Top Five Women in InfoSec and the Role Models Who Inspire Them

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The cybersecurity industry is today looking for a giant pool of skilled professionals to effectively deal with cybercrime. Many companies are actively hiring more women to bridge both the skills shortage and the gender gap. However, the male-dominated workplace can often prove intimidating or hostile to female professions. Let’s hear from five women leaders in cybersecurity about coping with hurdles, learning from their role models, and succeeding in a male-dominated industry.

Women presently account for roughly 20% of worldwide infosec payrolls, a surveyOpens a new window by Cybercrime Magazine revealed. Even though the demographics still fall well short of the 50% threshold required to instill equality, there has been a significant improvement over six years.

The recent anecdotal dataOpens a new window suggests that the transition to equal treatment for women is well underway. Women have more leadership roles and are higher up on the corporate ladder than men. The same research also shows that women hold a somewhat higher percentage of management and C-suite jobs than men. More women than ever before are being promoted to executive cybersecurity roles. Though the need to urgently fill vacant posts is driving this shift in mindset, it is a positive trend for women.

In this article, we draw insights from five successful women leaders in infosec to understand their journeys, how they faced various challenges, learnt from their role models in the field,  and rose to the top in a primarily male-dominated environment.

See More: Developing Women in Leadership Roles: Top Lessons from the Front Lines

Women Ruling InfoSec And Their Role Models

Get inspired from passionate individuals 

Teresa Shea, VP cyber offense and defense experts, CODEX, Raytheon Intelligence and Space

Believe in yourself and your desire to make a difference in the world. It’s simple, and I wholeheartedly believe that confidence and passion can convince people that you deserve a seat at the table – because you do! I have been in the cybersecurity industry for over three decades.

I have made mistakes, and I am sure I have been doubted just like everyone else, but I worked hard and never gave up on what I believed in. 

When I was in high school, I knew math wasn’t a common thing for women to be keen on. At least, that’s what I perceived. As I graduated from high school, the Society of Women Engineering gave me a scholarship, and I became one of few women in my electrical engineering major. Still, I worked hard to know my stuff and felt confident in my abilities. Then, when I worked with the National Security Agency, I felt empowered because I was among individuals that valued my skills and work ethic. 

As the school year begins again, my advice to other women is to surround yourself with individuals passionate about similar interests. Those were the people who inspired me. If they care about solving problems, there is less time to judge you based on your gender. And finally, remember that STEM is not monolithic. If you don’t love math, you can still be a great scientist. If you hate science, you may excel at programing. Find your niche and stick with it.

Focus on proving worth in right ways

Sandra Larson, senior director, threat intelligence at ZeroFox

I chose to go into intelligence because I wanted to do something that made a difference, and I felt it was an opportunity to leave the world a better place than what I had found it. 

Challenges have included balancing family and work and ensuring that more than adequate effort is put into both. In addition, there are regularly differing expectations for men versus women. So I always feel the need to prove my place in meetings and engagements that are almost always male-dominated. Ratios in meetings typically range between 10-30% women and 70-90% men, so I am always aware that I represent the perception of when I am in meetings. Lastly, challenges around women who use their looks rather than brains to get ahead frequently tarnish the work that women who have paved the way ahead of us to break the glass ceiling, so I am always focused on proving my worth in the right ways.

I am inspired by Babe Didrickson Zaharias, Lucille Ball, and Corrie Ten Boom. While they all had different qualities, my admiration for them stems from their tenacity, abilities to excel and push ahead in frequently male-dominated fields, and abilities to forgive and leave the world a better place.

Diversity fuels innovation

Jadee Hanson, CIO and CISO, Code42

Whether it’s the workplace or otherwise, surrounding ourselves with diverse individuals, who think differently than us or are from different backgrounds, is a crucial component of building a strong and high-performing team. I believe that diversity in thoughts fuels innovation and new solutions to long-standing problems. In the cybersecurity field, in particular, we need this to stay one step ahead. While it can be challenging to break into a male-dominated field or appears to cater to a certain demographic, my advice is never to let anyone say a career path isn’t for you.

By surrounding ourselves with people who will pick us up and help us move forward, women will find they are exceedingly capable of breaking the biases that have traditionally defined so many industries.

That’s what I did. I was surrounded by such people, who eventually inspired me to take up infosec.

Prepare better, know more

Ralitsa Miteva, manager of digital identity and mobile security, OneSpan

What inspired me most to choose this profession 14 years ago and keeps on inspiring me every day is the opportunity to impact the work I do. I strongly believe that keeping consumers safe should be the top priority of all financial institutions and technology vendors. Through my work, I contribute to securing customers’ financial interactions and help them feel confident and protected. 

Speaking on the challenges, women need to prove themselves as experts in the security industry every day. We need to prepare better, know more, and do the heavy lifting to be recognized.

The security domain is often more inviting for men, as they are considered by default to be more technical, and people think they understand technology better. However, we, women, understand technology just as well. But nobody makes the same assumptions about us.

I am inspired by the people closest to me. My family comprises strong career-driven women who have taught me great discipline and motivation. From a young age, my parents encouraged me to pursue a career in security as they both had successful careers in the technology industry. 

See More: 6 Women in Tech on How To Close the Gender Pay Gap in the Industry

Have strong female role models around

Liel Strauch, director of cyber security research, PerimeterX

Earlier in my career, I held various roles in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as part of a special intelligence force unit where I managed cybersecurity operations, defined data-mining for an in-house product and focused on cybersecurity research and data mining from network and web data. 

I was embedded in male-dominated environments in the various roles I held in IDF. My research, work, dedication and commitment paved the way for not only myself but my female colleagues, who too got inspired.

I never felt like I needed to have more girls around me back then, but I realize today how important it is to have strong female role models around. Also, learn and grow along with them.

Even my father thought I should have selected an artsier major and just have fun in high school. But I knew I wanted to get into the Intelligence Force, and getting there meant enduring a rigorous class schedule leaving little time to enjoy the typical high school experience. 

All the hard work was worth it because I knew my goal: to get into the intelligence force unit 8200 of the Israel Defense Forces.

My grandparents were an inspiration because they came to Israel not knowing the language and did their best to make a life for themselves. Their story inspired much of my drive to succeed.

Did your role model’s success story help you advance your career? Let us know on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window . We would love to hear from you!

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