It’s on all of us to change the industry, says Jennifer Wang.
Together our individual actions can make a real impact. Women have made strides in cybersecurity, technology and other male-dominated fields, but there’s plenty more progress to be made. After more than 20 years in cybersecurity and tech, I’ve come to realize that bringing—and retaining—women into the field is everyone’s responsibility.
Successful executives don’t walk away from difficult problems, they run to them. In my role as a Vectra executive, I have taken the opportunity to create a more diverse workforce at my company.
Why should we all choose to make gender diversity a business priority? The solution requires men and women to agree that the diversity of perspective that comes from having women as key contributors is important, and also essential to an organization’s ability to thrive.
A growing body of research shows people on diverse teams make better decisions, and diversity improves financial performance. McKinsey says companies with greater ethnic and cultural diversity on executive teams are 33 percent more likely to have industry-leading profitability.
We should strive as individuals to prioritize gender diversity because it is critical to the success of the business. And, frankly, it’s the right thing to do. As an industry, we need more men to step up and turn this conversation into action by finding their own contribution to change.
Let’s approach this business challenge by analyzing and breaking down the problem. The lack of women in cybersecurity is a pipeline problem.
As an executive focused on customer success and revenue growth, I’m in familiar territory. At Vectra, I think about my pipeline daily, analyzing the stages, establishing and measuring against KPIs, and discussing breakpoints and interventions to drive and improve conversion rates.
The same approach can be applied to the challenge of achieving a diverse workforce.
The early-stage pipeline begins in elementary school, where we need to entice more girls into STEM—and sustain those passions through middle and high school. Growth must be nurtured and sustained from entry level through mid-career to the C-suite and the boardroom.
Analyzing the pipeline means identifying where the breakdowns occur in conversion rates from each stage. The 2018 Lean In Women in the Workforce Report says women are at a disadvantage from the beginning. At the next step in the pipeline (from entry level to manager), the disparity widens even further.
Everyone plays a vital part
I am committed to doing my part. When I first reached the vice president level, I was conscious of being the only woman in the company in an executive role. I felt I had to represent my entire gender each triumph or failure reflected upon all women. That’s a tough place to be, and I would rather have merit speak for itself. But over the last few years as I’ve concluded our differences as women are our strengths, I’ve embraced the role of inspiring and promoting the women.
Being a woman is an essential element in creating teams and programs as we as a company cultivate the success of our customers. Diversity is proven to be an advantage in the workplace, and that includes diversity of thought. The traditionally feminine traits of communication, empathy and nurturing are good for our customers—and ultimately for our business.
I am committed to helping to fill the pipeline in my personal life. At home, I strive to be a role model for my children, and promote science, technology and math to our local Girl Scout troop.
At work I’m committed to filling my hiring pipeline with a diverse slate of talented women, and advocating and educating male colleagues about creating a workplace that attracts and retains diverse talent. I’ve begun to mentor mid-career women to becoming executive leaders.
Men and women aren’t so different: We all want a workplace where we can work hard and find joy. And it’s on all of us to create that workplace.
Jennifer Wang is vice president of customer success at Vectra