Shifting the Narrative to Attract More Talent into Security
When talking with women about the cybersecurity industry, we always ask, “What do you think of when you hear the term hacker?” The response invariably describes a young, shady, socially-challenged guy working on his own in the dark. This is one of the many reasons why we also invariably have women come up to us after the discussion and say, “I had never even considered tech as a career option.” This is one of the hurdles the industry must overcome in order to pull from a much more diverse talent pool and change the momentum of the regressive statistics on women in cybersecurity (where women account for anywhere from 8-11% of the workforce depending on the source). To reverse this downward momentum, security’s narrative must change – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also to address security’s hot talent pipeline (in a tight talent market, we must be able to “fish in the whole sea” of potential candidates), and because diversity of all kinds is what drives innovation.
Changing the narrative, a little bit at a time, was our goal today as we had the great privilege to welcome 65 sophomore girls from New York City’s Brearley School to our Arlington office to talk about the breadth of opportunities available to them in security.
After we provided an overview of our backgrounds, the industry, policy challenges, and building a culture to attract and retain a phenomenal and diverse workforce, it was time for Q&A. The students did not disappoint, asking insightful questions about the balance between security and privacy, how to transition from idea to product, and for tips on how they can protect themselves on-line. Just as importantly, they did not ask about the challenges of women in tech. This is meaningful. When girls start thinking about security both as something that impacts their daily life and as a field filled with opportunities and endless puzzles that require input from a range of disciplines and perspectives to solve, then we know the momentum will shift. Our hope is that we at least planted a few seeds about security as a field where women belong and can make a huge difference, helping change that narrative a little bit at a time.