Cyber security is a thriving industry that’s so cutting-edge that employers are having trouble filling job openings. In an ISSA report titled “Resolving the Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage,” Senior Information Security Officer Kerry Ann Anderson of State Street Global Advisors put it succinctly.
“The cybersecurity field is currently experiencing a growing shortage of practitioners with over a quarter-million positions remaining unfilled in the US alone and a predicted shortfall of 1.5 million cybersecurity professionals by 2019.”
This problem is only made worse by the lack of women working in the field. According to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study, only 11% of cybersecurity professionals are women. Looking only at North America, the same study finds that women make up 14% of the cyber security workforce.
We Need More Women in Cyber Security
Right now the industry has a huge demand for new workers, and we need more of them to be women! It’s not just good for teams, it’s good for business. According to a 2015 McKinsey report, companies that were “in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.”
That’s why we wanted to encourage women who’re interested in this growing field and offer them some advice from women in technology or cyber security roles. Let’s take a look at 10 pieces of excellent advice for women in cyber security.
Ann Barron-DiCamillo, Vice President, Cyber Threat Intelligence & Incident Response, American Express
Embrace new work opportunities or experiences as they come to you – they might be quite outside of your ‘job duty’ but these are the kinds of events that can lead to a new and exciting career opportunities you hadn’t considered.
Also, I’d say get experience, exposure or knowledge in the five foundations to become an effective cyber analyst or operator:
- Computer basics, including how computers work to virtualization and networking
- Linux fundamentals
- Windows fundamentals
- Programming including Python, HTML, Java
- Security basics from buffer overflows to SQL injections to the basics of finding anomalous network activities
Read More • LinkedIn
Meg Layton, Director of Engineering, Cyber Security Services
The number one piece of advice is to be flexible. Technology moves so fast — each new innovation leads to new opportunities: opportunities previously unexplored or even unimagined. The career that I have now did not even exist when I started out in this world. If you remain flexible, you can take advantage of opportunities that come your way.
Read More • LinkedIn
Lisa Kostova, Senior Director of Product, Entelo
Believe in yourselves. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Go out, build stuff, break stuff and state your ideas and opinions with confidence. And remember – those doubts and fears, they’re just in your head.
Read More • LinkedIn
Nora Mullaney, Software Engineer
Don’t be intimidated by those who seem to know more than you. It’s very easy to techno-babble at someone and seem intelligent. Never be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. It’s a great way to learn. If the person you ask can’t/won’t explain, it’s likely he/she doesn’t really understand.
Niloofar Howe, Life Member, Council on Foreign Relations
There is a lot of fodder out there about how hard it is to be a woman in technology. Ignore it. Those issues exist in most industries, especially ones that are male-dominated— law, banking, finance, etc. Human beings are flawed, and so any organization run by us will be inherently flawed. That’s okay. Don’t focus on flaws because there is no perfect organization. Instead, live at the intersection that maximizes your ability to work on things that excite you and people who inspire you. If that is in the tech sector, fantastic. We need diversity in tech— not because it’s a social good — but because diversity drives innovation, diversity drives productivity, diversity leads to better outcomes, and importantly, diversity leads to a better organizational culture.
Read More • LinkedIn
Caroline Wong, Vice President of Security Strategy at Cobalt
Women in this field say it’s actually fun, and they’re having a good time. They are feeling they are doing meaningful and impactful work and it’s deeply satisfying to them. You don’t necessarily have to have a computer science degree to contribute
Read More • LinkedIn
Megan Garcia, Senior Fellow New America, Director of New America CA
One of the biggest lessons we try and share via New America’s Women in Cybersecurity Project is that there are so many different types of jobs in the cybersecurity and information security fields. There are lawyers, communications people, policy experts, marketing professionals, along with engineers and [people in] more technical roles. And we know that the narrow stereotype of a guy coding in a hoodie keeps many women from thinking they might thrive in the field, when at the same time, so many companies need people and are actively trying to recruit women.
