International Women’s Day: Inspiring Inclusion in Cyber

This International Women’s Day, we talk to leading female executives in the cyber industry about the realities of the gender gap in tech today

On the 8th of March each year, the world comes together to celebrate International Women’s Day, honouring the remarkable achievements of women across social, economic, cultural, and political spheres. 

Dating back to the inaugural celebrations in 1911, this year’s theme Inspire Inclusion — a focus that champions diversity and empowerment not only for International Women's Day 2024 but also for the future. Highlighting the pivotal role of inclusion in the journey towards gender equality, this campaign urges action to dismantle barriers, challenge stereotypes, and foster environments where every woman feels valued and respected. When women feel included, there’s a profound sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment. 

Looking to lift up some incredible women working in cyber? Check out the Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards.

“This event is really a testament to the growing importance a diverse and inclusive culture brings to effective cybersecurity,” celebrates Aurorah Cheney, Security Strategy & Growth Director at BT

“Having a wide range of talent across a number of backgrounds enriches problem solving, gives diverse perspectives and most importantly drives solutions that allow us to remain at the forefront of cyber security evolution.”

Technology remains a male dominated industry — according to Women in Tech, women account for around 26% of people working in IT today. Looking at the wider STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workforce, women make up only 24%. Get Safe Online reports that 38% of female students looking to enter the tech and cybersecurity sector don’t believe there are enough role models for women, citing lack of opportunities (46%), male bias (37%), and pay inequality (29%) as the most commonly cited barriers to entry.

“Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by cybercrime and online harm – and therefore those who best understand the issue,” says Charlotte Hooper, Head of Operations at The Cyber Helpline

“We’re in the prime position to bring the issue to light and understand what needs to be done, advocating for necessary actions and addressing and mitigating the challenges women and girls face online every day.”

At Cyber Digital, we’ve had the privilege of conversing with some incredible women who are at the forefront of promoting gender diversity in the cyber sphere. They generously share their insights and offer advice to fellow women in the field this International Women’s Day.

Mikala Vidal, Chief Revenue Officer at Phylum 

Mikala Vidal, Chief Revenue Officer at Phylum

Mikala Vidal is a go-to-market storyteller at her core, with almost two decades of experience growing business, partnerships and revenue for both startups and established companies. She has a proven track record of building market awareness, creating engaging product experiences, nurturing users through genuine touchpoints and building lasting relationships.

“I’ve been working in cybersecurity for more than a decade. I have experienced being the only female executive, the only woman in a company, and the only woman in the boardroom.

“Like many other women in this field, that has led to struggles with imposter syndrome and feelings of inadequacy at times. It’s hard not to feel that way when you feel underrepresented, but it also gives you a unique opportunity to shine and pave the way for more women to succeed in our industry. 

“I have seen female presence increase from 11% to 24% since I started, but still, only a small percentage of these women are in leadership roles. I can only hope I have inspired other women to join the field and would tell them to take chances, use their voices, ask for help, and take their seats at the table. The worst that can happen is you fail and learn from your mistakes, which will only make you stronger.”

Jadee Hanson, Chief Information Security Officer at Vanta

Jadee Hanson, Chief Information Security Officer at Vanta

Jadee Hanson is a strategic CIO and CISO with 20 years of experience driving business success for startups and iconic billion-dollar brands. She boosts revenue and curbs risk through high-level, transformative security and IT strategies and leverages deep subject matter expertise in security technologies to expand the market relevance of security products. 

Hanson was named one of 2023's The Forbes CIO Next List, 2022’s Top 25 Women in Cybersecurity by The Software Report and one of 2022’s Top 100 Women in Cybersecurity by Cyber Defense Magazine. She is frequently quoted on security topics, including in Inc. Magazine, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and CIODive, and is a recognized thought leader within the CISO and CIO community.

“As a female technology leader, to me International Women’s Day is a celebration of the unique experiences and strengths of women from all walks of life, while inspiring others to recognize the crucial role women play in society. It is also an opportunity to set an example for younger generations, by showing them the importance of equality, respect, and fairness. As leaders, we’re responsible for laying the foundation that challenges ingrained stereotypes to ensure a more equitable future in technology. 

“However, today the technology sector is represented by only 25% women and the cybersecurity sector is represented by only 20% women. In fact, data from Fawcett Society‘s Paths to parenthood: Uplifting new mothers at work report found that 250,000 women left their jobs because of difficulties with balancing work and childcare demonstrating the inequality still impacting women’s careers. 

“My hope is that International Women's day can be a reminder to organisations and governments around the world to evaluate and improve their policies and practices regarding gender equality. This includes implementing equitable hiring practices, supporting work-life balance, ensuring women are considered for leadership roles, and providing women the support they need to be successful in the workplace.”

Laurie Iacono, Associate Managing Director in Cyber Risk practice at Kroll

Laurie Iacono, Associate Managing Director in Cyber Risk practice at Kroll

Laurie Iacono is an associate managing director in the Cyber Risk practice at Kroll, based in Secaucus where she assists clients with investigative and technical support in incident response and dark web monitoring. She leverages more than seven years of cyber experience conducting threat intelligence analysis and managing the day-to-day operations of global cyber intelligence analysts.

“As a woman in cybersecurity, I am grateful to have had the pleasure of working with good mentors and allies – both male and female – who have taken the time to teach me and provided a supportive place to grow.

"Even with that support, as a first-generation white-collar worker, I struggle with imposter syndrome – add in being a woman in a male-dominated field, and sometimes the self-doubt is overwhelming. 

"To other women or those who may not feel adequately represented in their chosen field, I will say that learning to embrace failure goes a long way to easing those self-doubts. For those who feel like they have a lot to prove, speaking up as the only woman in a room full of men or putting yourself in a vulnerable or uncertain position, like taking on a new technical skill, may provoke anxiety and fear. 

"The reality is that all of us are still learning and growing, even the most experienced among us, and many times, we learn more about ourselves from our failures than our successes. Embracing failure makes you more willing to try new professional opportunities without being fixated on the outcome. For those who are given the opportunity to manage, leading with empathy goes a long way to creating an inclusive workplace where people are empowered to speak up and test out new skills and ideas."

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