While the industry throws around a familiar – and seemingly static – statistic that women make up a mere 11-13 percent of the cybersecurity workforce, John McCumber, director of cybersecurity advocacy at ISC(2), recently told SC Media that number may be as high as 30 percent. Still, while that hints of some progress, that’s far a cry from equal footing.

With a well-known shortage of trained professionals looming 69 percent of respondents in Part One of ISACA’s 2019 State of Cybersecurity report said their cybersecurity teams are understaffed. Retention, too, is difficult and positions remain open six months or more, six out of 10 respondents said. Study after study finds that a more diverse workforce not only fills those gaps but lead to greater innovation and agility.

In celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, women in cybersecurity weigh in on diversity in the workplace, the strides women have made, their inspirations and what’s needed going forward increase the presence and influence of women.

“The cybersecurity industry is making enormous strides, but with women occupying only 11% of cybersecurity positions, the playing field is still not close to level. The industry needs to change its recruiting and retainment efforts to better the workplace for women and all employees as it fills the millions of open jobs.” –Stephanie Balaouras, vice president and research director, Forrester

“On International Women’s Day, we celebrate all women. For women in technology, that means we acknowledge those who have pushed the boundaries of the industry and are helping to strengthen workforces by making them more inclusive environments. As a forward-thinking and innovative sector, it’s important for the tech industry to continue creating opportunities where women not only enter the industry, but break the gender ‘norms’ to lead. Now more than ever, women in STEM are needed to provide knowledge and mentorship to other womenbecause when we encourage and empower each other, it can result in amazing things for the future of tech.” – Alena Golovnya, marketing manager, North America, Sinequa 

“One of the reasons privacy is so female-friendly, especially now, is that we have mentors in this field. When I think about the women leading charge on privacy policy, privacy-related thinking and leadership, there are amazing people in academia and the corporate world who are mentors. Mentorship is a huge part of finding success in your professional life – and is a huge part of why there’s more gender parity in privacy.  

Within the corporation, privacy is increasingly moving to the security team and under the purview of chief security officers. I think this is an area we need to really make sure we’re making room for women – and all diversity, frankly. Security, unlike privacy, has always been a very male dominated field – and continues to be.  –Fatemeh Khatibloo, vice president and principal analyst 

“While the privacy field enjoys a more equal male-female distribution among its professionals, the cybersecurity space has been historically dominated by men. Interestingly, women represent just 11% of cybersecurity professionals worldwide. Forrester strongly highlighted that recruiting and retaining women is of vital importance for the cybersecurity market – And I personally believe that it’s starts with some cultural change. I think privacy can help. 

As a result of regulatory requirements as well as market dynamics, many firms today have hired privacy officers and grown their privacy teams. These new entrants have strong working relationship with their security counterparts, sometimes they are part of the same team. And this is an opportunity to drive that much needed cultural change: male professionals will break out of their male-only environments, maybe they will change some of their jokes or they will be more sensitive to colleagues that need a different working-private life balance. Females, on the other hands, will feel more comfortable with technical controls and show their male colleagues that they are reliable partners even when they have to crack the most complicated technical issues.” – Enza Iannopollo, senior analyst, Forrester 

 “My work in the tech industry began on an innovation project for the Victorian government in Melbourne. There, I met tech leaders whose passion and drive were contagious, especially when tasked with solving a problem! There is enormous potential in tech to find solutions to problems like climate change, diseases, poverty and so much more, and that excites me.

I’m also inspired by Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Bumble, the dating app where women make the first move. Whitney encourages young women to take ownership over their social lives and careers (through Bumble Bizz). With a predominantly female exec team, she created a brand with a powerful ethos and a strong following that aims to improve the lives of women around the globe.

Had I learned basic coding earlier in my career, I believe it would help me to empathize with engineers on my team, help them create precise roadmap estimates, and ensure we’re all meeting company standards for our work. My advice to younger women entering tech – learn some Python, get a Github account and get ready to print.helloworld! The future is wide open to see where technology takes (wo)mankind, and I am grateful to be part of this community.” – Sophie Harpur, product manager, Split.io

“The gender gap in the technology industry still exists. When I started working I did not expect equality, but instead started with the assumption that I have to try to work harder than people around me in order to gain equal footing. Nobody can stand up for you better than yourself, so learn how and when to verbalize what you need. Don’t be the one who gets easily offended by things around you.

