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Cultivating Growth for Women in Cybersecurity

Women make up 47 percent of the workforce in America yet hold only 26 percent of technology roles. This indentation in women’s representation in technology only gets worse the higher you go up the executive ladder. WhiteHat is committed to closing this gap and opening the door for talented women to take the lead. 45% of executives at WhiteHat are women. Still, we understand there is continual work that must be done to even out the playing field and increase the diversity needed for innovation, change, and bottom-line business success.

To amplify their voices, WhiteHat security hosted a panel in which accomplished women in both technical and non-technical roles in cybersecurity discussed the unique challenges they’ve faced, what they considered to be their biggest accomplishment and how they’ve overcome specific hurdles throughout their career. In this panel, they offered a treasure trove of wisdom for women and girls looking to step into the growing field of cybersecurity. Below are three of the major points made and some fresh insights from the panelists.

1.) Internal barriers can sometimes be the most significant obstacles, but here’s how to defeat them

“You’re never going to know everything. Taking on that mentality really helps me interact with many different people in the infosec space.” – Lindsey O’Donnell, Senior Editor, ThreatPost

One of the major themes woven throughout the panel was overcoming the internal barriers that keep them from speaking up and stepping out. Whether that be interacting with external stakeholders, proposing an idea, or vocalizing an accomplishment, realizing that you have a unique and valuable perspective to bring to the table is key to crushing the internal voices that may keep you on the sidelines.

Managers can also play a key role in fostering that confidence in their teams by proactively reaching out to give feedback and affirmation. Katherine Haworth, Application Security Engineer at WhiteHat, mentioned how beneficial it is to have that external validation from someone who isn’t bogged down by the doubts and insecurities in the receiver’s head.

2.) Mentorship is key to women advancement in the workplace

One of the critical consequences of having a lack of women leaders is the subsequent lack of mentors and representation for those growing in the field. All four panelists named mentorship as a theme throughout their career, which equipped them with the connections and knowledge to succeed. Lindsey O’Donnell stressed that making connections in the research space helped her better understand and grow in cybersecurity.

“It’s great to work with bosses and mentors who are very supportive of females in the industry, who also want to see you grow as well. So it’s good to tap into those people who are willing to give you the time and day, and cultivate that relationship.” – Samantha Singh, VP & Partner, Lumina Communications

Mentors are critical because they can help navigate the nuances of difficult situations, making a problem look less scary than it is by offering solutions that have succeeded before. Judy Sunblade, VP of Revenue Growth & Enablement at WhiteHat and host of this panel, shared insights into how women can create a network of support, facilitating the growth of those around you, by making sure that we’re nurturing and cultivating other women to follow behind us. The “every woman for herself” mindset will only harm the overall goal of increasing women in technology and leadership.

3.) Disagreement is needed in the workplace

An obstacle woman in technology face frequently is the assumption that disagreement is a bad thing. It can be challenging for both women and men to find that balance of being respectful while confidently expressing their unique viewpoint.

“Instead of remaining in a state of unhealthy peace – sitting there quietly, letting opinions fly, and keeping to myself – I found that I can be supportive. I can be kind. I can be respectful and still get the job done, so long as I’m understanding the standpoint of others and sharing my clear, constructive feedback when I disagree.” – Cassandra Morton, VP of Customer Success and Service Delivery at WhiteHat Security.

Morton also shared a practical tip for those still grappling with how best to offer their viewpoint in an environment dominated by men. She mentioned that she watches other women in business or in the news to see how they respond to similar topics and issues. This leads us back to why it’s critical to amplify and give platforms to women in technology, to increase confidence in budding careers.

We are hopeful that these conversations will only increase as the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals continues to grow. WhiteHat Security currently has over 26 new job openings for those looking to step into or continue their career in cybersecurity and aspire to join a team of individuals committed to securing the applications driving our future. We hope you’ll check them out here!