Cybersecurity has long been considered a man’s domain. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there will be up to 3.5 million job openings by 2021. Meanwhile, women make up only 20% of the cybersecurity workforce.
The reason for the gender imbalance in the security realm is multifold. Starting from a young age, girls are not encouraged to pursue STEM degrees or hobbies. Additionally, there exists an “unconscious gender bias” when hiring women in the field, and an even more difficult time retaining women due to wage disparity and lack of female colleagues and mentors. Women in security are often “the only woman in the room” – but there are a few professionals who have dedicated their time to changing this.
While there are a number of reasons that women are underrepresented in the industry, we have chosen to focus on a few women who are pioneers in their field by breaking barriers and smashing stereotypes in the field. Whether for their innovation, leadership, or integrity, these women are inspiring and empowering other women to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
One of the best ways to bring more women into cybersecurity (and to keep them there) is to lead by example, create spaces and opportunities for women to enter and grow within the industry. Networking with women in the field, lifting and supporting others, joining groups and communities for women by women – these are some of the ways that female professionals can inspire and encourage women to join this line of work and grow within the security industry.
Read about the women that are breaking the gender stereotype in security and encouraging others to do so as well:
When talking about inspirational women in security, it’s impossible not to mention Chani Simms. An award-winning cybersecurity leader and TEDx Speaker, Chani has been in the IT industry for nearly 20 years. Originally from Sri Lanka, Chani co-founded Meta Defence Labs UK in 2014, a Cybersecurity and IT Infrastructure service provider. Under her leadership, Meta Defence Labs UK has garnered international recognition and accolades and she expanded its operations into Sri Lanka to offer cybersecurity expertise and skills to south Asian communities.
Chani’s passion for cybersecurity combined with her enthusiasm for women’s empowerment led her to found SHe CISO Exec., an initiative aimed at empowering a new generation of talent in the world of information security. SHe CISO Exec. provides a bootcamp and mentoring platform for women (open to men as well) in cybersecurity and focuses on bridging the skills and diversity gap in the industry.
Watch her TedX Talk:
If Wonder Woman was an ethical hacker with a stylish fringe, her name would be Tanya Janca. Tanya is a computer scientist and the founder, security trainer and coach of SheHacksPurple, a learning platform dedicated to teaching Application Security, DevSecOps, and Cloud Security. In addition to running her own Open Web Application Security Project (a nonprofit foundation that works to improve the security of software) chapter in Ottawa for 4 years, she co-founded a new OWASP chapter in Victoria and co-founded the OWASP DevSlop open-source and education project.
Tanya is also an advocate for diversity and inclusion, and co-founded the international women’s organization WoSEC (Women of Security) a free community for women to meet in person in cities around the globe to network, vent frustrations, find peers, and make new friends. She started the online #CyberMentoringMonday initiative, and personally mentors, advocates for and enables other women in her field. She actively writes on her blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, and promotes videos on YouTube, spreading her security research for free in order to contribute to the security community.
Follow Tanya on Twitter @shehackspurple
While Jane Frankland is an award-winning entrepreneur, best-selling author and international speaker, she states that her three children are her greatest achievement. She has been working in cybersecurity for over 20 years and has held senior executive roles at several large PLCs, as well as founded Cyber Security Capital, a training and consulting company. Her diverse and impressive resume includes being nominated as a Young British Designer, LinkedIn Top Voices, a Top 20 cybersecurity global influencer and Top 100 in UK tech. She built her own global hacking firm and has been actively involved in OWASP, CREST and Cyber Essentials.
Before she turned 30, Jane built a 7-figure global business (as a single parent) and claims, from experience, this is not the hardest thing in business to do (rather, to turn around a failing company.) She has also authored the Amazon Best Seller IN Security: Why a Failure to Attract and Retain Women in Cybersecurity is Making Us All Less Safe. She specializes in business strategy and high performance and is a world authority on attracting and retaining women in cybersecurity.
Check out her YouTube channel
If you haven’t heard of “Canada’s First Lady of Security” Bonnie Butlin, it’s time to get familiar with this impressive entrepreneur. Bonnie is an award-winning expert in security and intelligence and co-founder and Executive Director of the Security Partners’ Forum (SPF), the first-of-its-kind agile international network of security professionals within NATO. Over the past decade, Bonnie has received 20 international and national-level awards and honors related to security and resilience including the “Women of the Decade” Award presented at the Women Economic Forum in 2018.
Bonnie created Women in Security and Resilience Alliance (WISECRA) which engages a growing network of women in security around the world. Organizations and businesses around the world look to Bonnie to help increase the number of women in security. Bonnie is considered an inspiration to young women entering the profession and has actively been mentoring and involved in public speaking engagements for women and young professionals in both physical and cybersecurity.
Listen to a podcast interview with Bonnie Butlin at #AISACON17 by MySecurity Media
This list of women would not be complete without mentioning our very own Director of Solution Architecture, Sivan Tehila. Sivan is a modern-day Superwoman and we just don’t know how she does it all. Her impressive resume includes serving for 10 years in the Israel Defense Forces in roles such as Information and Cyber Security Officer, CISO of the Research and Analysis Division, and Head of Information Security Unit of the Intelligence Corps. Sivan also devotes her time to educating the future generation of cybersecurity leaders as an Adjunct Professor at Yeshiva University.
Sivan is dedicated to increasing female representation in cybersecurity. In 2019, Sivan founded Cyber Ladies NYC in order to create a safe and empowering environment for women to share knowledge, mentor others, and become role models for young women at the beginning of their careers. She often engages in speaking engagements around the world and contributes articles and thought leadership pieces to renowned security publications.
Learn more about Leading Cyber Ladies NYC:
The women in this article are just a small representation of those working towards a more inclusive and diverse cybersecurity workforce. We hope you were inspired by the stories and accomplishments of the women above, whether to pursue a career in cybersecurity, encourage other women to pursue one, or to hire more women in your organization. If you would like to nominate additional female security professionals for future blog posts, please email us at [email protected]