Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Women in Security

Women in technology and women in information security is a “thing” these days. I’ve spoken on panels at conferences and written articles (1, 2, 3) on the topic.

Sometimes it feels a little weird. Why does it matter that I have different biological equipment than some of my colleagues?

I have mixed feelings about getting questions from reporters like,

  • “What do you think it takes for a woman in security to succeed?” Well, the same things that it takes for anyone in the industry to succeed…
  • “What advice do you have for women in security?” The same advice I have for anyone in the field…

That being said,

I learned early in my career that looking different (as a woman, you do tend to stand out in a crowd of men at a security event) meant that there was somewhat of a magnifier effect on women at work and in the industry. I’ve noticed that a woman might slip up here and there on job expectations and be perceived as “very bad,” whereas a woman with a visible success or an advocate speaking well on her behalf was likely to be perceived as “very good.” Perhaps the lesson here is that personal and professional reputations matter, and our public behavior will be observed and judged by others. This applies to everyone — no matter how we look, our biological equipment, or where we are from.

I do have something to say about stories, values, and role models. I believe that the stories we hear influence the values that we have, and that the role models that 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, and I couldn’t want it if I didn’t know what it was.

Security executives at RSA Conference 2017

What I love about these diversity conversations is that more women and other underrepresented populations in technology are speaking out about their experiences and sharing their stories. This is extremely important. For an adult, there’s something comforting about hearing a story that you can relate to. For adults and children alike, there’s something inspiring about hearing a story and being able to imagine yourself in that position.

There’s also something about telling the truth from first hand experience that I believe can act as a change agent to dispel myths and stereotypes. Each of us has the ability to, when confronted with a situation where someone is making an incorrect assumption, speak our truth and have it be heard.

What do you think? What’s your story? Tell me in the comments below.