On International Women’s Day we talk to Joanne Wong, Vice President, International Markets, LogRhythm about the challenges and the opportunities in the cybersecurity sector.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced working in the IT and cybersecurity sector?
One of the biggest challenges I faced was when I first became a new mother. With tech as a traditionally male-dominated industry, there were few precedents before me and I was conscious of what people might think. I was concerned that if I took my full paid maternity leave, my counterparts would judge me for being a poor team player and that I was not pulling my weight. To soothe this anxiety, I did eventually cut my paid maternity leave short to resume work.
Even with organisations doing more to champion diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) now, I can empathise with women who still continue to feel an unspoken burden and judgement for their choices – even if they are well within their rights. It does take time and conscious effort to be comfortable voicing our needs without fear of judgment, but women must always remember that they have every right to take up space at the table and be heard.
Why is it important to challenge gender norms and fight for diversity in the IT security space?
The IT security space conventionally skews young and male. This may have sufficed in bringing to life some of the most innovative technologies of the past, but imagine if we were to include diverse perspectives into the drawing board, including that of women. We would be able to tap on the valuable experience and perspective on some of the world’s most capable people, and leverage this shared expertise to develop even more remarkable innovations together.
Ongoing discussions around diversity tend to centre around gender, but ageism is an equally pressing issue. Senior workers tend to be disregarded for being slow and hard to train, but such generalisations limit the potential opportunities and benefits of having a more diverse workforce. On the contrary, I believe in the potential of working with older professionals, who bring with them a wealth of diverse skills and help to fill existing talent gaps. In 2017, I hired a 63-year-old as part of our telesales department, and she went on to become one of the top performing employees in the region!
We cannot let ourselves get distracted by labels and stereotypes about gender and age. What matters more is attitude, and how we can tap on people’s individual strengths and knowledge to create value. We’ll certainly be surprised at what we can find.
How the diversity and inclusion landscape has evolved in the cybersecurity landscape over the last 10 years?
There’s no doubt we have made great strides in diversity and inclusion over the past decade. Alongside the boom of the IT and cyber security space, organisations have also increasingly recognised the importance of diversity as central to their recruitment strategy, and the number of women in tech has risen slowly but surely.
Of course, more must be done to level the playing field for more women to be successful in cyber security. They must be empowered to thrive in this fast-paced and competitive industry, both by having access to support and resources and being fairly recognised for their contributions. We still need more representation in senior leadership and executive board positions, so as to effect a sustained cultural shift in the long run.
What can the community do to better support women in cybersecurity?
Beyond ground-up initiatives to support and champion women in cyber security, it is crucial that organisations take a deliberate and top-down approach to endorse and advocate gender fairness. Executive leaders must put their money where their mouth is, and put in place holistic measures to ensure that there are fair hiring, retention and performance appraisal systems in place. That being said, women cannot be held to traditional benchmarks imposed by men, simply because they bring with them a whole plethora of new experiences, perspectives and ways to add value. Instead, there must be novel ways to recognise and acknowledge womens’ contributions – holding them to new, but equally high standards – and empower them to succeed within the organisation.
It is also important to adopt a long-sighted approach and begin grooming the next generation of women in tech at a young age. We must find new ways to engage girls and build their confidence in STEM, so they can start getting excited about having a future career in tech. This also involves a fundamental mindset shift away from traditional notions of STEM, and dispel misconceptions that only men can succeed in the field.Click below to share this article