Women in IT security: ‘It is a lopsided team in the field’

“Women account for less than 11 percent of info security jobs, and more than 50 percent of women now working in science, engineering and technology jobs are expected to depart the industry altogether because of hostile work environments, according to Harvard Business Review,” Rachel King writes for ZDNet. “‘That number is appalling. We should all be shocked by that,’ reflected Michelle Cobb, vice president of Skybox Security, during a panel discussion amid the opening of the annual RSA security conference on Monday.”

“‘It’s a lopsided team in the field,’ summarized Fahmida Rashid, information security journalist and editor-in-chief for the RSA Conference,” King reports. “The IT security field is growing and changing rapidly, Rashid continued, demanding new skill sets, insights and experiences. But there is a general lack of IT skilled workers in the United States regardless, Rashid noted, positing that even after every male IT professional finds placement, there are still plenty of mission critical jobs going unfilled.”

King reports, “The question then becomes, according to Melinda Rogers, chief information security officer at the U.S. Department of Justice, how to sell the interesting elements of cybersecurity to women and encourage more candidates to consider IT security an opportune field.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take:

I have seen women who are very interested in tech finish their graduate or undergraduate degrees, but then choose not to pursue a career in tech because they’re not sure they want to spend the next 20-30 years in an industry that’s very male dominated. — Padmasree Warrior

I always tell women that the fact that you’re different and that you’re noticed, because there are few of us in the tech industry, is something you can leverage as an advantage.— Padmasree Warrior

A lot of people believe women can’t do tech-y stuff. Becoming nerdy doesn’t have to mean the short-haired guy, but can be the woman with very long, beautiful hair. — Weili Dai

I love technology, and I don’t think it’s something that should divide along gender lines. — Marissa Mayer

If I had been more self-conscious about being a woman, it would have stifled me. — Marissa Mayer

29 Comments

  1. For nerds, gender is an insurmountable barrier. Their inability to properly communicate with women makes every tech workplace a nightmare for women.

    HlBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ skillfully and hilariously deconstructs these nerds and their world.

    There really isn’t much that could be done to fix this. These men are beyond help and hope (socially).

    1. Figuring out “how to sell the interesting elements of cybersecurity to women” won’t help much if “50 percent of women expected to depart the industry altogether because of hostile work environments” is not addressed.

  2. There are some professions where women dominate. In fact, nowadays, something like 70% of university graduates are women.

    While some believe this because women have unique strengths, or because men in general might be less interested in a particular field, I refuse to accept these explanations.

    Rather, it must be because men are systemically discriminated against.

    There can be no other explanation.

  3. My bullshit meter is in the red zone on this one.

    I’m an engineer, albeit civil, not electrical or computer. In my profession, being a woman is absolutely irrelevant. Engineers base respect on merit, never gender, race, or whether you have three arms. If you know your shit, you are respected and looked up to. Plain and simple.

      1. No, it isn’t. The opinion of 84 Mac Guy has been proven to be false. Engineers may think themselves immune from humanity and human prejudices, but they are wrong.
        Sadly, I know many engineers who refuse to believe facts they don’t like. When the fact they are denying isn’t directly part of what they are building, they can get away with that.

        You get to have your own opinions, but you don’t get to have your own facts.

    1. I’ve seen companies bend over backward to bring in female engineers. Women simply don’t choose STEM careers as men do. And it has absolutely nothing to do with a “hostile work environment.” That claim is total BS.

      1. And how would you know the claim is BS? What evidence can you provide?

        I am convinced that there are many high tech environments that are hostile to women.

  4. While women should definitely be encouraged to move into I.T., we shouldn’t try to manipulate it. Some professions will always be dominated by men, and others will be dominated by women. As long as there’s no blatant discrimination at work, who cares? Let things happen naturally.

  5. Ask not why is there are no women in tech. Ask only why no women are starting “tech startups”.

    It is as simple as that. It’s not about gender, it’s about interest.

