Unsung Heroes

(White)Hats Off to the Women of WhiteHat: Celebrating Women’s Equality Day 2019

Despite women gaining the equal right to vote in 1878 and the U.S. Congress designating Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day in 1971, the tech industry still has a long way to go.

The technology industry still presents many barriers for professional women who want to become programmers, CEOs, CIOs, data scientists and analysts and a pay difference still exists throughout the industry.

We’ve talked to four of the women in our company about being a woman in the cybersecurity industry and their opinions on how far the technology industry has come in regards to closing the equality gap.

Debbie Klett, Director of Channel Marketing

“The gender gap in technology is still an issue today. According to a study by PwC,only 15 percent of employees working in STEM roles are women. Additionally, only 5 percent of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women. Many experts have pointed to gender inequality, gender bias and a lack of female mentorship as three prominent factors responsible, among many others.

Why do these gender gaps continue to exist, and why are we not closing in on them faster? While mentoring and networking with other women is extremely important and valuable, I believe a significant shift needs to happen at the company culture level. Many women I know in management positions in the channel, still do not feel comfortable asking for more in a salary negotiation, asking their boss for a raise or promoting their accomplishments to position themselves for a move up. I also know many women who  do not speak up as much as they could in company meetings or in collaborative sessions. Why is this still the case? What is holding us back?

Until the unique strengths women can bring to the workplace are truly valued, in addition to the skill and experience we have, change will continue to move slowly. Qualities that women typically embody such as active listening, truly open collaboration, empathy and emotional IQ, to name a few, must be seen as, and believed to be, true contributors to success in the workplace.

Women who work within the technology channel in particular have a phenomenal opportunity to succeed because they communicate and collaborate with people of different genders, races and ethnicities every day. Truly listening and combining differing viewpoints can result in innovative joint solutions and product portfolios for customers worldwide. And, no matter your team or partner’s gender or background, it is critical to carefully consider their ideas and opinions, as you would like them to consider your own, to achieve the best possible outcome for all involved.

For us to see significant change in our day to day business, we need to increase awareness and embrace practices and programs that change the corporate culture. Mentoring programs and networking are absolutely helpful, but these are typically done in an all women environment. We need to involve everyone and educate our corporations about how the qualities and contributions we bring to the workplace can make a significant and positive difference.”

Rachael Andrews, Technical Course Director

“As a discipline, technology can often be stereotyped as more ‘for boys.’ That stereotype has permeated the industry for decades and persists in 2019, where roles are still very male dominated. IT is slowly evolving to accept more women over time, including into C-suite roles of organizations.

Overcoming the gender bias is not easy. But the first step is for women to become comfortable expressing conviction in their abilities and greater confidence in the expertise and ideas they can contribute. Tech is changing every day and it can spark a career interest early. Whenever I speak with young women, I love hearing them say, ‘I want to be a scientist!’ Pursuing a technology career has been enriching, especially in the cybersecurity industry, and I would encourage more girls and women to consider this growing field.”

Shilpa Narsikar, Senior Engineering Manager

“As a woman in engineering, who has risen up to a senior management position, I have encountered my fair share of difficult interpersonal situations while on the job. And there is one invaluable skill that has helped me to handle each instance with grace, build professional connections and advance my career: empathy. But it is often overlooked in fast-paced businesses where individuals just want to get ahead at any cost. A recent study found that 87% of CEOs see a direct link between workplace empathy and business performance, productivity, retention and general business health. In short, promoting empathy-either as an individual or as a company-actually aids in career and business success.

In my role, when I get on customer calls, empathy is a constantly useful tool. It helps to bridge the gap between the engineering/implementation side and solve real world use cases, on how our customers are using the product. The more I fully listen and understand, the easier it is for me to propose a better solution to the customers. And it helps me encourage harmony within my diverse internal teams as well. This Women’s Equality Day, let this serve as a reminder that empathy is an ability that all professionals regardless of gender, background or industry, should prioritize and work on to achieve success.”

Lauren McCaslin, Vulnerability Verification Team Lead

“As a female in the cybersecurity space, I am aware that unconscious bias is always present. This refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions without us even realizing it. Diversity on the other hand brings various unique perspectives that can foster more creativity and collaboration, especially when all parties feel a sense of equality in each of their interactions.

Personally, my team is responsible for finding dangerous vulnerabilities in companies’ application code and offering advice on how to remediate it – which could be critical in preventing a major data breach. It’s very high stakes, and we’d be cheating ourselves and our customers by not being inclusive and fostering a culture that allows us to all come together to collaborate equally. Companies can encourage this by identifying and updating company policies that may unintentionally perpetuate biases that favor one side or the other, explicitly defining and sharing criteria for advancement, and most importantly: expecting and reinforcing equality across all aspects of the workplace.”