At DecisionLink, we want to empower women to achieve more than what’s expected of us based on outdated stereotypes. In the second of our three-part webinar series about women in cybersecurity and technology, we talked to a new panel of female leaders. They shared what they’ve learned across decades in the industry, offering advice for both organizations and individuals at all levels and of all genders. We touched on personal responsibility for privacy and security, the development of a more inclusive workforce, and strategies for succeeding in an ever-changing world.
Here are the top takeaways from this insightful and illuminating discussion:
1. COMMUNICATING BUSINESS VALUE IN A TECHNICAL WORLD
Cybersecurity hasn’t always been the economic juggernaut it is today. 20 years ago, it was a cottage industry. Just 10 years ago, cybersecurity incidents made the evening news only occasionally. But with thousands of companies providing these services today and organizations constantly wondering what should be in their security stack, it’s a focal point for businesses across the board. Increasing reliance on technology has also upped the ante. It’s not just about features and function anymore.
Julie Talbot-Hubbard, Senior VP of Cyber Protection and Identity at Optiv, says, “The business case has gotten stronger and easier to make in the last decade because security has become table stakes.” This is good news for security and privacy professionals because they can obtain internal support by tying security initiatives to business value. It’s also good news for women in the field, because women are excellent communicators. Quantifying business value with data is critical to paint a clear picture for stakeholders. Evelyn de Souza, Trust, Privacy, and Compliance Leader for the Oracle SaaS Cloud Group, explains, “The value that we bring as women can lend further support when we add data to our case. Being able to align technology and the value of privacy, security, or compliance to a company’s KPIs and bottom-line revenue changes the game.”
Articulating how cybersecurity initiatives help protect the brand and align to digital transformation efforts is vital for security teams to get buy-in, funding, and support. This also allows organizations to move from a reactive to a proactive posture, strengthening the overall safety net.
“Every company is a technology company. Applying business norms and protocols that work to technology companies is something leaders need to be very attuned to. Business is technology, and technology is business.”
Founder and CEO of STASH Global, Inc.
2. THE IMPORTANCE OF SPONSORSHIP, COURAGE, AND BALANCE
Although there are a growing number of female leaders in the tech world, there’s still a big divide—with women making up around 20% of the global cyber security workforce. So how can women of any age or skill level who are seeking to enter this space close the gap? For all of our panelists, sponsorship played an important role in helping them succeed in a predominantly male-dominated industry. Courage is also critical.
Women need to speak up and stay the course, ignoring nay-sayers and seeking out people or organizations, such as WiCys, EWF, and dozens of others, that will support you. “To keep that forward momentum,” says Janine Darling, Founder and CEO of Stash Global, “it’s up to us to continue to be the best leaders, employees, and experts in our field. We also need to complement our expertise with people of all genders that can help us.” And if you’re a woman who’s made it in the industry, pay it forward by mentoring others on their way up.
Another key aspect in building long-term professional success is finding a balance between your professional and personal lives. This is especially true for women, who tend to have less free time than their male counterparts because women still overwhelmingly run the family life—a gap that’s only become clearer during the pandemic. Striking the right balance can mean finding and prioritizing what makes you happy, being willing to follow a non-linear career path, or even just learning to say no to requests that are neither personally nor professionally fulfilling.
3. LOOKING AHEAD: THE VALUE OF DIVERSITY
The cybersecurity and tech industries have made great strides in diversity and inclusivity in recent years, but they still have a long way to go. And in the current social and cultural environment, organizations have an incredible opportunity to do better. Just last week, the top tech giants pledged $30B to cyber security as a result of talks with the current administration. That’s huge. According to de Souza, there’s a “voracious appetite” among women looking to enter this sector. “As women leaders,” she says, “we have an opportunity to form networks to encourage women, minorities, and disenfranchised communities. We can be the voice that says yes, you can do it.”
For young women looking to enter the field, pursuing STEM at an academic level is a great way to get started. Find something you’re interested in and research the kinds of roles, responsibilities, and work that’s available. Find out what a day looks like in a STEM-focused career. According to Darling, “There’s never been a better time or more resources for people of any gender to pursue STEM.” And then once you start down this path, actively seek out support: “Men have had centuries of being nurtured to behave in a certain way,” she says. “For women and other genders, you have to look for the helpers.” Luckily, as our panelists have shown, there have never been more helpers available to support women on this exciting path.
“It’s really important for all of us to recognize what we bring to the table. Expansive thinking can give companies a real edge. Spreading inclusivity and diversity in a company is one of the most powerful things we can pay attention to.”
Founder and CEO of STASH Global, Inc.
GET TO KNOW OUR PANELISTS:
Julie Talbot-Hubbard is the Senior VP and General Manager of Cyber Protection and Identity at Optiv, with extensive experience as a CISO and in many other tech leadership roles.
Janine Darling is the Founder and CEO of Stash Global and an award-winning CXO who’s held top leadership positions for multiple prominent global brands.
Evelyn de Souza is a Trust, Privacy, and Compliance Leader for the Oracle SaaS Cloud Group and currently co-chairs the Cloud Security Alliance Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM).
Georgeanna Westmoreland is the moderator of our webinar and is DecisionLink’s Sales Director.