According to a 2019 (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study, women make up approximately a quarter (24%) of the cyber security workforce, a figure that’s up substantially from the beginning of the 2010s. The study also revealed that, in recent years, 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, 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 team’s female members to delve into what it’s like to be a woman working for a cyber security organization, their journey in the industry, 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.”
Anastasia Tsimiklis, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO): “I think by far the biggest benefit of having a diverse employee base is the sheer variety of perspectives, a quality that leads to more creativity, stronger brainstorming sessions, and greater innovation. At the end of the day, an organization with a diverse talent pool will deliver a better customer experience, have a stronger brand, and stand out as an industry leader.”
Stephanie Ouellette, Chief Content Officer (CCO): “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.”
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 challenge 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.”
Anastasia: “I think the biggest challenge for women is to get that first break and land that first opportunity in tech or cyber security. Once in the industry, navigating and growing become easier.”
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 count. 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.”
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.”
Anastasia: “Terranova Security is a great example of an organization with stronger than average representation of women in leadership and across individual contributor roles. Lise is an excellent example of a woman in cyber security who hires strong, talented females to help organizations worldwide with cyber security awareness initiatives.”
Stephanie: “At Terranova, one of our objectives is always to seek diverse candidates and guarantee fair hiring.”
Jennifer: “We are very proud of the diversity we’ve been able to attain at Terranova Security, especially at the leadership level. Moreover, I’ve been invited to collaborate with other Cybereco members to push the agenda of the Cybeinclusive projet. We are in the process of developing a Women’s mentorship program which we will be able to promote internally to the women of Terranova Security.”
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.”
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.”
Anastasia: “My hopes for the future are that more and more women that are already in a leadership or executive role will ‘lean in’ and come together as a global community to help other women achieve their ambitions. As women in cyber security, I believe this is one of our key responsibilities – to help mentor, encourage the promotion, and pave the way for successful women in leadership roles.”
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.”
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.”
Anastasia: “Cybersecurity and all STEM industries provide a fascinating environment and opportunity for self-challenge, growth and continuous learning. They’re also accessible to anyone with an interest and desire to excel. I would encourage women to begin connecting and learning from a mentor, as it’s by far one of the most impactful ways to learn more about a career in cybersecurity. Start by exploring your LinkedIn network!”
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.”
Hopefully, by speaking with strong female leaders like those at Terranova Security, more young women will consider taking the leap and pursuing a career in cyber security. It’s a space that will continue to thrive throughout the rest of the 2020s and represents a promising.
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 they are considering a career in tech and want to learn more about getting started in a tech-related marketing, UX, or customer success position, managing an innovative development team, or even running your own cyber security firm, feel free to reach out to any of the Terranova Security leaders featured in this blog post below!