Why cybersecurity needs women

Business problems can be solved with greater efficiency and deliver a better solution when women play a critical role.

Group of diverse women standing lined up in a row
Credit: Thinkstock

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the IT Security ONE2ONE Summit in Austin, Texas, organized by Reed Exhibitions. At the summit, I was asked to deliver a podcast for the new IT Security ONE2ONE Summit Podcast Series featuring industry insiders discussing today’s most pressing issues.

While I could do any topic that I wanted, I opted to explore “Women in Cybersecurity” in a way that hasn’t been done before.

nancy rodriguez

Nancy Rodriguez

During the summit, I had met Nancy Rodriguez, the Global PCI Program Director from PHILIPS in Somerset, N.J. I wanted to get her viewpoints about women in cybersecurity and how they could be successful rather than the predictable perspective of the lack of women in cybersecurity and the predictable stereotypes.

My overall goal was to focus on a solution on how to be successful as a woman in cybersecurity. When Nancy and I sat down at a quiet table with Podcast Producer Joseph Vella in the vendor booth area of the Omni Barton Creek Resort facing two microphones and a recorder, I started asking Nancy a series of questions where she talked about her incredible history.  

During the podcast, I was surprised by the fact that the conversation became thought provoking and inspirational. The responses Nancy gave began hitting home for me, because I have witnessed my wife experience gender disparity during her executive career and I have concern for my 17-year-old daughter that I do not want her to go through the same challenges that her mom, Nancy, and others have faced during their career.

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The truth and the politically correct thing to say here is that I never gave it a second thought that I was enjoying a conversation with a peer—my equal, but I was humbled to reach the conclusion we are not equal at all. For instance, I never gave it a second thought that I grew up in a world that engineering was a natural fit for a man with very little concern of rejection. Teachers would assume that I could solve math and science problems with ease, while the experiences of women were directed to “home economics,” where science and math was not their direction, and they were stereotyped into different business categories.  

While I consider myself successful, I view women, like Nancy Rodriguez, far more successful than me, because they have conquered far more odds to be in the field of cybersecurity than I will ever face.

Women are an absolute necessity in the field of cybersecurity, because we not only need their critical thinking skills, their journey of a difficult path to success brings perspective personally and professionally to this line of work. After being at the helm for a variety of Chief-level positions, I have learned that business problems can be solved with greater efficiency and deliver a better solution when women play a critical role.

When collective thinking is enabled across a diverse team, a variety of options are viewed that can deliver an overall better solution to a business problem. While my intent of the podcast was not to explore the lack of women in cybersecurity, but rather the success of women in cybersecurity, I found myself doing an “about face” and realizing that I want to encourage other Chiefs to embrace women on your teams and give them the same opportunity as a man. Please do not patronize them by giving women special treatment or view them as a candidate to “round-out” your team of men, but look at women to be a business enablers, problem solvers, and leaders. They have earned a spot at the table.

Link for podcast

What are you doing to support Women in Cybersecurity? Sound off…..

A special thanks to Jim Routh (Global CISO at Aetna) for his support for women in cybersecurity and reviewing this blog.

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