  6. I suspect that the strong majority of us MDN readers are men. I would recommend further research on this issue, rather than jumping to conclusions. I’m going to disagree with Paul. “Its about interest.” I could write more, but I will attend to family now.

  7. I understand why you want to make sure that no one is refused any opportunity to pursue the career they’d like. I don’t understand why its considered such a terrible thing if people don’t pursue the careers others think they should?

    We need more people in computer security and indeed computer science in general. A lot more. It doesn’t mater what race or gender they are. This constant banging of the we need more women drum seems rather silly to me.

    It’s like a house burning and someone saying, “Bring more pink buckets! We have too many blue buckets!”

    The other thing is that gender is supposed to be irrelevant. It seems odd to me that gender should be irrelevant, unless women are not equally represented. Then gender become vital.

    There are far more women in public relations than there are men. One of my clients is a public relations firm. Interesting place. The owner is gay and almost all employees are women. What’s that about? Should we be running around demanding that there be more men in public relations?

    Make sure people can do whatever they want.
    Then let them.

    1. “This constant banging of the we need more women drum seems rather silly to me.”

      The way I read it, it’s not saying we need fewer men or even an equal number of men/women. They’re saying, as you put it, they need BODIES to fill positions. The sound of the drum banging is “Those bodies NEED to include women because we even hiring ALL the men, we’re still going to have positions to fill.” Or using your analogy:

      “We could put this fire out quicker if we had more buckets, but there aren’t any.”

      “What about that huge stack of pink ones?”

      “I dont know, d’ya think they’d work? Can you really put out fire with a pink bucket? I’ve never used one before”

      Oh, and it’s probably “all about” money, but not interested in looking up starting salaries in PR versus IT. 🙂 well, that plus women are cheaper employees.

    2. I disagree. The fundamental difference between IT and PR is that IT is populated by socially inept participants (now this is a generalisation, of course, but is generally supported by data, as well as common sense). A healthy majority of IT engineers tend to struggle very much in the presence of women. While these men are most often exceptionally intelligent and quite aware of issues such as gender (and all other) biases and discrimination, in the presence of women, they will always feel uneasy and in the process of selection of recruits, they will always subconsciously select men with whom they feel better camaraderie. This doesn’t stop here; even when women are recruited, their work life is often quite unpleasant due to the awkward social skills of their male peers. The article mentions 50% of women in IT considering leaving their careers altogether due to the treatment at work.

      It is rather difficult to imagine that the PR industry is just a mirror image. While I can imagine a scenario where a gay owner might subconsciously select female (or other gay) candidates over hetero males (with all other things being equal), nobody in their sane mind can imagine a situation in today’s developed world where a man surrounded by many women would be intimidated by those women, regardless of their hierarchical power within the company. Such examples may exist, but are extremely rare (compared to the 50% of women who want to leave IT because of gender-related issues).

      While I can understand that girls are still brought up to be princesses and to play with dolls and dollhouses (while boys make stuff with LEGOs), and consequently don’t pick engineering careers nearly as often as men, we are NOT making it easy for the few women that DO pick engineering to enter the workforce and remain there, content with their jobs. For every one Marissa Meyer, there are ten others who are really struggling against all-male stigma…

  8. I’ve consistently found it both disturbing and unfortunate that computer fields in general have interested, or supported, or appreciated women and their skills. In many other fields, women are appreciated and sought after because of their higher attention to detail than men in general. We know the IT field has loads of doofuses, predominantly male. I often wonder if company computer security would not be significantly improved by tossing out the dazed and lazy male IT staff, replacing them with more attentive women. I support women in the computer community 100%.

    Meanwhile, the USA has a deficit of IT trained professionals, and we’re messing over women who WANT to be in the field? Grow up guys.

    1. Correction: “I’ve consistently found it both disturbing and unfortunate that computer fields in general have NOT been interested in or supported or appreciated women and their skills.

      – My brain must have been zapped by a cosmic ray when I wrote this the first time. How interesting that WordPress promptly bombed out of existence shortly thereafter. I had to dig this post out of my copy archives so I could attempt to post it again after WordPress recovered.

      Sun spots?

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