According to CyberCrime Magazine, women hold 25% of global cyber security jobs in 2022. This number is expected to increase to 35% in 2031.
On top of this, a 2019 (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study revealed that an increasing number of women are filling C-suite executive positions within the industry – in part because they’re often more educated than their male colleagues.
Unfortunately, many women still face an uphill battle when it comes to securing equal compensation and inherent biases that breed intolerance. A 2020 U.K.-based survey found that half of female respondents working in tech faced discrimination, while 20% have resigned in the past due to harassment.
Overall, 60% of respondents believe a lack of diversity is an issue across all tech sector subdomains, including cyber security.
In honor of International Women’s Day, Fortra’s Terranova Security wants to acknowledge the accomplishments of all women, both in the tech world and beyond. With an excellent diversity track record (over half of all Terranova Security employees are women), the organization also wishes to raise awareness around the steps that still need to be taken to shrink the gender gap.
To accomplish this, Terranova Security spoke to its leadership team’s female members to delve into what it’s like to be a woman working for a cyber security organization. Each spoke about their journey, the challenges they faced, and the outlook for women entering the sector.
Q: What advantages do you think organizations with a diverse employee base have over those who may not be as inclusive for women?
Lise Lapointe, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): “They have a great advantage, primarily because of the diversity of ideas. We consider all our employees to be potential users, and they all have good ideas and the freedom to express them. The Terranova Security employee base is diverse in terms of male to female ratio (50%), age, and nationality. It’s a great strength within the industry because everyone brings their life experience to the table.”
Stephanie Ouellette, Chief Content Officer (COO): “By creating a diverse organizational culture and embracing women and different cultures and nationalities, you also bring in different points of view, opinions and innovative ideas. This environment leads us to think outside the box and deliver better products.”
Jennifer Freire, HR Director: “Organizations who actively strive to be more diverse benefit from better innovations. Having the opportunity to tap into different perspectives allows organizations to find creative solutions to business problems of which they might not have thought about.”
Amanda McKee, HR Generalist: “An organization with a diverse employee base will benefit from more diverse point of views and experiences. Building an inclusive team allows employees to share with people from all genders and nationalities, and therefore helps develop compassion and empathy throughout the organization. I believe it leads to a healthier environment, which reflects on the quality of the work provided by employees.”
Pamela Velentzas, VP of Marketing: “I think one of the biggest advantages of diversity in general is being able to pull from different professional backgrounds, experiences and working styles. Organizations that foster an inclusive and diverse cultures – including women – benefit from a larger pool of talent and expertise.”
Q: What are the biggest challenges that you or other women you know have faced in the industry?
Lise: “I think one of the biggest challenges I had in business is understanding how to work with investors. I often felt the lack of confidence that some investors put in women entrepreneurs. They offer training and mentoring to have access to financing. With good intentions, they give us the impression that we are unable to conduct our business without help.”
Stephanie: “To build a diversified team made up of mostly women. We’ve had to look beyond cyber security and hire strong women who can share their unique expertise and experience to help move Terranova forward.”
Jennifer: “Having worked in different tech companies, I have been faced with the challenges of having to work hard to prove myself before having a voice that counts. I’ve had to alter my approaches and be more assertive in order to quickly gain the respect.”
Amanda: “My biggest challenge has been gaining credibility. Even as I was studying in university in Business Technology, I felt like I had to fight a little harder for my ideas to get across. I am still learning to be decisive and sharing my opinion, without feeling like people will find me unlikeable when I do, in both my personal and professional lives.”
Pamela: “A common challenge faced by woman is that our contributions, recommendations or advice aren’t taken seriously – especially in male dominated industries. Dismissiveness from superiors (male) is still prevalent. ”
Q: What is Terranova Security doing to advocate for women working in cyber security?
Lise: “We participate by hiring as many women as men (always striving for a 50-50 split). The executive team is also made up of more women (five out of seven in total). We participate in competitions that help celebrate women and show them that it is possible to be successful in cyber security.”
