the UK’s most exciting female leaders to follow.
Having experienced the ups and downs of working as a female expert in tech firsthand, Scarlet is an active advocate for women in tech. Striving to diversify this male-dominated environment, she has hosted many tech events championing female professionals in the sector. And to top it off, she empowers future generations as a volunteer at Northern Ireland STEM.
Lisa Kearney has been in cybersecurity for 24 years, offering her services to thousands of companies around the globe. She runs her own consulting practice and founded Women CyberSecurity Society (WCS2). This provides services and support for women with ambitions in cybersecurity.
The idea of establishing WCS2 was triggered by an incident two years prior. Back then, Lisa was appointed Director of Product Security at a British Columbia firm. During a staff meeting, her male colleague said, “Don’t worry about attending this meeting, it’s technical.” “You can attend (the meeting), but in listen-only mode,” her boss said.
Soon after this eye-opening moment, Lisa left the firm to found WCS2. “The impetus for starting the Women Cybersecurity Society was to raise awareness of the challenges for women in the industry and the high exit rate,” Kearney said.
In addition to WCS2, Lisa founded the International Women in Cyber Day — a global campaign dedicated to raising awareness of the unique challenges for women in cybersecurity. The initiative aims to find solutions to eliminate these challenges, and celebrate women’s achievements within the industry.
“Women are great multitaskers, they’re great investigators, and they pay great attention to detail,” Kearney said. “Let’s include women and let’s provide support. Let’s become aware of the issues, have a conversation and discuss the difficult things that need to be discussed and acknowledged. Then, let’s build a solution. It is the only way forward.”
Rosanna Kurrer is a design thinker, accomplished public speaker, and a leading tech woman. A co-founder of the Digital Leadership Institute, Rosana has also co-initiated CyberWayFinder — a program dedicated to bringing diversity in cybersecurity. As a certified MIT Master Trainer in Educational Mobile Computing, Rosanna conducts seminars on design thinking, corporate innovation, and coding.
Her background is international. After studying Architecture in the Philippines, she completed a Master in Architecture Engineering in Japan and moved to Germany with her partner. Rosanna admits that the migration was challenging professionally:
Germany is very conservative when it comes to mothers. If you are single, it’s fine. But if you have children … They have this expression called “Rabenmutter” which means a raven’s mother, a woman who works and “abandons” her children … It basically expresses the question ‘Why do you have children if you work?’
Later, Rosanna moved to Brussels and co-founded DLI. She noticed that women do not stay long in the tech field, mainly because of the all-male environment where they feel out of place. Women need a community, a need DLI addresses.
“Women tend to speak up less up when there are men in the room, especially when it comes to technical matters,” Rosanna says. Well, DLI strives to create a safe place for women where they can speak confidently without any fear of being judged.
Though DLI has helped and continues to help lots of women, Rosanna didn't stop there. Three years later, she quit DLI and co-founded CyberWayFinder — a three-year training and mentorship program aiming to bring diversity to cyber teams. Notably, CyberWayFinder goes beyond gender issues: the program strives to increase age and cultural diversity as well.
“There are usually women of all ages in our program and from different educational backgrounds, different sectors, and they also come from different cultural backgrounds. The goal is, therefore, broader than to bring more gender equality to cybersecurity. It is really to bring more diversity”, Rosanna says.
Jenn Diesi is a self-taught tech veteran who’s been in tech for over 20 years, protecting networks for global companies. She’s the founder and CEO of Geek Girl Tech. While providing security and compliance solutions to mission-driven and socially conscious businesses, this company is dedicated to creating career opportunities for underrepresented people in the field.
Jenn embarked on a tech career when she was a 17-year old school graduate with a six-month old daughter on her hip. Driven by the necessity to support her baby, Jenn signed up at a technical trade school. During her study, she got a job at Motorola, where she met the person who “ushered” her into the world of IT. Almost a decade later, Jenn became the first security engineer at Life Technologies.
Ten years ago, she founded Geek Girl Tech. According to Jenn, the modern tech industry doesn’t represent the world’s diversity. Instead, it is alienating for technically minded professionals who are not white or male.
“Although I could have stayed in this type of environment making tons of money, I needed to move on and “be the change,” Jenn writes. Geek Girl Tech economically empowers all people underrepresented in tech, including women, people of color, LGBTQ+, and everyone who craves for equality in the workplace. And by the way, Loren, her 28-year-old daughter, helps run the company as the Chief Impact Officer and Operational Engineer.
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With so many inspiring female cybersecurity experts out there, compiling this list was as challenging as choosing the most outstanding stars in the sky. And the fact that this universe of talents is less than 20% of the cybersecurity workforce seems unbelievable.
Obviously, cybersecurity has something of a perception problem, but, as the facts suggest, women are ready both to address the prejudice challenge and to mend the cybersec workforce gaps.