It is no secret that the Infosec industry is predominantly male, with almost 90% of employees being men (according to a recent survey.) But even as we write this post, things are slowly changing and there is more talk about the “gender gap” than there is about the “skills gap” (a quick question for an industry filled with bright minds – if there is a skills gap and not enough male employees to fill it, doesn’t it make sense to recruit and train more women?) At least in our small company, things are very different. In fact, at SenseCy, women comprise over 50% of the workforce and we are recruiting more every month.
We gathered our female cyber analysts for a joint interview to discuss their views on the industry, the challenges they face and to decide once and for all why should women find Infosec interesting?
What Do You Like About Your Job?
Most of us agree that we like working in this dynamic field, where we find ourselves learning something new every day. It is exciting to work in such a fast-paced environment. We love accumulating more knowledge and feel that each feed, project, post, etc. contributes to our understanding of the field.
We also love that everything we do here is also relevant and applicable to our personal daily lives.
“Even” the technical stuff is becoming more interesting to those of us who do not have a technological background as it is put into context and the more we learn, the more interesting it gets. We also feel that we are part of the “good guys” (/girls), fighting for a good cause.
Sheila: “I am the first Turkish cyber analyst at SenseCy; I tell everybody this and I am very proud to hold this title. Over time, as I delve deeper into topics and follow the news on these issues, then the technological knowledge helps me and becomes more interesting. When I do not understand something, I find it boring, but when I understand it is more interesting, because it makes sense to me.”
Do You Think You Are Viewed Differently As a Woman Working in This Industry?
Tanya: “We moved offices the other day and while I was using an electric screwdriver to disassemble my desk, three guys came up to me offering to do the exact same job I was already doing…”
While we agree that it is true that most computer classes are taken by boys, and even though most of us come from Intelligence and have less of a technological background, we still take courses and learn all the time, so it is not something that is “impossible” for women to learn. On the contrary, there is so much information, so many forums, blogs and tutorials, where one can learn and ask questions. Information is readily available for those having the motivation to learn.
Sadly, there is a preconception today amongst youth – both boys and girls – that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professions are “just too hard.” This should change. We should bring computer science to “the people”, so that more people will strive to acquire knowledge in the field, and women can really contribute toward achieving this goal (for example in projects like “Girls Who Code“.)
As evidenced in our team composition, “Cyber” is a very broad term and there are many different opportunities in the field for people with different expertise and backgrounds.
Tanya: “I think that part of the social differences are biologically inherent, but at the same time, from a younger age girls are less drawn or encouraged to study computers.”
Gal: “I do not think computers require masculine thinking; women used to be the predominant workforce in the field before things changed.”
There is no doubt that men and women are viewed differently. There are subtle assumptions that we all make, even if we are not fully aware of them. So it is important to be more aware of our behavior and underlying assumptions. Therefore, such posts and conversations can raise awareness and contribute to advancing women in the field.
It is sometimes a matter of perception – when we think about an Infosec professional, the image that comes to mind is that of the uber-geek typing complex code lines on the computer. But this could change to accommodate other images that include women. This could change the mind-set of girls and women pursuing a career path in Information Security and also the perception of employers of possible candidates for the job.
Balancing Home and Office
Today’s global markets and the mobile BYOD technological environment have both advantages and disadvantages. For mothers (and fathers) it allows more flexibility as they can work from home. That said, for some of us it helps to disconnect once we are home, like for Hila. Gal says she needs the balance between home and work, and going back to work after childbirth kept her sane: “SenseCy (then Terrogence) is a great workplace for new mothers. They offered me a lot of flexibility and really did their best to accommodate my needs. I worked from home for two months and now I work a half day and clock more hours in the evening. They also hired me when I was seven months pregnant. I think it pays companies to invest in mothers, as they will be very committed to their job.”
Nine-to-five working hours are outdated and managers should look at achievements at work rather than just the hours employees put in. Unless there is something urgent, our managers do not mind when and where we do our job, as long as we do it well and meet deadlines.
The two mothers in the group agree that work is their resting time (we can drink coffee, use the restroom and talk to adults.)
Do We Actually Need More Women in Cyber? And if so, How Can We Encourage Them to Join Us?
Tatiana says that the requirements for the job are sometimes very high and it is not suitable for everyone. You have to invest a lot of time studying and always stay updated on what is going on.
Hila says we need more people in general in IS, while Tanya thinks it is best to have a 50%-50% work environment.
Yotam (SenseCy’s Sales and Marketing manager, who helped record the interview, but could not resist jumping in) says: “Women must be part of the solution, because cyber security is a global issue that affects all of us. We are all targets for hackers, so if 50% of the population is excluded from the discussion, it will be very difficult to make a difference. Also, I think women are more patient and responsible, so they are up for the job.”
Cyber security is a problem in all sections of the population and in different industries, so we must all be aware of the dangers.
Gal (responding to Tatiana’s comment): “I think most women underestimate themselves and do not apply for jobs with high requirements, while men try anyway. Also, we ask for lower salaries.”
Tanya: “It is not just us; sometimes employers have a lower motivation to hire women of child-bearing age, because they know they will have to deal with maternity leave and children, etc.”
Gal: “It is also our mind-set that must change; women today often start families in their thirties, so we have a decade to invest in our career and to gain an advantage in our field of occupation. Sandberg said ‘Don’t leave before you leave.’ I see a lot of young women already planning their career path according to their pre-existing children. I think that is a mistake. Make use of this time to acquire an interesting well-paid profession.”
Tanya: “I think that sometimes women should carefully plan the balance between career and family life, as in our competitive society slowing down in the career race can put future promotions at risk. This is especially true for women who want to have more than one child and allocate time to stay home with them.”
Tanya continues: “I feel that today women are encouraged to invest more in their careers and if I talk about children, they look at me awkwardly. A lot of women postpone having families because of their careers. For me, ‘feminism’ is more about being able to make your own choice, and not about doing everything that a man does.”
Hila: “There are financial considerations – sometimes it has nothing to do with feminism. Today, in most families both parents have to work to survive financially.”
Sheila: “I came here because of my Turkish skills, but stayed and learned other skills.”
Hila: “I came straight from the military, where I felt that men ran everything. Here at SenseCy, I do not feel that this is the case.”
Tatiana: “I think we should start educating our girls from an early age.”
Gal: “I feel that SenseCy has more diversity compared to other Israeli hi-tech companies. It is very interesting and inspiring to work in such a heterogeneous company with so many different language speakers and a balance between men and women. What I would love to see more of in the future is more women taking a role in leading this field as managers and entrepreneurs.”