SecurityBrief Asia logo
Asia's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

Exclusive: Tackling the challenges faced by women in cybersecurity

FYI, this story is more than a year old

Women in cybersecurity are still facing discrimination despite the progress made in the industry in the last ten years.  

Many of the causes of discrimination are systemic, embedded in the practices of large legacy institutions and outdated policies.

SecurityBrief spoke to cybersecurity entrepreneur, CISO advisor, author and speaker Jane Frankland about the challenges women face and what organisations need to consider when hiring and retaining a more gender-balanced workforce.

What are some of the challenges women face in the security industry? Do they vary by region?

From the dialogues I've had with women in the field, I know that the reasons they cite for moving jobs are misalignment to their organisation's culture, burnout, unfair treatment, feeling bypassed for promotion, or on account of family.

Technology companies can be hostile environments for women in cybersecurity as some are still built around male bonding and facilitated by the sexual objectification of women.

Improvements in culture can make an enormous difference to the way every cybersecurity professional operates in the workplace, not just women.

One to tackle proactively is the work-hard, play-hard culture – the ruthless, macho competition to arrive early, stay late, work harder and party, which remains prevalent amongst many cybersecurity organisations and consultancies, yet has been shown to increase turnover rates and absenteeism, and stifle performance and profits.

The unspoken old-fashioned rule for managers, or anyone aspiring to be one, is that if you leave before a certain time, you're not committed to your job, and promotion will be unlikely.

The pressure is particularly noticeable for women, especially if they're mothers or carers.

In environments such as these, many women either accept the reality that if they won't conform to expected standards, their careers will be stifled, or they compensate by working harder, staying later, and adopting more of a male persona.

They'll try to fit in, or otherwise they'll hide their family arrangements.

What are the main reasons these challenges exist?

Increasingly, cybersecurity is recruiting from the same pool – computer science, technology, and the armed forces or intelligence.

While these professionals are needed and hugely valuable, having one type of profile in cybersecurity holds us back.

It makes us miss things – if we're all thinking the same thing, then you could argue that no one is really thinking.

What can organisations do to address these challenges?

Hiring and recruitment can be improved through formalised processes and technology.

Thanks to advancements in the latter, data can help to inform and reduce bias, too.

Tools like Textio can analyse the language used in job descriptions and ensure it's neutral.

Certainly, when it comes to women, language is often unintentionally gender-coded and plays to a range of stereotypes, ideologies, and belief systems that surreptitiously try to justify the status quo.

When job descriptions aren't checked for gender bias they can put a lot of female talent off applying.

Many companies do a poor job.

There are many issues with HR and recruiters who tend to lack knowledge of what cybersecurity roles entail, and look for keywords and certifications.

Hiring managers usually lack interviewing skills.

Some don't have adequate hiring processes, which results in them hiring staff like themselves.

They usually defend their actions by talking about “fitting into company culture,” yet this is often just code for hiring in their mirror image.

It's important when writing job descriptions each time someone leaves to think about the responsibilities of the role that's needed and checking for gender-coded language can help when advertising for positions.

Then, having well thought out, defined processes at the interview stage, along with technology that can strip out all references to a candidate's gender, age, ethnicity, religion, etc… can further help.

Some companies though do an incredible job of recruiting women into their workforces – equal numbers to men – but they have problems retaining them.

The issues they have largely boil down to company culture.

Flexible work settings, and managing gender discrimination policies, and unconscious bias training can help.

What are some important things to consider when implementing Women in Security programmes?

Countless studies have shown that women and men gauge risk differently.

Women are better at assessing odds than men, and this often manifests itself as an increased avoidance of risk.

As women are typically more risk-averse, their natural detailed exploration makes them more attuned to changing pattern behaviours – a skill that's needed for correctly identifying threat actors and protecting environments.

In addition to these traits, women are acknowledged to be highly intuitive too.

Men, on the other hand, tend to be more pragmatic with their thinking.

When two sets of people are attacking a problem, they're able to solve it uniquely and much faster.