Read More • LinkedIn
Rinki Sethi, Director of Information Security at Palo Alto Networks
When you are new, you kind of feel lost. You get most of your experience in your first job, but when you look to the left and right and nobody looks like you, you are already intimidated. If you are new to cybersecurity, whether you’re looking for technical mentorship or peer sharing, seek out those people with whom you can meet and share stories. It could be someone you are working with that you can meet with to talk through successes or challenges. Approach somebody and let them known that you’re new or mid career. It could start even as a friend, any of those people you naturally gravitate toward, or somebody in a leadership role.
Any question you ask, whether it’s in a new role, working on a new project, or asking for a raise, you are taking a risk. Because of the possible no, women tend to not ask the question. Put yourself out there, take risks. If you are a woman who is not putting yourself out there and willing to take risks, It’s on you. You have to ask yourself, ‘Why am I not asking that question? What am I afraid of? What kind of risk am I taking here?’ The worst thing that is going to happen is that someone says no.
Read More • LinkedIn
Michele Guel, Distinguished Engineer and Chief Security Architect
When I talk to female cybersecurity professionals at industry conferences and gatherings, I often tell them to “Be bold!” Don’t be afraid to send that initial email to a company leader, go to a networking event or volunteer to be a speaker at a local school or college. The process of achieving the mission at hand – tackling the gender imbalance while elevating our leadership roles in cybersecurity – begins with us.
Read More • LinkedIn
Haiyan Song, SVP Security Markets, Splunk
The best way to break stereotypes in tech is to be comfortable in your own skin. The confidence you carry allows people to focus on the merits of your opinions and contributions. To help women break into the security industry, we need more female role models to step up and show that there are no gender-specific qualities that make a cybersecurity professional great at their job. Female cybersecurity professionals who are looking to help close the gap should offer their wealth of experience to others and mentor them through the challenges of breaking into a male-dominated industry.
Read More • LinkedIn
“Go out, build stuff, break stuff…”
There is a clear need for more talent in tech and cyber security. By encouraging more diversity in tech, we get qualified individuals from different backgrounds who can help us solve the problems of tomorrow and stand against the wave of cybercrime sweeping the world. So, as Lisa Kostova said, don’t be afraid to go out, build stuff, and break stuff.
We wanted to give a big thank you to all of the women who appear on this list. You inspire us! As more and more people seek training to become cyber security professionals, we hope that more women will take the leap and join the cyber community.
Is there a woman in tech that we missed who inspires you? Let us know in the comments below!
It’s time to talk about a tough topic. The tech industry has a serious diversity problem.
Nowhere is this more deeply felt than among black men and women. There are now fewer black women in tech than there were 10 years ago. Cyber security poses a remarkable problem, with “black or African-American” individuals making up only 3% of infosec analysts in the U.S.
While these numbers are discouraging, it’s important to remember that many people are working hard to affect change and bring more and more dedicated nonwhite experts to tech. That’s why we’re highlighting 12 prominent tech experts you may not know from history and 5 who are working to bring more talented people of color into the world of tech.
1. Granville Woods (1856-1910)
Known as “Black Edison,” he invented 15 different appliances for the electric railways and held nearly 60 patents at the time of his death. His most notable invention was the multiplex “induction telegraph,” which allowed people to communicate by voice over telegraph wires which ultimately prevented train accidents.
Woods’ title as “Black Edison” has quite the story behind it. When Woods created the multiplex telegraph, Thomas Edison tried to sue Woods. When that failed, Edison tried to make Woods a partner. Woods refused, earning him his nickname.
2. Otis Boykin (1920-1982)
A native of Dallas, Texas, Boykin graduated from Fisk College in 1941. During his professional life, he began work with the Majestic Radio and TV Corporation and later worked at P.J. Nilsen Research Laboratories.
Boykin was a prolific inventor who had 26 patents by the time of his death. His most notable inventions include a wire precision resistor used in televisions, radios, IBM computers, and even in military missiles. Perhaps one of the most notable uses of his work, however, was his control unit for the pacemaker. This invention allowed the pacemaker to be more precisely regulated.
3. Melba Roy Mouton (1929-1990)
In the wake of the movie, Hidden Figures, groundbreaking mathematicians Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan are finally getting the credit they’re due for calculating the equations that let men like Neil Armstrong get to space.
Melba Roy Mouton is another prominent mathematician whose work was essential at NASA. She served as one of NASA’s human, “computers,” beginning her career as a mathematician and working her way up to being Head Computer Programmer and then Program Production Section Chief at Goddard Space Flight Center. Roy’s computations helped produce the orbital element timetables which allowed millions to see the satellite from Earth as it passed overhead.
