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15 Ways to Attract More Women to Your Technical Cyber Security Team

By a Female Tech Founder | Eliza-May Austin CEO of th4ts3cur1ty.company

  1. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself as a company, this is undoubtedly a controversial piece of advice. Women are not idiots, if the work is interesting, if you are growing a cybersecurity function from a greenfield site, taking security seriously, investing in training, or have progression routes… women are going to be interested in your roles, just like men are. You really don’t need to dumb it down for us. 

2. Normalise getting into cybersecurity for the paycheck. Working in cybersecurity is an excellent career option, with a myriad of different disciplines and roles, not every single person comes into cyber security for the passion and love of it. Start feeling okay about hiring people who don’t live and breathe infosec. 

3. You don’t need to hire people who are ‘proactive in the industry’, some people are introverts and that’s totally okay. Introverts should be considered during your interview process. A strong team is a mix of types of people, a mix will respond to interviews differently, bear that in mind.

4. Be known for hiring talented women, if you have talented women permit them to share their personal research and work at conferences and speaking engagements (if they want to). Some companies don’t allow external speaking engagements, for various reasons, so try internal events and promote them retrospectively on social media. 

5. Think of the physical environment. 

Do employees need to crawl around on the floor to plug in a laptop? – Doing that in a skirt is degrading. 

Do women have to walk twice as far to toilets? – We really do have more to do in there, it’s not all makeup and perfume, promise.

Is there a breastfeeding area? – Doctors recommend breastfeeding for as long as 1-2 years, with maternity leave being a challenge in some cases breastfeeding at work really needs to be an option, remote work aside. 

6. Women’s statutory maternity pay lasts up to 39 weeks in the UK, while paternity leave lasts 1-2 weeks. Which in many ways makes sense, giving birth is a huge trauma on a woman’s body but not a mans. However, Offering more paternity leave helps balance the perceived risk more fairly between men and women, freeing up women to make more strategic career decisions. Promote taking paternity leave among male leaders, if they don’t take it no one will! 

“On the topic of pregnancy; it’s actually illegal to ask a woman if she plans to get pregnant in her interview….so please, for the love of God, stop doing it. “

7. Don’t ask women why they sometimes take their handbag or rucksack to the loo. You’ll only wince when they tell you that’s where they keep their tampons. On that note, make sure you provide sanitary bins and make sure they are emptied daily, you’d be surprised how many companies actually do not provide this! – I once worked in a CyberSecurity company with unisex loos and 1 tampon bin that was overflowing and never changed, yes it absolutely contributed to me leaving.

8. Expect realistic commitment from parents. If little Johnny has chickenpox, or if there is no one else to pick up little Lilly from ballet, do you really expect Mum and Dad to pick you, the employer, over their kids? Really? Let them make up the time, not everyone’s world revolves around your company. 

9. Let’s be honest here… most women don’t care that you have a diversity program, or post about your anti-discrimination policy on LinkedIn, they do care however that when discrimination or sexual harassment is raised it is taken seriously. Infosec is a relatively small industry, the network of women is smaller, we do talk. A sexist manager, a misogynist gone unchecked or a relentless bro culture will work wonders to destroy your reputation among women in cybersecurity.

10. Hire career transitioners. Sometimes it takes years to figure out what you want to spend your career doing and cybersecurity is only recently becoming a more visible option for women. Be open to hiring older people with less experience in junior roles. Why not?

11. Work on your job descriptions, there is a lot of research surrounding what puts women off about JDs. In a nutshell, ask for what you need, not a Christmas wish list of ‘nice to have’s‘ under the guise of ‘mandatory’

12. Hire the most appropriate person for the role. Whether that’s based on experience, skill, attitude, cultural fit or academia, hire the person you feel fits the role best. Hiring under-equipped women has an unprecedented negative impact on women in the industry. Unfortunately when a woman is the only one in the team or department the narrative shifts from “Alice is really bad at xyz” to “women are really bad at xyz”. Women through no fault of their own represent their entire demographic, please don’t burn that representation for HR’s sake.

13. For goodness sake, if you do hire women to fill a self-imposed diversity quoter NEVER TELL THEM! It will knock their confidence and they’ll move on to a company that actually values their abilities, and so they bloody should. 

14. Consider offering more part-time/flexible roles. Women with caring duties might not be able to work full time and maybe put off applying for full-time roles. In the UK up to 70% of unpaid dementia carers are women caring for family members. And 42% of women vs 11% of men work part-time, there is clearly a thirst for part-time work among women.  

“42% of women vs 11% of men work part-time, there is clearly a thirst for part-time work among women. “

15. Sponsor the communities out there providing what you need! Ladies hacking society are known internationally for nurturing technical infosec skills and are entirely volunteer-led. If you are serious about expanding your talent pool of technically skilled women speak to LHS about sponsorship here: hello@ladieshackingsociety.com 


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