As not all risk is the same, the dialogue about how to approach it is also richer.

What can women in security do to take up more security roles?

Networking plays an important role within cybersecurity.

It's not a case of just being qualified or passionate about and interested in cybersecurity.

You have to get a foot in the door.

You have to look the part, be recognised for visible work (not invisible work, which typically women do), and communicate your value every step of the way.

This even applies to women at the top of their game.

I don't think you have to be a certain type of person to work in cybersecurity, but being tenacious, thick-skinned, and be able to adapt to change helps.

You have to learn how to play a political game if you want to rise within a corporation.

You have to accept that often you'll need to be more mobile and hop from one job to another in order to receive promotions and pay increases.

Sometimes, you'll end up going back to the company you left but having climbed a few ladders.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Malware
Black Lotus Labs discovers new, multipurpose malware
Black Lotus Labs, the threat intelligence team at Lumen, has discovered a new, rapidly growing, multipurpose malware written in the Go programming language.
Story image
Distributed Denial of Service
Sysdig reveals a loss of $53 for every $1 cryptojackers gain
The 2022 Sysdig Cloud Native Threat Report breaks down supply chain attacks against containers and how geopolitical conflict influences attacker behaviours.
Story image
Firewall
Barracuda accelerates growth in its data protection business
Barracuda cloud-to-cloud backup protects against evolving cyber threats, such as ransomware, and is now transactable in the Azure Marketplace.
Story image
Apple
Jamf shows intent to acquire mobile security firm ZecOps
This acquisition positions Jamf to help IT and security teams strengthen their organisation’s mobile security posture.
Story image
Work from home
Jamf showcases new products to simplify and secure work
At the 13th annual Jamf Nation User Conference, the company shared how its continuous product innovation is helping organisations succeed with Apple.
Story image
Network Management
Fortinet introduces enhanced AIOps across its gateways
FortiAIOps builds on Fortinet's rich history of developing artificial intelligence to deliver actionable network insights for self-optimising management.
Story image
Kaspersky
Cybersecurity loopholes prevalent in South East Asia
In terms of the share of vulnerabilities with publicly available exploits, three countries out of top five are located in Southeast Asia.
Story image
Cloud
How modern IT architectures are moving beyond network visibility
Dealing with multiple cloud providers makes it difficult to identify security threats and performance bottlenecks and troubleshoot issues.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Test your API Security with Infinite API Scanner
The effectiveness of API scanning technology can mean the difference between successful and unsuccessful programming outcomes, and often enterprises and IT leaders struggle to get it right.
Story image
Malware
Kaspersky uncovers new malicious malware NullMixer
Kaspersky researchers have uncovered a new malware stealing users credentials, address, credit card data, cryptocurrencies, and accounts.
Story image
Cybersecurity
StackHawk launches deeper API security test coverage
Expansion of test coverage includes custom scan discovery, custom test scripts and custom test data for REST APIs.
Story image
Malware
Cybereason delivers nation-state level of protection to enterprises
Cybereason has announced new advancements in Cybereason NGAV that deliver nation-state level protection for organisations of all sizes.
Story image
Threat intelligence
Trellix advances threat intelligence with new research centre
Trellix has announced the establishment of the Trellix Advanced Research Center to advance global threat intelligence.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Ordr improves security and management of connected devices
It has implemented more than 80 integrations within the Ordr Data Lake while adding security enhancements to accelerate zero trust segmentation.
Story image
Hybrid Cloud
Hybrid cloud security driving need for deep observability
Gigamon is bringing application and network-level intelligence together to help network, security, and cloud IT operations teams eliminate security blind spots.
Story image
Mobile Device Management
How to easily scale your mobile workforce and devices for the peak shopping season
Retailers are under constant pressure to streamline processes and become more efficient while looking for ways to improve customer satisfaction levels.
Story image
Software-as-a-Service
Enterprises yet to fully commit to cybersecurity - CompTIA
“Digital transformation driven by cloud and mobile adoption requires a new strategic approach to cybersecurity, but this poses significant challenges."
Story image
IT Training
Six ways to transform your cybersecurity training and influence lasting change
