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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Where are all the women in cybersecurity? | IDG Connect

Photo: Martin Veitch
Martin Veitch, Editorial Director at IDG Connect inform, "Security entrepreneur Jane Frankland is writing a book about getting more women into infosec."

Jane Frankland built a successful UK cybersecurity business at Corsaire in the late 1990s and has held a series of executive and consulting roles. She recently raised crowdfunding to write a book (working title: Women in Cybersecurity: Standard Not Exception) in which she will suggest why only a small, and declining, minority of those working in security are female. The book, currently being researched, is also likely to suggest ways in which we can correct a gender imbalance that is bad enough in ICT generally and might be worse yet in security.

She’s no stranger to uphill tasks though, having made her startup Corsaire into a seven-figure sterling revenue business in the late 1990s, by specialising in high-end penetration testing – and all without Frankland having prior experience of technology.

The lack of women in the infosec sector shocked and still shocks Frankland and it also today seems out of kilter when a skills shortage is so apparent and as cybersecurity has grown as a threat. Also, for Frankland, the benefits of there being more women in IT go beyond the arguments for equal representation and she has an interesting take on why a feminine perspective is so important in security thinking.

“Women think differently to men and see risk in a different way,” she says. “It really comes down to genetics. We’re programmed to give birth so we’re more risk-averse naturally. When we have more diversity we all do better.”

Frankland also believes IT could do with more glamour.

“Many job specs use the language of combat – ‘cyber warrior’, ‘ninja’ and so on - and this does nothing for our industry. It holds us back as it doesn't appeal to most women. Perception is reality. So the thought of being a minority surrounded by middle-aged men or guys dressed in hoodies that obsess about code and malware day-in, day-out isn't terribly appealing to most young women. When 

I started out, security interested me because I thought it was cool - a bit like James Bond. I still think it's cool. In fact, it's cooler than ever!”

She also takes a broader perspective on hiring that goes further than gender.

“If we bring people in who see things in a different way - be they women or creatives - that’s to our benefit. Techies tend to be very detailed as they focus on one thing that's siloed. As a result they can be blindsided. And by being blindsided the chances of missing something increase.

Frankland’s answer to all this is very hands-on. There have of course been many rallying calls and efforts to attract women into IT careers but they have, believes Frankland, been well meaning but disjointed.

Additional resources

Stay informed about Frankland’s book 
Why do we need more women in IT? - Freelance technology journalist Alex Cruickshank.

Source: IDG Connect