4. Meredith Gourdine (1929-1998)
Meredith Charles “Flash” Gourdine was a triple threat as an athlete, engineer, and physicist. One of his earliest accomplishments was winning a silver medal at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering in 1953 and a doctorate in engineering from the California Institute of Technology where he worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In 1994, he was inducted into the Dayton, Ohio Engineering and Science Hall of Fame. Later, he would serve as a Trustee of Cornell University and be elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
5. Annie J. Easley (1933 –2011)
Easley began her career as one of four black employees at NASA (then named National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics or NACA) in a squad of 2500. She became a leading member of the team that developed the software for the Centaur rocket stage. It’s important to note that this was all during a time when she had to navigate Jim Crow laws to be able to vote. She passed and helped others prepare for the onerous “literacy test.”
During a career that spanned three decades, she developed and implemented computer code that analyzed alternative power technologies, supported the Centaur high-energy upper rocket stage, and identified energy conversion systems and alternative systems to that were used to solve energy problems
6. Frank Greene (1938-2009)
Standing alongside tech giants like Robert Noyce, David Packard, William Hewlett, and the Varian brothers as one of 63 inductees into the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame, Greene is often hailed as one of the “first black technologists.” Greene grew up in the highly segregated St. Louis of the 1950s, where he said, “making it through life was a civil-rights activity in itself.”
He was the first black cadet to make it through U.S. Air Force ROTC program in 1961 and later became an Air Force captain. His career also included developing high-speed semiconductor computer-memory systems at Fairchild Semiconductor R&D Labs in the 1960s and starting two technology companies. Later, he founded NewVista Capital, a venture firm focused on firms led by minority and female professionals.
7. Roy Clay Sr. (1929-present)
Known as the “Godfather of Silicon Valley,” Clay grew up in Ferguson, MO and became one of the first men to attend Saint Louis University in 1946. He graduated in 1951 with a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics. He started his work in computer programming in the fifties, back when computers took up entire rooms where he worked on writing software that demonstrated how particles of radiation would spread through the atmosphere after an atomic explosion.
In the early 1970’s, during the birth of modern Silicon Valley, a venture capital firm selected Mr. Clay as a computer consultant. He became a key figure in the development of Hewlett-Packard’s computer divisions and actually led the team that engineered HP’s entrance into the computer market.
8. Marc Regis Hannah (1956-present)
If you liked the graphics in a major motion picture in the late 80’s or early 90’s, you have Marc Regis Hannah to thank. An electrical engineer and computer graphics designer, Marc Regis Hannah graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology before earning his MS and PhD from Stanford University in 1978 and 1985 respectively.
He co-founded Silicon Graphics in the 1980’s and was named the company’s principal scientist. They went on to create programs used in movies like Jurassic Park, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Hunt for Red October, and Field of Dreams. This technology was later used by George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic to create Terminator 2.
9. Guion Bluford (1942-present)
Best known as the first “African American man in Space,” Bluford was actually a decorated Air Force pilot in the Vietnam War long before he ever joined NASA. He flew 144 combat missions and received several medals including the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm.
Bluford became a NASA astronaut in August of 1979 and made history as a mission specialist for the Challenger launch in 1983. He made a second trip to space in the 1980’s before the tragic Challenge explosion of 1986. After which, Bluford received an MBA from the University of Houston, Clear Lake. He returned to space in 1991, completing 134 orbits in 199 hours. He returned to space one last time aboard the Discovery.
10. Valerie Thomas (1943-present)
Do you like seeing images from the vastness of space? If so, it’s Valerie Thomas you have to thank for it. From 1964 to 1995, Thomas worked for NASA where she developed computer data systems, conducted large-scale experiments, and managed various operations, projects, and facilities.
While managing a project for NASA’s image processing systems, Thomas’ team spearheaded the development of the first satellite to send images from space. The technology developed by Thomas is used by NASA to this day. Scientists are currently exploring how to use this in surgical tools and even television and video.
