Yesterday I ran #InfosecLunchHour and invited my friend Fallon (not her real name) to come along to it. She is neurodiverse like me, had a career break for a number of years to look after her 2 children who are also neurodiverse, and is looking at transitioning into a career in cyber security after being in the NHS before starting her family.
The discussion was around the types of language used when getting the importance of cyber security across to small businesses and SMEs, and the fact that because of the jargon and acronyms many don’t understand it, switch off and then think they don’t need to do anything around cyber security for their business. Fallon wanted to contribute, but stopped herself as the attendees – apart from me and her – were all male. Normally I get at least another 2 or 3 women who come along to #InfosecLunchHour.
And here lies what I think is a huge problem. The industry is still very male dominated, and even when women join events and join in with discussions, they often stop themselves like Fallon did and hold back because of imposter syndrome or feeling like their voice won’t be heard or doesn’t matter in a male dominated environment. I tried to be as welcoming as possible, and joined in as much as I could with the discussion in the hope that it would encourage her to participate.
After the session she messaged me and here is what she wanted to say:
It does sound like many businesses view security as a cash cow and an unnecessary spend, a bit like the antivirus thing where people said those companies created viruses themselves. In my principles of cyber security course it talked a lot about communication skills and tailoring your language fit your audience. I guess lots of IT professionals switched to security in the last few years and forget they’re talking to people of all different technical levels and abilities.
I think while there has been huge progress towards getting more women into cyber security careers, there is still much to be done to help them feel that they belong in the industry, that they are worthy of contributing and that they have a voice.
How have you found the industry as a woman in cyber? Can you relate to Fallon’s experience? Do you worry about speaking up in a male domainated environment? Let me know by emailing me via email@example.com.