A lot of people wonder why there need to be woman-focused spaces in tech. I was one of those people for a very long time. I avoided them for the first decade and a half of my InfoSec career. What on earth would I have to gain? But I was surprised to see how much there was for me to learn from women who\u2019ve chosen a similar career path.I blanch at being called \u201cwoman\u201d in much the same way as I do being called \u201cexpert.\u201d While both are accurate, there are significant implications to both that feel very uncomfortable for me. Experts are supposed to be pretty nigh infallible, but I know enough to understand how much I still don\u2019t know about security. And there are a ton of things women are \u201csupposed\u201d to like or to do, which I strenuously avoid: I wouldn\u2019t know fashion if it came up and bit me on the rump, and I am barely passable at putting on makeup or styling my hair. I wouldn\u2019t be caught dead dancing, baby humans kind of freak me out, and \u201cchick flicks\u201d bore me to tears. Because of this, I\u2019ve often found myself feeling very much alone in groups of women.Before joining my first tech company, I had been in an industry that was almost entirely populated by women. While the work itself was deeply satisfying, I seldom felt any sort of camaraderie with my colleagues because I had almost nothing to add to communal conversations. And when you\u2019re employed in an industry where seasonal layoffs are a natural part of the job, being the person least connected to the group means you\u2019re almost always the first to be let go even if you\u2019re very good at your job.In tech, my relationship to coworkers changed, if only slowly. I still felt like an outsider among my now predominantly male coworkers, but this has seldom been a negative experience. Having wide swaths of shared interests and something to add to the conversation made me feel that my presence was a welcome one. I finally found a group I connected with in a work setting, including even the occasional female colleague. So why would I want to step out of that comfort zone to seek out larger groups of women again?It wasn\u2019t until a friend persuaded me to accompany her to an Executive Women\u2019s Forum meeting that I started catching a glimpse of the answer to that question. I expected there to be a scant handful of women in attendance, given the female-to-male ratios I\u2019m accustomed to seeing at conferences. While the percentage of women in Information Security is abysmally low, when you actually put a bunch of us together in the same room, it adds up to a lot more people than I would have expected. (And in reality, it\u2019s not just women there either; I can think of few such meetings that didn\u2019t include at least a few men, and they\u2019re warmly welcomed.)What I found at that first meeting totally defied my expectations. Instead of feeling like an outlier, I had found a group whose interests and experiences were very similar to my own.Because it needs clarifying, \u201csimilar experiences\u201d is not a euphemism for man-bashing or complaining about how everything is unfair when you\u2019re a woman. And while no gender has a monopoly on any one trait or set of behaviors, the way people are socialized into treating men and women \u2013 especially those who have chosen a non-traditional career \u2013 means we are often presented with a similar set of gender-specific hoops to jump through. Hearing how others have negotiated those obstacles is incredibly informative, and it ignited my desire to revisit this experience.Beyond that, being that one-in-a-dozen person in a group can be a surprising drain on your energy. It was tiring to be the invisible \u201cnon-girly\u201d girl when I worked with women, and it can be taxing to be the hyper-visible female working with men. Being in a group of people who share my vocation as well as my interests, and who are more demographically similar to me, is a more energy-neutral state. Having that extra level of shared experience is a lot like returning home after traveling abroad: having to sustain that extra mental energy needed to translate your language or cultural references is a burden you\u2019re seldom aware of until it has come and gone.And the emergency-oriented, \u201calways on\u201d nature of our work is pretty draining even on a good day. Finding your \u201ctribe within a tribe\u201d can go a long way towards neutralizing the burnout we all must negotiate, regardless of gender, in this career.