Like A Girl

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A Different Approach to Diversity in Tech

Tech has a diversity problem, and companies like Google are trying to do the right thing to turn it around.

I’m a native San Franciscan, and I work in the tech industry. I also happen to be a woman. Here’s my opinion on the diversity issue:

The best teams are diverse.

We need a different approach to hiring.

The pipeline problem needs to be solved too.

Let’s talk about this.

The best teams are diverse

Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Princeton, McKinsey, Gallup, and Scientific American have all published studies in the past several years that show the value of diverse teams — diversity drives innovation, it makes us smarter, and it has a positive impact on learning. The benefits of diverse teams are well known.

I work in cybersecurity, a field with a massive talent shortage. It’s very challenging to design and implement systems that are highly resistant to malicious activity, and Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that there will be 3.5 million cybersecurity job openings by 2021.

Why is there such a lack of diversity in cybersecurity? Anecdotally, I think it comes down to hiring practices and a poor pipeline.

We need a different approach to hiring

I’ve talked to a lot of people about the diversity of the cybersecurity teams they’ve worked on, and it seems to me that there are two key differences between managers that build diverse teams and the rest.

  • Managers with diverse teams want to build the best team they can, and they look everywhere. They are personally engaged in the hiring process and thoughtful about exactly what kinds of skills, backgrounds, and experiences they are looking for in a candidate. Managers of diverse teams don’t necessarily hire to meet quotas — they take the time to discover and leverage alternative pipelines. And they hire the best people they can find.
  • Other managers also want to build the best team they can, but for whatever reason they focus their search in only the most obvious places. They rely heavily on HR and Recruiting functions to find potential candidates for them.

The pipeline problem needs to be solved too

The long term solution to the cybersecurity talent shortage is to increase the pipeline.

I believe the stories we hear influence the values we have, and that the role models we see affect how we choose to behave. As a little girl, I wanted to grow up and be a rockstar (or a giraffe). I didn’t think to myself, “I want to be a technology executive one day.” I didn’t know or see any technology executives, so I didn’t know what that life might be like. I couldn’t want it if I didn’t know what it was.

When girls and young women read about working in tech, there is a lot of focus on the negative aspects — under representation, under pay, and challenges in the workplace. Individuals like Sarah Kunst and Susan J. Fowler have bravely come forward with stories that play a critical role in shaping the future of Silicon Valley culture. These stories are important, and the resulting changes are necessary.

There is, however, another side of the coin. Many women in technology are thriving.

In July 2017, 313 respondents who self-identified as women in cybersecurity completed a survey. Several also participated in deep dive interviews.

I personally know so many women — and now I have the data to back it up — that love their jobs, feel deeply satisfied by the work they’re doing, and are tremendously successful. I wrote a report about the study, and I hope that it can contribute to the diversity conversation in a way that inspires girls and young women to consider a career in cybersecurity.

I want hiring managers, women, and girls to read the report.

  • I want hiring managers to know what women bring to the table in the cybersecurity workplace.
  • I want women in the field to know that they are not alone.
  • I want girls and young women to know that working in cybersecurity is an option. I want them to be inspired by these stories and consider pursuing a career in the field.

I want guys it read it too.

Check out the full report here. Share it with someone that you think would benefit from reading it.