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Rise of the Female CISO

Kate Kuehn, US CEO of the cyber defence product company Senseon, writes on how we can encourage more women to enter the cyber security industry.

It’s a well-known fact that the technology sector is a male dominated environment. Narrow that down into the cyber security sector and the percentage difference between the number of men and women grows even further. Why is it that half of the population seem to feel excluded from this area of work? And what can we do to break down those barriers?

The first thing to acknowledge may seem like an obvious concept. Women are not men. Nor should they feel the need to be. The way women think and execute their jobs is bound to be different, and this concept should be embraced rather than shunned in all work forces not just in the tech industry. Women can bring a different perspective to problem solving and decision making. Without their input how can any organisation feel fully prepared for the innovative new threats they are facing daily. It is also statistically proven that companies who have achieved near diversity in their tech workforce are more successful than their competition.

The difficulty in encouraging women into a career in cyber security is the preconception that as a woman in a male-dominated environment you’re likely to be treated differently. Many women feel that in predominantly male spaces they can’t compete at the same level, as often work/life balance is harder to achieve. Working mothers tend to gravitate towards functions that have more women as they feel their personal struggles will be better understood. With many companies now introducing flexible working schemes, job sharing and work from home options there is no need for anyone, male or female, to have to make a choice between career and family.

As a mother working at executive level in the tech industry, I have experienced these pressures, with many people considering my decision to take a step back to spend more time with my family career suicide. Some even went as far as to be angry with me telling me I was making the wrong choice. Until women feel that this is unlikely to be a consideration in them getting, and keeping, roles in tech and cyber security there is unlikely to be a change in the gender split within the industry.

Cyber threats that organisations face are constantly evolving. The cyber attackers are developing new ways to breach systems and hack organisations every day. To combat this, we need to be putting as many diverse brains together as we can to solve this issue. This is the main concern with a lack of diversity in cyber security. The hackers are using any tools at their disposal to infiltrate organisation’s networks. If we aren’t using all the minds at our disposal by encouraging women into the industry, then we will not succeed.

As someone who has worked in multiple areas of business including sales, security, engineering and operations and now as a c-suite executive, each role had a unique approach to diversity. The technology sector needs to stop approaching it as a blanket issue and start focussing on ways to promote inclusion in each specific sector of a business. The cyber security industry cannot afford to not be constantly bringing in new people and new perspectives to help tackle the continually developing and changing cyber threats. I am particularly proud that at Senseon we are recruiting women into our business and across all departments of our workforce. I want to help encourage women to pursue their passions in whatever area of work they want and not to feel like there are areas they shouldn’t be experiencing because of their gender.


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