ISACA’s SheLeadsTech 2nd Day of Advocacy
More than 60 women and men gathered on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, USA, on 7 October for the SheLeadsTech’s 2nd annual Day of Advocacy. At the event, ISACA® took the opportunity to introduce the findings from its Tech Workforce 2020: The Age and Gender Perception Gap study. Featuring presentations on issues facing the tech workforce and women in the field and congressional visits, the Day of Advocacy empowered SheLeadsTech professionals to connect their own experiences with policy and expand their networks.
Keynote speaker Laura Bate, cybersecurity policy fellow at New America, spoke on the gender gap in cybersecurity and discussed practical ways to approach systematic and enterprise-level changes to how women are recruited into the field and retained as valued team members. She said, “The moral case doesn’t always work,” in the decision to invest in recruiting women. “Saying ‘because it’s a good thing to do isn’t going to convince anyone.” Speaking to positive business outcomes and showing the research that backs it up is a more compelling argument for why women should be hired, trained and promoted to ensure diversity of thought on teams.
There are many practical ways to recruit more women, Bate said, such as changing the narrative and visuals when talking about cybersecurity, for example, not using stock photos of shadowy, hoodie-clad cybercriminals and using language that promotes “going to war with adversaries,” but rather being more business-focused, speaking to the process of risk and balance that cybersecurity brings to an enterprise, which enables it to innovate. Additionally, relaxing the degree requirements for some positions, offering on-the-job training and supporting efforts to earn certifications are practical steps that enterprises can take to build their cybersecurity teams.
Beyond the ideas to improve the recruitment and development of women in the field, Bate reminded attendees that “You are only 11% of the tech workforce. It isn’t your job to change this.” Responsibility lies with human resources and visionary leadership. Hiring and training women is a strategic investment—not just a photo opportunity to show that an enterprise is committed to diversity.
A panel moderated by Gail Coury, vice president and general manager of Silverline at F5 Networks discussed the findings of the Tech Workforce 2020: The Age and Gender Perception Gap report and the realities that women often face in the technology field. In this age of instant gratification, Krysten McCabe, senior director of cybersecurity at The Home Depot, said customers’ expectations can be untenable and require self-imposed guardrails for when you are working and when you are focused on your personal life.
Panelist Anna Murray, chief executive officer (CEO) of emedia, agreed stating, “I’m not going to answer your email at 9 at night.” One guardrail McCabe uses is that she schedules emails to go out during work hours, particularly if she works in the evening to make up for time she took off in the afternoon to spend time with her kids; she points out that it sets the example to her team that she does not expect anyone to work outside of regular hours.
While the need to balance work and personal lives are a continuing challenge in the tech workforce, especially for women, all of the panelists were proud of their accomplishments, dedication to their careers and improving the industry for all women. “If you have chosen IT as your profession, then ongoing learning is your discipline,” said Sandy Silk, director of information security education and consulting at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA). Murray agrees, “There has been constant innovation and change over the last 24 years of my career, which has been constant excitement and movement.”
To be part of the conversation, join the SheLeadsTech community on Engage. Additionally, know that similar SheLeadsTech panels can be assembled to present at ISACA chapter events. For more ideas, explore the new SheLeadsTech tool kit.