11. Mae Jemison (1956-present)
Less than 10 years after Bluford’s first foray into space, Mae Jemison became the first black woman to go into space. Truly a renaissance woman, Jemison completed medical school and then served in the Peace Corps from 1985-1987.
Inspired in part by the performance of Nichelle Nichols as Uhura in Star Trek, Jemison applied to NASA in 1983. After being slightly delayed by the tragic Challenger explosion, Jemison was accepted and flew her only space mission in 1992, as a Mission Specialist on a cooperative mission between the United States and Japan. Over her storied career, she has worked as a dancer, writer, philanthropist, and the only real-life astronaut to ever appear on Star Trek.
12. Dr. Mark Dean (1957-present)
Gifted early on, taking advanced math courses in elementary school, Mark Dean is one of the most prominent black inventors in computer science. With a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD in electrical engineering, he began his work at IBM in the 1980’s and was instrumental in the creation of the Personal Computer (PC) with three of IBM’s original nine PC patents. Through his career, he has helped IBM make instrumental changes in the research and application of systems technology from circuits to operating environments. One of his most recent inventions came while leading the team that produced the 1-Gigahertz chip.
Black Tech Experts Making the World Better Today
Despite the fact that diversity in the tech field leaves much to be desired, there are a multitude of dedicated professionals working hard to reverse this trend and bring new talent into the fold.
If you’re looking for inspiration, this list of 100 black women in tech is a great addition to your Twitter feed while reading up on these 14 black tech leaders to watch is sure to provide much needed-inspiration.
As events like Afrotech surface and this month’s very first Black Women Talk Tech are paving the way for talented black tech newbies to find mentorship and inspiration, here are five tech leaders currently working hard to make the world of tech more diverse and accepting.
1. Kimberly Bryant
An electrical engineer whose career has touched everything from electrical companies to biotechnology, Bryant is working hard to increase the number of women of color in STEM fields with her company Black Girls Code.
The program teaches computer programming to school-age girls in after-school and summer programs with the goal of teaching one million black girls to code by 2040. Bryant was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion in 2013 and voted one of the 25 Most Influential African-Americans In Technology by Business Insider.
2. John Thompson
With an impressive resume that includes working for companies such as IBM, Symantec, and Microsoft, Thompson began his career as a salesperson at IBM and rose to become general manager of IBM Americas over his 28-year career.
Today, he has become influential as a board member of Microsoft and major investor in tech. His focus? Increasing diversity and stopping hackers dead in their tracks.
3. Eric Osborn
A father and founder of the nonprofit HERE Seattle, Eric Osborn’s goal is to create paths to tech for young black and Latino boys the way many other programs are doing for young girls. The initiative aims to reach boys who are underrepresented in the tech field and underserved by other programs.
I really want to make people think about young Black and Latino males. No one is putting any real effort into them. Literally when people think of young Black and Latino males they think of programs to keep us out of jail.
4. Majora Carter
Majora Carter was named one of the 100 most creative people in business by Forbes in 2010. Today, she continues her focus on urban revitalization and her other passions within New York City’s software development community.
Carter is the co-founder and CEO of Start Up Box: SouthBronx, which strives to increase opportunities for the South Bronx community to be a part of the tech economy.
5. Marlon Nichols
Co-founder and managing partner at Cross Culture Venture, Marlon Nichols is a venture capitalist focused on, “cultural investing.” What is cultural investing? Well, as Nichols explains it in this interview from Afrotech as follows.
“. . . we study popular culture as a way to understand consumer behavior. And we do that as a way to predict what’s going to happen in the future . . . And then from the diversity or underserved perspective, those groups are growing in numbers and the spending power has always been ridiculous.”
Nichols was named to the Silicon Republic’s list of 26 venture capital professionals spearheading change in technology investing and has earned a number of other accolades including the Digital Diversity’s Innovation & Inclusion Change Agent award, and being named a member of Registry’s 40 under 40 Top Diverse Talent.
Diversity in Tech: Looking Forward
It’s important to remember that though tech may have a diversity problem, it’s never been because of a lack of talent, expertise, or know-how from black professionals. From inventors to astronauts to venture capitalists, black tech experts will continue to make a huge impact on the industry from now into the future. As the skills gap continues to grow in tech, it’s time to make a change and do more to encourage talented professionals from all backgrounds into the fold.