If the goal is to win hearts and minds, formal awareness training can fall short and often doesn’t inspire people to care.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Best practices for industrial cyber resilience
Operational technology (OT) security is gaining more attention than ever before, but sufficient understanding of what it takes to prevent breaches is still lacking amongst many organisations.
Story image
Malware
Decrease in malware volume, but surge in encrypted malware
The Q2 Internet Security Report found office exploits continue to spread more than any other category of malware.
Story image
Enterprise
Delinea shares the importance of PAM, partners and security for modern enterprise
Identity-based security is becoming a crucial tool for modern enterprises as they continue to adapt to different working environments.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from SearchInform
Val Novoselova joins us today to to discuss new trends in the information security space, and how SearchInform is adapting to some of the new trends we are seeing.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Macroeconomic headwinds driving security up priority list
Current macroeconomic headwinds are driving security up enterprise’s priority list and reshaping the hardware Security Module market.
AWS Marketplace
Whitepaper: A practical guide for mitigating risk in today’s modern applications
Link image
Story image
Ransomware
Delinea updates DevOps security, remote access more seamless
New enhancements include development support on the most recent Mac computers and improved secrets' management usability through automation.
Story image
Software-as-a-Service
Varonis adds secrets discovery to data classification
The data security firm announces enhancements that detect and remediate overexposed private keys, encryption certificates, API keys, and authentication tokens.
Story image
Ransomware
Commvault unveils early warning system, Metallic ThreatWise
A first among data protection vendors, the new cyber deception service detects and contains ransomware threats.
Story image
Legacy
Trellix enables greater cyber resiliency with extended XDR platform
"Legacy SIEM technology has failed to modernise security operations. We are confident Trellix XDR fills this critical gap.”
Story image
Cybersecurity
Employees unsure who to go to to report security incident
A new study shows more than 20% of the untrained global workforce do not know who to contact during a security breach.
Story image
Virtual Private Network
95% of organisation rely on VPN as threats continue - report
There is a growing number of VPN-specific security threats and a need for Zero Trust security architecture in enterprise-level organisations.
Aws Marketplace
Learn how to implement a backup and recovery plan for a new generation of Kubernetes-based modern applications
Link image
Story image
Secure Code Warrior
Secure Code Warrior announces Coding Labs innovation
Coding Labs mechanisms allow developers to move from learning to applying secure coding knowledge more efficiently, leading to fewer code vulnerabilities.
Story image
Data Protection
Cloudflare brings Data Localisation Suite to more APAC businesses
This allows any business in these countries to service their data locally while benefiting from the speed, security, and scalability of Cloudflare’s global network.
Story image
Malware
SonicWall threat report mid-year update highlights significant threat variance
The 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report mid-year update from SonicWall gives an in-depth insight into many of the current trends across the threat landscape.
Story image
Cybersecurity
De-risking the innovation cycle – a modern, real-time approach to security
Many organisations see cybersecurity as an inhibitor of innovation, with burdensome protection measures standing in the way of progress and speed.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Kaspersky updates endpoint detection and response solution
"One of the goals was to make all the solutions capabilities accessible for all types of our users, even those who are making their first steps in EDR."
Story image
Cloud Security
75% of AU companies had cloud security incident in past year
According to new Venafi research, complexity is due to increase, as companies plan to host more applications in the cloud.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Ransomware attacks continue to increase, report finds
Nearly a quarter of businesses have suffered a ransomware attack, with a fifth occurring in the past 12 months.
Story image
Phishing
Vectra Protect team finds Microsoft Teams vulnerability
The Vectra Protect team identified a post-exploitation opportunity in August, allowing malicious actors to steal valid user credentials from Microsoft Teams.
Story image
Edge Security
Security practices for modernising the “spaghetti” of on-premises IT
Many organisations are wondering how to securely modernise their workload, often made up of a “spaghetti” of on-premises applications and management consoles.