Women in InfoSec: Where do we go from here?

SC Magazine, July 1, 2019, featuring Shauntinez Jakak, Director of Product Marketing at Virsec

The number of women in the infosec space has doubled from 11%, but there’s more work to do….

According to SC Magazine’s article this week on getting women in security to a place of equal footing with men, there’s no magic wand for getting there. But progress is being made and the industry itself can help. And women themselves continue to meet milestones year after year.

SC Magazine points out several in government: “While the U.S. may have missed an opportunity to elect the first female president in 2016, the blue wave that swept in during the 2018 midterm elections was propelled mainly by women and, in fact, more women are seated in Congress than ever before. Former CIA spy Valerie Plame is running for a Senate seat in New Mexico. For the first time in National Guard history a state guard – in Maryland – is commanded by women. #MeToo has dragged harassment into the sunlight and taken some of the sting of reporting it out of the workplace.”

In the security space, “the familiar 11 percent figure that has long marked the number of women in the information security workforce has, by some estimates, more than doubled.”

It’s worth a moment to honor and respect what’s been accomplished. But all of that said, there’s no time to simply peruse achievements – there’s plenty more to be done.

Twelve areas to focus on in security

SC Magazine highlighted these areas for women to continue to strengthen their presence in the security workforce.

• Get out a broader message.
• Recognize women’s accomplishments.
• Broaden outreach.
• Improve hiring practices.
• Create a mom-friendly environment.
• Close the pay gap.
• Use technologies like AI to level the playing field.
• Understand and meet the challenge of elevating women.
• Start education and inspiration early.
• Keep it up.
• Share and give back.
• Invest personal development.

SC Magazine talks with Shuantinez Jakab

SC Magazine discussed women in the workplace with Shauntinez Jakab, director of product marketing at Virsec, a security firm in the California’s Bay Area. Some reflections on the conversation are below.

Indeed, Forrester predicts that women CISOs at Fortune 500 companies will increase their ranks to 20 percent this year – that’s up from 13 percent in 2017 – which tracks with Boardroom Insiders research that finds women hold 20 percent of the Fortune 500 global CIO positions. According to Forrester, women CISO’s at Fortune 500 companies could rise to 20% this year, an increase of 7% over 2017. That is the same percentage (20%) of women CIO positions at Fortune 500 companies as well.

In addition to “seeing more women in key roles and at the executive table,” Shauntinez Jakab says, “women are also being regarded as subject matter experts on specific security topics and as researchers.

Some companies actively seek women to fill key roles

“Many organizations like Microsoft “have taken a strong stance on diversity and are moving to make incremental changes strategically,” says Jakab, pointing to her own company’s conscious effort to seek out female candidates for engineering and sales positions. “I have also noticed that larger security companies are bringing on females to champion the product teams. Women do look at things differently, thus bringing a new perspective and way of doing business.”

Jakab also says, “Because companies must ‘think differently to stay ahead,’ we are seeing more females driving efforts to define, build and position security products. I think the industry may be slowly waking up to the notion that the best person for the job may be the woman over there.”

The issue of diversity, of course, isn’t limited to women.

“While women are increasingly represented in the industry, our most visible ‘personas of impact’ are still lacking ethnic diversity,” says Jakab, who believes the problem runs deeper than matriculation or the inability to find women from diverse backgrounds. “There’s a problem in where we look for new hires. We still need to expand the pool from which we seek talent, to ensure a broader set of applicants that genuinely represent the world in which we live.”

Invest personal development. “Let’s show the world we can command this industry. Stay adept in security technologies. Pick an area in which you can develop expertise [that’s] pertinent to your role,” says Jakab. “If you are a technical person, then go deeper to know everything about a specific technology. It is vital with relationships as a woman in security to not only understand security concepts, but you [also] should know how to communicate those concepts to others. Practice.”

Since “unfortunately, some people measure your aptitude by how much you know technically,” she says, “we must show them our technical astuteness is high. You do not have to know everything, but be familiar with technologies for which your business or group is responsible. If you are in a more strategic role, play around with the product your organization offers so that you have a visual for what customers use. I feel this is vital if we are going to be more present in the security industry.”

For more details and the full article, read Women in Security, Where do we go from here.

Further resources:

Interview: Q&A: The drivers behind the stark rise — and security implications — of ‘memory attacks’

Newsetter: June issue

Datasheet: Virsec Security Platform

Blog: Prediction Series #4: The many faces of Spectre and Meltdown — More demonstrated attack possibilities increase the likelihood of real attacks