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 leadership team’s female members to delve into what it’s like to be a woman working for a cyber security organization. Making up 70% of the executive group, 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: “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.”
Jessie: Diversity in the workplace is crucial for innovation and scaling. Having both men and women at every management level enables you to benefit from different points of view and approaches, and that you are innovating and seizing new opportunities. I also believe that inclusivity begets inclusivity. Only a diverse workforce can recruit diverse candidates. Imagine missing out on all that talent!”
Anastasia: “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: “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.”
Pamela: “An organization with a more diverse employee base will benefit from more compassionate points of view.”
Q: What are the biggest challenges that you or other women you know have faced in the industry?
Lise Lapointe, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): “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.”
Jessie Karam, Chief Product Officer (CPO): “My biggest challenge has always been a personal one: likeability. I know I have sometimes held myself back, not speaking up for fear of not being liked or being perceived as too aggressive, difficult, or abrasive. Sheryl Sandberg once said that ‘success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.” For a while in my career, I let that dictate my actions.”
Anastasia Tsimiklis, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO): “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 Ouellette, Chief Content Officer (CCO): “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.”
Pamela Tomaras, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): “The biggest challenges are related to time management and work-life balance.”
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.”
Jessie: “At Terranova Security, equality at work is about more than just intentions. We seek out diverse candidates and ensure unbiased hiring. As a credit to Lise and her management style, she has helped recognize, hire, and develop female leaders. The continued success of Terranova Security is a testament to what such a diverse organization can accomplish.”
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.”
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.”
Jessie: “We have come so far already in a (relatively) short time! I graduated from the engineering faculty back when there were no women’s bathrooms in the building. I now work in an industry where I am a CPO, and I happen to be a woman. I hope that in the next five years, we continue to close the gap in the gender inequalities in tech positions and smash through that glass ceiling.”
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.”
Pamela: “My hope for women in cyber security is that organizations continue to accommodate work-life balance requirements and keep their employees’ flex-time needs in mind at all times.”
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.”
Jessie: “Don’t listen to everyone’s advice. The best decisions are usually not the most popular. Instead, pick a mentor or two. Pick people who will hear you out, who will challenge your thinking without judgment, and will help you pick your own path.”
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.”
Pamela: “My advice for women in this field is to be continually educating yourself on changing terminology and knowledge because technology evolves so quickly. You need to stay up-to-date.”
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.
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!