Celebrating Women in Cybersecurity on International Women’s Day!

women working professionals

International Women’s Day is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality.

This year, the theme is #BreakTheBias and this is relevant for women in the STEM field, in particular the cybersecurity industry, which is largely still dominated by men.

Watch our “Women in Security Power Panel”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, hear stories and advice from inspiring female leaders in this Women in Security Power Panel presented at our latest RhythmWorld Security Conference. In this session, LogRhythm’s Chief Marketing Officer, Cindy Zhou, was joined by world-class experts, Sheena Thomas, Assistant Deputy Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of Temple University and Wendi Whitmore, Senior Vice President of Unit 42 Palo Alto.

The panel took a deep dive into issues unique to women, such as the importance of representation, diversity and inclusion, and being able to “break the glass ceiling,” which is still a reality for many women working towards leadership roles — especially in the cybersecurity field.

Watch this panel on-demand, and read on for the key takeaways from some of the most influential female thought-leaders in cybersecurity.

Numbers – the Nitty Gritty Truth

Discover the facts about female representation in the technology world:

  • Women make up only 20% of the cybersecurity workforce
  • Only 26% of the entire computing workforce are women
  • At the executive level, representation drops to a staggering 1%

Yes, 1%.

Furthermore, only 17% of all CISO positions in the Fortune 500 list are women, admittedly this is an increase from 14% in 2020 but, within the recruitment and hiring process, 48% reported discrimination!

The truth is, we need to do better. But how?

Diversity and Inclusion, the Holy Grail of Cybersecurity

According to the panel, there are two reasons why diversity and inclusion should be a top priority for organizations:

  1. Representation – Sheena’s personal and professional philosophy is to ensure “Everyone can see themselves in their heroes.” She mentioned, “You can’t be what you can’t see, and representation gives you the opportunity to dream, and to dream bigger.”
  2. Increased productivity – recent research undertaken by the Harvard Business Review, and Wendi, who leads the most diverse team within Unit 42, found a diverse team is more productive and successful. It provides different viewpoints and ways of thinking that ultimately leads to better results.

To get more involved with diversity and inclusion opportunities, there are plenty of programs and networks that are business related or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) based; for example, the Women in Temple Tech program created by Sheena, or the SANS programs recommended by Wendi. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, start it yourself and fuel the movement!

Overcoming discrimination isn’t easy, but to progress and succeed, we need to seize opportunities for change and improve the path for those who come after us.

Wendi explained the difficulties she faced as someone who “doesn’t fit into the stereotypical image of a cybersecurity professional,” but also mentioned how this can be a benefit: “When people underestimate you, use it to your advantage and catch them unaware. Prepare, have an impeccable work ethic, and gain credibility.”

Both Sheena and Wendi agreed workplace discrimination is better compared to when they started, but there’s still a long way to go.

Be the Mentor You Wanted, Get the Mentor You Need

Whether it be for yourself as a woman, or as an ally to women, the panel also stated the importance of being an advocate.

Cindy explained how critical it is to hold your ground when met with doubts: “Trust yourself, and in your ability…pick those projects that allow you to shine and get noticed,” she advised.

To be an ally, Sheena suggested, “Become a champion for her…put her in places where she can be seen and heard.”

Another step forward is mentoring. Give someone one of your most valuable assets — time. Become a champion for a young female professional; encourage her confidence and enable her voice.

To those starting, be proactive and seek out mentors. Reach out to those you admire and ask for their time, but don’t waste it. Always be prepared and don’t have just one mentor, but leverage several for different skills.

When asked what advice the panelists would give themselves ten years ago, Sheena replied, “Believe you’re good enough. It’s a process of learning, growing, and developing. Trust your gut.”

Wendi said, “Focus on doing your best; hard work, a positive attitude, and hustle determines your success. If people see you’re reliable, more opportunities present themselves.”

Get Involved with International Women’s Day

Be an active listener and watch the Women in Security Power Panel to hear first-hand from Cindy, Sheena, and Wendi as they tell their stories, explain how they discovered cybersecurity, and dive into challenges they’ve overcome in their careers.

We also encourage you to get involved in the movement and celebrate women across the globe! Spread awareness and share stories on social media using the hashtag #BreakTheBias. Or reach out to your peers, colleagues, and role models to acknowledge them for their inspiring achievements as a female or as an ally to the community. Happy International Women’s Day!