That does not mean it is easy, but choose to concentrate on the long-term outcome than the short-term pain. The right mentor or sponsor can support and guide you through even the most difficult situations. Make time for the women in your organization to support, mentor and appreciate each other as much as possible.” – Kanthi Prasad, vice president of engineering, WhiteHat Security

 “I began my career in technology in the 1980s and was fortunate to land my first ‘real’ job at a company that encouraged diversity in every area. Women made up approximately 40 percent of the IT department, so I had many female role models at all levels of the organization. It was nearly a decade later that I had my first encounter with the ‘male bias’ that has become so prevalent. I love working in technology because it is constantly presenting new opportunities to learn, and while technology has definitely changed over the years, the skills I learned in the early days of my career have enabled me to evolve and grow my career in ways I never envisioned.” – Ellen Harbour, director, global training, WhiteHat Security

“I enjoy working in technology because I get to help shape the digital world in which we exist, and I know that the influence provided by women creates a product that better serves its users. Working in technology has provided me with countless opportunities to witness the incredible support that women provide to one another (and to the rest of their peers), find role models in the brave, brilliant, and inspiring females around me, and learn to be a fair leader both in the workplace and in my personal life. Diversity in technology (whether it’s gender identity, race, culture, age, orientation, or any other factor that makes people wonderfully unique) directly translates to its day to day success in the field.” – Krista Delucchi, engineering program manager, WhiteHat Security

“On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the many strengths of women and the perspectives they bring to technology. It’s important to remember that womenbring a unique voice to the table. They should know their worth and not be afraid of advancing. Our communities and companies need diversity in leadership roles to succeed because every person’s individual background also brings a new perspective that can drive the bottom line, culture and overall success of the business.

Young women in technology must find a good mentor to be successful, and that requires being proactive, and committing to continuously learning from superiors and peers. Women in technology must remember to never give up on their dreams, always strive to do better and keep a positive attitude. And no matter what roadblocks may come, they should never let anyone limit their potential. They are in charge of their own personal destiny. In addition, when choosing where to work, work for the people you admire and respect, not the job offering the highest pay. Lastly, it’s better to keep the ‘gender difference’ idea out of your mind, because there is really no such thing in terms of doing well at work.” – Joanna Hu, principal data scientist, Exabeam

“The gender gap definitely still exists in a variety of ways, many of which are widely publicized. For example, statistics say only 20% of individuals in tech are women, and only 11% percent of individuals in cybersecurity are women. We need more women in upper leadership, and the unequal wage issue is still a reality. I’d like to encourage women to take a proactive stance in not only building the solutions, but being a part of the solution. We need to continue encouraging females in STEM education and build more support structures for women throughout their careers.

Tech and cybersecurity can have a bad rap for being male-dominated, which can be a deterrent for women looking for diverse environments. When I first started in this industry, I was often the only female among male colleagues and felt extremely outnumbered at the big conferences. Now, years later, the community of women has gotten stronger and incredibly welcoming and embracing. It’s been slow, but it’s changing, so I encourage women to reach out, support each other, and not to feel discouraged.

My biggest piece of advice for women of all ages would be: ‘do not be afraid to use your voice.’ As women, we bring different ideas and strengths. Be confident in what you’re good at, pursue what you’re passionate about, and let that be the focal point, not the stereotypes.” – Yumi Nishiyama, director of global services, Exabeam 

“I have been in high tech for many years now and, while it is still a predominantly male-dominated industry, there is huge opportunity here for women, especially within the software, cybersecurity, cloud, and AI sectors. 

I have, and continue to, enjoy working in high tech – it is fast paced, never gets boring, and I love seeing how the technology changes – it keeps me on my toes! You have to be strong, and not easily intimidated to overcome bias that you might face, but that’s all part of learning, and you keep at it. Perseverance is important. And make sure you ask for what you deserve, I think women undersell themselves and so often that gets reflected in pay…be confident, believe in yourself and your work, and others will too.”  

“For women in the technology industry, it can be a struggle to get people to trust and respect you upon first interaction.  Confidence and carrying yourself professionally amongst your peers are essential to earning respect.  

For women who are struggling in a male-dominated industry, the key is to not stop learning.  It helps with maintaining confidence in any situation and allows you to prove that you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else.  Don’t be afraid to speak up, either.  If you have something to share, don’t hide behind someone else – that’s how you gain the respect of the room.”

