Women’s Day Special: Top Female Executives Unravel the Biggest Challenges Facing their Companies
It’s International Women’s Day today and we are celebrating the event by promoting the top voices in the IT and Cloud Security industry via insights, interviews and featured articles. In our IWD chat series, we spoke to:
- Heather Paunet, Senior Vice President at Untangle
- Judy Sunblade, Vice President, Revenue Growth & Enablement at WhiteHat Security
- Amy Abatangle, Chief Marketing Officer at Netdata
- Isabelle Dumont, Vice President of Market Engagement at Cowbell Cyber
- Jennifer Geisler, CMO at Vectra
Here is what each of these female executives from IT and Cloud Security companies had to say about the top challenges and opportunities in the tech industry.
In cybersecurity, something that is absolutely key is a multi-layered security approach.
Heather Paunet, Senior Vice President at Untangle:
I’m seeing more women in cybersecurity roles over the last few years. For example, here at Untangle, which is a cybersecurity company, three of the Untangle executive team are women, and we outnumber the two men. We have female engineers and a pretty good balance of male to female employees across other functions.
Having mixed genders in leadership roles in security gives the right balance of perspectives. Just like any activity, or any type of group, the dynamic changes if there are only men, or if there are only women. There’s no point pretending, there are differences in the way men tackle problems vs the way women tackle problems. Of course, not everyone fits those trends, but there are differences that apply in general.
In cybersecurity, something that is absolutely key is a multi-layered security approach. You can’t necessarily secure a network with just one security product. To keep data, assets, and people using any network safe, it is much better to apply a multi-faceted approach. In a similar way, when considering who to have on a cybersecurity team, diversification and having different perspectives will give a broader, more well-rounded approach.
It’s inspiring also to see prominent names, such as a lady who recently inspired me, Tarah Wheeler, who is a cybersecurity expert and also the author of Women in Tech. She has a strong image, fantastic presentation skills, and talks in a down-to-earth manner on her well-researched materials.
To succeed, young women require the same things they need in all other areas of their careers and in their lives in general, which is a passion to do something they believe in. It’s an easy sell to many women that working within cybersecurity is not just high tech, it’s a way to be part of something that makes the world a better place. Whilst, of course it would be much better if there weren’t hackers, and people trying to make money with ransomware and steal information they are not meant to, being a part of blocking that and keeping people’s assets safe and secure is very satisfying.
I’d advise young women to research and find presentations by Tarah Wheeler, a prominent cybersecurity expert who did the keynote at Spice World 2020. Seeing other women in prominent roles can inspire others and show them that it’s totally possible for them to succeed too.
At WhiteHat, more than 60% of the executive leadership team are women.
Judy Sunblade, Vice President, Revenue Growth & Enablement at WhiteHat Security:
Cybersecurity is a growing industry and women are realizing that it is a great field to get into. In previous years, women have shied away from cybersecurity because of its technical nature. Recently, I have seen an increase in the number of women entering the cybersecurity workforce. At WhiteHat, more than 60% of the executive leadership team are women. I got involved in cybersecurity by following my passion of helping high growth organizations to accelerate their sales by implementing sales best practices and a robust revenue enablement process. It was important to me to find a company whose culture and sales philosophy matched mine, and that includes empowering women to be workforce leaders.
In terms of advice for young women looking to enter the field, definitely check out jobs in cybersecurity. Don’t shy away from cybersecurity because of the misconceptions of it being too technical. Yes, there are technical positions but it is a business. There are plenty of other positions in finance, marketing, sales, enablement, operations, customer success and human resources to look at. It’s an ever-changing industry with a plentitude of opportunities. Don’t miss out on a growing industry because it doesn’t seem like a traditional path for you.
At a young age, there are different expectations of girls and boys as it pertains to STEM. Continuing to fight for equality for girls, young women and women in all aspects will make it easier for them to capitalize on careers in tech.