Stephanie: “At Terranova, one of our objectives is always to seek diverse candidates and guarantee fair hiring.”
Jennifer: “We have policies and practices in place that enable us to promote gender diversity at our company. In most cases, women have presented to have a greater need for more flexibility to balance work and family responsibilities. Our flexible hours and paid time off policies allow women to feel like they don’t have to make personal sacrifices to advance their career. We also put focus on following best hiring practices so that we can continue to have an equal representation of women in leadership roles. One of the way that this is achieved is by standardizing the hiring process so that it is the same experience, regardless of gender. ”
Amanda: “Having worked as a recruiter in the past, I’ve worked with employers who had no interest in working with diversity. Terranova Security is a breath of fresh air because all applicants are considered and judged based on their qualifications and experience. Diversity is encouraged and valued.”
Pamela: “Terranova is one of the few companies that I’ve work for in my 20+ year career where the executive team is composed of more than 75% women. I think it is evident that Terranova Security supports giving women a seat at the table.”
Q: Where are your hopes/outlook for women in the cyber security workforce in the next five years?
Lise: “Cyber security is a vast, growing field which offers exciting challenges. There is a lot of room for women in all types of jobs: sales, marketing, support, project management, service to customers, web integrators, graphic designer, developer, QA, PO, and so much more.”
Stephanie: “In five years, I hope that equity and diversity will be normalized not just in cyber security, but in all tech-related industries. I hope it becomes normalized to the point where we won’t need to talk about it anymore, that it will have become normal.”
Jennifer: “Although D&I has started to become an important agenda for organizations, companies still face challenges to find tangible actions that really ensure that women occupy leadership positions. My hope would be that women are sitting at the table to bring their perspectives and qualities of empathy to help drive important business decisions.”
Amanda: “I hope these conversations are still happening because they are interesting, not because they are a necessity. The professional world is continuously evolving, and the past two years have forced companies to adapt in a way that benefits employees with children, with working from home/hybrid work becoming the new norm.”
Pamela: “That more woman will enter the field of cyber security and realize they can have a seat at the table.”
Q: What advice do you have for women considering a career in cyber security or technology in general?
Lise: “I would tell them to follow their hearts in choosing their profession. You must always be passionate about what you do if you want to be happy. Don’t be afraid of challenges. Each challenge is a part of your unique learning process.”
Stephanie: “The biggest piece of advice I can offer is never to be intimidated by the cyber security world and, on a related note, to overcome your own fears about a potential career path. The environment has come a long way but still lacks female figures in the C-Levels positions.”
Jennifer: “My advice for women is to see yourself how others see you. We often let our limiting beliefs get in the way of our success and having a mentor early on in your career can help you build the confidence to face any challenge.”
Amanda: “There are often so many people offering advice, it’s hard to know who to listen to. I recently learned that before listening to someone’s professional advice, ask yourself if you’re interested in your career path resembling theirs. If not, they’re probably not the person you should be listening to. Trust your instinct.”
Pamela: “That they realize how important it is to support other women in the industry and not to give up on their goals and ambitions of having a successful career even though the journey may not be easy.”
More and more women are entering the cyber security workforce and, over the past decade, securing executive-level positions within different organizations. That said, there are still important steps to take for the industry to fully embrace diversity.
It’s up to existing leaders, both male and female, to ensure women feel inspired and empowered enough to seize that opportunity.
Terranova Security CEO and author Lise Lapointe continues to be a dynamic force in the world of cyber security. As a visionary in the field who’s committed to seeking out and developing female talent, she was named one of 2020’s Top Women in Cyber Security by IT World Canada.
If you are considering a position in or even running your own cyber security firm, feel free to start with Lise’s latest book, where she talks about the importance of instilling a culture of cyber security in your organization and how you, as a leader, can achieve it.