Author – Cairo Malet
As International Women’s Day draws closer, I’ve been thinking a lot about the theme of “leave no woman behind” and how this plays out in my own life and career.
As everyone knows, Information Security as an industry is lacking in women – we make up only 10% of the workforce worldwide. But I like to think (and I may be biased here) that what we lack in numbers, we make up for in enthusiasm! The InfoSec women I have gotten to know over the past three years are not just working to get a foot in the door, they are jamming their feet down and holding that door open for other women to follow.
There are so many big and little ways I see this going on and it doesn’t always get recognised so I’m taking this chance to shout out some of the fantastic ways I see women supporting each other:
1. Strength in numbers.
One of the hardest things I found about breaking into the InfoSec industry was how intimidating networking events could be. Being a newbie is hard enough as is, but being the only woman in a room full of 100 men is like upping the difficulty to torment mode. Inviting other women along to networking events, making sure we all have a couple of familiar faces in the room and facilitating introductions goes a long way to making events more inclusive, particularly for younger women and students who are just trying to find their way.
2. Providing practical support
I’ve met a lot of people in InfoSec who are very encouraging – they will tell you you’re fantastic and can do anything you put your mind to. But a lot of women I know are taking that to a whole new level. They don’t just say “you should definitely talk at that conference!” They tell you to talk at the conference, then they help you rehearse your content, provide feedback and will turn up to the event to be a friendly face in the audience. That level of investment doesn’t just stroke the ego and make us think we can do anything, it develops our skills and confidence so we KNOW we can do anything!
3. Sometimes, they just “get it”
Okay, this one might be a bit knaff but being a woman in a male-dominated industry can be maddening sometimes. And don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of supportive men who are totally on board with my feminist ranting. But, let’s face it, a lot of the barriers women face can be invisible to those who don’t experience them directly. Sometimes, after a long day of having your expertise questioned or your physical appearance remarked upon, it can be a real relief to share that experience with a female colleague and not have to explain why it was so frustrating. They really do just get it because they have been there, done that, bought the t-shirt – and that t-shirt probably didn’t fit because the sizes were “unisex” and we all know that actually means it’s made for men. That unspoken understanding is so, so valuable when it comes to sticking with the work we love, despite the hardships it may bring.
These, and so many other amazing ways I see women supporting each other, are one of the reasons I’m absolutely overjoyed to be not just an AWSN member but also one of the Chapter Leads for the Perth group. So bring on International Women’s Day and let’s aim to not just stop leaving women behind, but to bring the girls right up to the front too.