Cybersecurity, data privacy, compliance and related fields are very attractive in general as companies compete to bring in top talent.
Amy Abatangle, Chief Marketing Officer at Netdata:
The number of women in cybersecurity has increased in recent years. According to a recent report by (ISC)², men still outnumber women by nearly 3 to 1. However, many trends are going in the right direction, with more women reaching the most senior positions and more women in staff positions being younger and more educated. As the workplace continues to reflect generational shifts, the gap between women in men in cybersecurity is starting to narrow.
Cybersecurity, data privacy, compliance and related fields are very attractive in general as companies compete to bring in top talent to address the ever-growing and evolving threats they face. As breaches grab headlines every day, the topic of cybersecurity gains more attention and mindshare with a new generation of talented individuals who are looking to be at the forefront of the technology industry, women and men alike. Many companies are also making new commitments to diversity and inclusion initiatives to address existing inequities.
While there is still a lot of work to be done, there has never been a better time for women who are looking to work in cybersecurity and related disciplines. The shifts that are already underway will only continue to accelerate as new generations of women who grew up online seek to bring their perspectives and talents to the field.
There are terrific resources out there and available at every skill level, often with eager, engaged communities around them. Not only are there certification paths that can level the playing field, but there are also resources for individuals who are self-taught to level up their skills, from hands-on practice environments to open-source tools. Finding a mentor can be difficult, but can also be invaluable. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others in your field and explicitly ask for their advice. Many people are willing to share their time and expertise.
There will be more women role models and mentors to encourage more women to join this exciting profession.
Jennifer Geisler, CMO at Vectra:
Women in cybersecurity workforce has grown over recent years along with women filling in the ranks. Today, twenty-four percent of the cybersecurity workforce are women. A stronger indicator of growth is that 45% of these women are millennials! Each generation is paving the way for the next. There will be more women role models and mentors to encourage more women to join this exciting profession. With the availability of credible online cybersecurity courses, women can work around other demands to get training. There is greater demand for cybersecurity professionals than they are people to fill them. This naturally forces people to look beyond any subconscious bias and be purely focused on getting the right person in the right role.
My advice for young women looking to enter into cybersecurity includes:
- Go for it! Cybersecurity is great career for women who like to solve problems, hunt down cybercriminals, protect people and assets, test resiliency and/or teach others. There are over 20 different rolesin cybersecurity so you have lots of options. So don’t disqualify yourself because you think you don’t meet a generalized description. Play to your strengths and identify the role that is right for you. With over 2900 entry level jobs posted on Indeed, there is plenty of opportunity.
- Ask for help. Flattering works so reach out to cybersecurity professionals – both male and female – and ask for 30 minutes to learn from them. You can also contact one of many Women in Cybersecurity groups such as The SANS CyberTalent Women’s Immersion Academy, The Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC), Women in Cybersecurity, The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and StudiesFor a comprehensive list visit the NICCS Women and Minorities Webpage.
- Ask for financial aid. There are scholarships in support of cybersecurity education such as the Ralph W. Shrader Graduate Diversity Scholarship, AFCEA War Veterans Scholarships,and the International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals. Some companies will help pay for you to cross-train into cybersecurity or fund continued education.
At the leadership level, however, the transition for women executives remains slow.
Isabelle Dumont, Vice President of Market Engagement at Cowbell Cyber:
These days, everybody is coming to grips with the reality that cybersecurity touches every aspect of our personal and professional lives. As new graduates join the workforce, and cybersecurity transforms itself to use innovative technologies like artificial intelligence, we slowly see more cybersecurity positions getting filled by women. At the leadership level, however, the transition remains slow.
Cybersecurity is not a monolithic industry. I would invite women and newcomers to explore some of the new segments that are exploding as the market matures and evolves to address security more holistically. For example, cyber insurance offers a wide range of opportunities in underwriting, actuarial, or brokerage. Cybersecurity awareness training is another segment that is taking centerstage with the need to raise awareness how to apply security best practices on the internet.