Young girls today need people surrounding them who can help to boost their confidence and inspire them to dream big and follow through on those dreams.  With social media all around us, girls are comparing themselves to other girls, causing a lot of self-doubt and lowering self-worth.  We need to make sure we’re constantly providing opportunities to grow their confidence and ensure they are focused on their own journey and not trying to be like someone else.

Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, and Karlie Kloss, model and entrepreneur who started Kode with Klossy, are inspiring women to have an interest in technology.  They understand how important it is to get girls interested at a young age and help them build confidence in coding and engineering.  It’s awesome that they are inspiring women to have an interest in technology and to be proud of how smart they really are – I wish I had something like this when I was growing up.” –Jeannie Barry, director of technology enablement, ConnectWise 

 “As a sector devoted to innovation and connectivity, the technology industry is uniquely positioned to help close the gender gap in the workplace. Yet, as recently as 2016, 43 percent of the 150 highest-earning public companies in Silicon Valley had no female executive officers at all. As we celebrate the trailblazers of gender equality and women’s rights this International Women’s Day, we should also reflect on the differing and valuable perspectives that diverse voices bring to the table. We encourage everyone to celebrate the strong women in their lives, personally and professionally, and to empower the women in their organizations. Today, we encourage women in tech to own their voices, to value their intellect and skills.” – Estee Woods, director of public sector and public safety marketing, Cradlepoint 

 “It’s vital to get more women into the tech industry, for two reasons. Firstly, diversity is important. A team comprised of people with different backgrounds and an even balance of genders is more representative of the clients and customers for who you are building products. Secondly, the tech sector is growing, and it needs more people. It’s a simple numbers game – if the tech industry only employs men, there simply won’t be enough skills and resources to keep pace with the growth.

I believe that if more women are to enter the tech sector, we need to start young, showing girls that tech can be fun. I started coding when I was about eight years old. My parents bought a computer and I was hooked. It was fun learning how it worked, creating something on a computer. There is so much scope for creativity in tech – more than people think.

Being a female CTO today still makes me a bit of a unicorn. And, despite my background and position, some still assume I don’t have technical knowledge. And the worst part is that I find myself getting used to these comments. But my team respects me because of my technical expertise, not simply because of my title or in spite of my gender, and this is always how it should be.

My advice to women keen to develop a career in tech is to just do it. Listen, learn and be the best version of yourself. Find the role that fits you best, and don’t feel obligated to work in a more stereotypical role that may not be the best one for you – after all, it’s person specific, not gender specific. In the future everything is going to have tech elements, from fashion to charity to healthcare. Tech has gone mainstream, the typical ‘tech’ stereotype’ is a thing of the past, and now is the time to change perceptions while narrowing the skills gap.” – Svenja de Vos, chief technology officer, Leaseweb

“For women in the technology industry, it can be a struggle to get people to trust and respect you upon first interaction.  Confidence and carrying yourself professionally amongst your peers are essential to earning respect.  

For women who are struggling in a male-dominated industry, the key is to not stop learning.  It helps with maintaining confidence in any situation and allows you to prove that you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else.  Don’t be afraid to speak up, either.  If you have something to share, don’t hide behind someone else – that’s how you gain the respect of the room.”

Young girls today need people surrounding them who can help to boost their confidence and inspire them to dream big and follow through on those dreams.  With social media all around us, girls are comparing themselves to other girls, causing a lot of self-doubt and lowering self-worth.  We need to make sure we’re constantly providing opportunities to grow their confidence and ensure they are focused on their own journey and not trying to be like someone else.

Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, and Karlie Kloss, model and entrepreneur who started Kode with Klossy, are inspiring women to have an interest in technology.  They understand how important it is to get girls interested at a young age and help them build confidence in coding and engineering.  It’s awesome that they are inspiring women to have an interest in technology and to be proud of how smart they really are – I wish I had something like this when I was growing up.” –Jeannie Barry, director of technology enablement, ConnectWise 

“The world’s first programmer was a woman, so it’s only fitting that technology provides a platform for equality when it comes to recognizing anyone – regardless of gender identity. Women have been in technology from day one!

Diversity is technology is proven to result in better business decisions, increased efficiency and better results. International Women’s Day celebrates the smart, qualified, and innovative women who are following in the footsteps of the mother of programming, Ada Lovelace.” – Bethany Allee, vice president of marketing for Cybera