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March 13, 2018
Shattering the Cyber Security Glass Ceiling
March 13, 2018
In March, the world celebrates Women’s History Month, recognizing the female pioneers who have helped to make strides in every industry, shattering the glass ceiling as they go. Unfortunately, it is during this month that news surfaced regarding the lack of female speakers at this year’s RSA Conference, reigniting the debate about the shortage of women in the cyber security industry.Reports indicate that of the 20 scheduled RSA keynotes, only one will be given by a woman: Monica Lewinsky, an anti-bullying advocate in the aftermath of the President Clinton impeachment scandal.The RSA Conference combatted the news reports by saying that while the keynote schedule is not finalized, 130 women will be presenting on other topics in less prominent settings. In the meantime, women have taken to social media to voice their opinion on this concerning headline."It's not just RSA but all of the conferences, or at least 99 percent of them," Melanie Ensign, Uber's head of security and privacy communications said in a statement to The Register. "But the latest keynote list was the straw that broke the camel's back. All you have to do is try, it's not that hard to create a diverse conference, so we're calling bullshit on the excuse."Whether or not a new keynote schedule is in the works, it’s certain that there is a larger issue regarding the lack of diversity in cyber security, in terms of gender and beyond.Google Engineering Director Parisa Tabriz makes an excellent point, “If you’re building security and privacy for everyone, you have to account for a huge spectrum of people’s circumstances and concerns about their data. You also need to take advantage of the full spectrum of talents and perspectives available if you want to come up with the best solutions. Today, women and other marginalized groups are regularly underrepresented across the industry. We have to do better.”Research from 2017 indicates that women only make up 11 percent of the information security workforce, a number that has remained stagnant since 2013. As the cyber security skills gap continues to grow, organizations such as the Girl Scouts of America and Girls Who Code have made efforts to bring young women in the field.Likewise, the lack of diversity of this year's RSA Conference has led to the creation of an alternate conference "Our Security Advocates Conference," or OURSA, which will be held on April 17th at the San Francisco offices of computer security company Cloudflare.It’s clear that despite the lack of women in the field, the women currently in cyber are passionate and have used this as an opportunity to take a stand; a stand we’re hoping leads to change.That said, one can only assume where the barrier between women and tech careers lies, but a number of reasons like education, awareness, and discrimination seem to play a critical role. Here at Cybrary, it is our mission to provide free IT and cyber security learning to everyone, at any time, anywhere. In fact, courses by female instructors like Georgia Weidman and Kelly Handerhan are some of the most popular on Cybrary.Awareness of the potential jobs available and access to resources needed for those jobs is where we can start as an industry. We often speak about how security must be ingrained in the culture of an organization in order for those initiatives to be successful. So too, must practices for diversity and acceptance.Companies should not only seek to attract more women, but to retain and promote them, as they should with all employees. Although it may sound easier said than done, it starts with providing skill-based training meant to move all employees progressively down their career path. Adopting a proactive approach where continuous learning is a part of employees expected responsibilities encourages growth and retention.