Lynn Lawton, CISA, CRISC, FBCS CITP, FCA, FIIA, PIIA, Shares Her Experience In Tech
Lynn Lawton has witnessed a great deal of change since joining ISACA, especially when it comes to the role of women in the organization. She has been a member of ISACA since 1989, serving on the ISACA Northern England UK Chapter board for 10 years, including 6 years as chapter president. According to Lawton, attitudes and perspectives have definitely shifted. She recalls that, early on, in a chapter meeting, presenters wanted to demonstrate how an operating system like MSDOS worked. They used volunteers for the demonstration, and she was picked to play the part of “Miss DOS” being the only woman in the room. Since then, she has seen the diversity of ISACA’s membership increase. Though there is still more work to be done to see more women represented at both chapter and international levels, Lawton is glad she is no longer the only woman in the room.
In 2009, at the time of ISACA’s 40th anniversary, Lawton was only the second woman to serve as president of ISACA. She recalls an ISACA member who was part of the international Board of Directors commented that he was amazed at how much value women brought to the Board with their differing perspectives. It was the first time he had worked on a committee with woman members. In the last 10 years, 2 women have served as ISACA Board chair and female representation at the leadership level is much more the norm, both internationally and in chapters worldwide. Women still bring value, but the fact that it amazes is no longer relevant. Lawton sees women and men contributing at every level.
In the IT audit industry, Lawton notes that women (and men) often find themselves the only IT auditor in their roles at their organizations and that can be lonely. Lawton views ISACA as a valuable resource for anyone, regardless of gender, because it provides the opportunity to connect with others in their fields. Both women and men can discuss and debate potential issues and solutions. Leadership opportunities are available to all. ISACA’s support has always been for all members equally, but Lawton notes that the SheLeadsTech initiative has kick-started new initiatives to encourage more women to get involved and to make their potential and their leadership skills more visible. The more role models ISACA can provide, the better.
Moving Through Leadership Roles and the Skills Needed to Succeed
Lawton became ISACA international president after serving as a vice president on the international Board of Directors, a chapter president, membership secretary and Certified Information Systems Auditor® (CISA®) coordinator. Leadership follows a progression, but Lawton recommends maintaining a direct connection with members by continuing to attend local meetings as you take on progressive leadership roles at ISACA. It not only helps to keep the communication lines open; it helps build friendships and connections for years to come. Lawton continues to take her own advice and keeps communication lines open in her own life as well. She returned to the ISACA Board of Directors for a term in 2006 and currently serves on ISACA’s Governance Committee.
Challenges for Women in Tech
The challenges professional women encounter are not limited to the tech industry. Lawton believes most industries have lost out on a huge amount of talent by not recruiting women, by not supporting them through their career responsibilities and by over-relying on traditionally all-male business networks.
Legislatively, things are beginning to change. Last year, the United Kingdom enacted legislation requiring UK employers with more than 250 employees to disclose gender pay gaps and other metrics. This exposed massive pay gaps in the tech industry (and many others), driven by a combination of women being outnumbered at senior levels (even at employers where recruitment at junior grades was roughly equal) and an apparent reluctance of women to join male-dominated industries. All women need to be better at making the kind of business connections that male colleagues have always had, and communities such as ISACA help enormously, says Lawton.
Retaining Women in Tech
Lawton believes that retention in the workforce is an issue for both women and men. Both men and women should be encouraged to remain in the workforce after children are born, or other life events occur.
Focusing on women specifically… just like men, women need recognition (financial and otherwise) for their achievements, opportunities and challenges; training in the required skills; flexibility at difficult times; and an environment in which they can be themselves without fear of discrimination. Though in every field, people will leave for new pastures. Lawton does not believe there are any silver bullets for retention, but no one should feel the need to leave because someone doing the same job to the same performance standard is getting paid more or is offered better opportunities for no other reason than gender.
Advice for New Tech Professionals
Lawton has three pieces of advice for new professionals:
- Keep up to date
- Develop people skills
- Be open to new ideas
Lawton notes that in an industry that has always moved fast, the rate of change is ever increasing, so technical knowledge and keeping up to date remain important, and ISACA continues to be a prime source of information to help professionals stay current.
To lead in tech, practitioners may have to let some technical skills go in favor of soft skills. Lawton says she had to drop writing code to learn to manage people and it has helped her move up in the management chain.
Lawton observes that new ideas are important to fulfilling your potential today in a way they were not in the past. New technology offers lots of opportunities and professionals have to be open to exploring those. This applies to everyone, regardless of experience. She notes that there are professionals who entered the industry when there were no computers and have stayed employed at the same organization for more than 40 years. Lawton has seen a great deal of progress over the course of her career. As she notes, we live in a different world today. Workplaces have changed, ISACA has changed, and technology has created, and continues to create, new opportunities and challenges for both genders.
Lynn Lawton, CISA, CRISC, FBCS CITP, FCA, FIIA, PIIA, served as the international president (the position is now board chair) of ISACA® from 2007 to 2009. Currently, she is a director at KPMG LLP in London, UK, where she is responsible for risk management in KPMG’s UK consultancy practice. She has more than 20 years of experience providing IT assurance services and security advice across a range of industries. She has led teams of IT audit and security specialists engaged in activities including the IT aspects of financial statement audit and internal audit, as well as improving business and IT processes and controls and system security, system testing, benchmarking of information security, IT strategy implementation and outsourcing implementation.