Women in IT Security: You've come a long way, baby...but not far enough.

Much of the road to diversity still stretches out in front of Silicon Valley firms where women are very clearly still in the passenger seat, reports Teri Robinson.

Women in IT Security: You've come a long way, baby...but not far enough.
Women in IT Security: You've come a long way, baby...but not far enough.

Much of the road to diversity still stretches out in front of Silicon Valley firms where women are very clearly still in the passenger seat, reports Teri Robinson.

In a recent riff on gender inequality, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart pointed out that Caitlyn Jenner could now look forward to the kind of discrimination and objectification than women everywhere are subjected to. 

She can also look forward to finding it difficult to land a job in information security – where women make up roughly 11 percent of the workforce, according to a recent (ISC)2 report. And, if she does make her way through the doors and onto the employee roster, chances are she'd enjoy both a lower salary and position than male colleagues. 

“It is not in anybody's best interest not to have more women in security,” says Monica Eaton-Cardone, founder and CIO of Global Risk Technologies. “The wider we can have the viewpoint, the better.” 

Until last spring, when they released their “diversity” numbers, Silicon Valley firms had been characteristically tightlipped about the demographics of their employee ranks. But lips began to loosen, some say spurred by a blog post from Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou which asked where the numbers were regarding women in engineering in these companies.

“Every company has some way of hiding or muddling the data on women actually in engineering roles,” Chou wrote, explaining that the sparse numbers she had seen indicated less diversity than the industry admitted. “This means nobody is having honest conversations about the issue.”

Activist groups, like the Rainbow Push Coalition, piled on, pressuring tech companies for real, accurate and meaningful statistics.

When Silicon Valley firms finally released those numbers starting in May 2014, it seemed that Chou had been proven right. Even in the most progressive high-tech companies, the workforces still skewed male and white. 

Despite the high profile of Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg – whose book Lean In is instructive to women on how to succeed in a male-dominated world, her company counts only 31 percent women among its ranks, while women make up only 30 percent of the workforces at Google, Apple and Twitter. Microsoft trailed them, dead last of 10 companies submitting numbers, at 28 percent.

Women fared better at Pandora, Indiegogo and eBay, which came the closest to achieving parity between men and women – at least in the strict breakdown of employees by gender. At Pandora, 49 percent of workers are female, while at Indiegogo and eBay women make up 45 percent and 42 percent of the workforce, respectively.

And both Pinterest and LinkedIn hovered around the 40 percent mark.

As industry watchers dressed down high-tech companies for everything from hiring practices to corporate cultures not friendly to women and minorities, Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed his dismay in a blog post, saying, “I'm not satisfied with the numbers on this page.”

The figures, he wrote, were “not new to us.” And, he claimed, his company had “been working hard for quite some time to improve them” and making some progress. But, like the other companies, not nearly enough.

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