It's Time to Achieve Equal Respect for Women in Technology

By Dr. Chenxi Wang

Today, I am extremely excited to announce the inauguration of the Equal Respect column on IT Security Planet.

Equal Respect was a grass-roots effort that all started with a blog called “It’s Time to Start a New Dialogue” that Zenobia Godschalk and I wrote back in 2014. The blog highlighted the rampant practices of using booth babes – scantily-clad women paid to lure men over to a company’s booth – at security conferences, like RSA, and asked the question:

Why are such archaic practices still allowed to exist in an industry whose main focus is dealing with nation-state threats and large-scale data leaks?

The blog was widely read, shared and cited, and was one of the factors that ultimately led to RSA’s decision to amend their code of conduct, which all but eliminated booth babes from the show floors of RSA.

Following the success of that post, we subsequently started an Equal Respect Facebook group which has since grown to almost four hundred industry members who participate in valuable and inspiring discussions almost every day.

But despite the efforts of many individuals and diversity groups, our industry is still only comprised of a measly 10% women. The NICCS states it well: “The lack of women in IT and cybersecurity represents a failure to capitalize on the benefits of diverse perspectives: in a world dependent on innovation, diversity can bring the best and brightest problem-solvers to the table.” That a forward-thinking industry can discount 50% of the population is not just disappointing – it’s unacceptable.

And that’s why I’ve joined forces with IT Security Planet to create this column. Because the struggle for lasting change is never done, and the more people that give voice to a cause, the more widespread the message.

Diversity and inclusiveness is not a cultural pet project; nor is it a charity cause. Rather, it is a principle that should be put into action in all areas of life, from how an industry presents itself to the way a company does business to the very language that an individual uses.

So what does this mean on a day-to-day basis? What actionable guidance can we give to today’s leaders who want their business to be more inclusive and diverse?

That is what I hope to accomplish with this new partnership. More specifically, we want to:

  • Promote meaningful and useful practices to truly advance diversity, not just pay lip service to the idea
  • Bring light to hidden problems and unconscious biases while focusing on how we can tackle and overcome these problems
  • Provide a platform for diversity leaders in the security and privacy industry through which they can share their ideas
  • Highlight companies or leaders who make positive differences in, and contributions to, diversity 

In the next few weeks you will hear from some of the leaders in the industry, including:

  • Summer Fowler from CERT
  • Caroline Wong from Cigital
  • Dug Song, the CEO of Duo Security
  • Pauline Reich from the Asia Pacific Cyberlaw, Cybercrime, and Internet Security Research Institute

And we want to know what you think. We welcome your thoughts and feedback about what this blog should cover so we can continue to work to make a difference in diversity and inclusiveness.

If you have a story to share, please send your submission to IT Security Planet’s Experts Corner. Be sure to tick the box to let the editors know that it belongs in the Equal Respect column.

About Chenxi

Dr. Chenxi Wang is Chief Strategy Officer of Twistlock. She is responsible for corporate strategy and marketing. Chenxi built an illustrious career at Forrester Research, Intel Security, and CipherCloud.

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