Join Us, as We Look Back at Diversity in Tech in 2016

By Selena Templeton

Remember back in 1999 when we all awaited the coming of the new century (“Oooh, two thousand sounds so futuristic!”) and wondered if all those sci-fi movies with flying cars and tinfoil onesies would finally be our reality?

And in the sixteen years since the turn of this new century, we are partway there. We now have video calls with Skype and FaceTime. Cloud technology has done away with 20-disc collections for documents, photos and daily backups. GPS and Google Maps mean that we can always find a Starbucks in any foreign city. Intelligent personal assistants like Alexa or Siri now drive us insane in that unemotional way only a computer can. Smartphones, smartwatches, smartcars and smarthomes have added convenience to many aspects of our lives (now we just need Apple to invent smartpeople…).

With these never-ending and unstoppable innovations comes a lack of focus on information security and privacy. It’s much more important to get that shiny new widget out to market than it is ensure things are built securely, updated to close any identified vulnerabilities, and to have proven response processes put in place to handle a breach. Clearly it’s an issue of time-to-market and revenue generation. It could also be an issue related to a lack of qualified InfoSec professionals available to help define, implement, and manage these security and privacy-related programs. And, with this, it’s very possible we aren’t doing enough to raise awareness; nor are we removing the blinders to open up the possibility of joining the InfoSec industry to those that don’t fit the typical profile.

When it comes to the tech industry, there is one area where we are still ridiculously antiquated: diversity.

The mission of our Equal Respect column for ITSPmagazine, launched in August 2016, is to provide a platform for this lack of diversity and give a voice to the thoughts, actions, ongoing efforts and, of course, victories of the underrepresented talent in this field.

In just five months, our Equal Respect column has published 30 articles written by a wide range of 24 experts in the tech, infosec or cybersecurity fields on their personal and professional experiences, thoughts and action-oriented solutions to this problem.

Here is a quick recap of some of our most popular, humorous and amazing stories:

It's Time to Achieve Equal Respect for Women in Technology by Dr. Chenxi Wang. Equal Respect co-founder and Twistlock CSO Chenxi wrote this introduction to the column. The name Equal Respect comes from a blog called “It’s Time to Start a New Dialogue” that she and Zenobia Godschalk wrote a few years ago about the offensive practice of using booth babes and a Facebook group of the same name that she started. Chenxi contributes to the column regularly, including her latest Don't Talk Diversity, Live It! Panel at RSA 2017.

Find What Matters to You and Fight for It by Dinah Davis. Code Like a Girl founder Dinah opens up about being bullied by a boss for almost a year, being told in high school that the path for girls who are good at math is a math teacher, the male professors who doubted her ability to go to grad school even with her near-perfect GPA, and being told to “not worry my pretty little head about it.” For her, the most important lesson was learning to speak up about what’s going on to help and inspire others, and this article certainly does that.

My Quantum Leap Into Cybersecurity by Rachel Phillips. When overcoming the roadblocks on the path to diversity in the tech or InfoSec fields, make sure that the roadblock isn’t yourself. Rachel Phillips of Moss Adams shares how she removed the obstacles that were preventing her from getting her dream job as a cybersecurity professional — which turned out to be her own biases.

The Secret History of Women in Tech by Selena Templeton. Equal Respect column editor and writer Selena wonders how women’s status in the tech field went from rocket scientist to booth babe when we’ve got such tech pioneers as Ada Lovelace (in the mid-1800s no less), Grace Hopper (who created the first computer language that used words instead of numbers) and Hedy Lamarr (yes, the woman most people know only as the “pin-up” girl from the ‘40s).

Hello, My Name Is Xuan. I Am a Cybersecurity Data Scientist. by Xuan Zhao. Xuan is a data scientist in the cybersecurity industry who shares her relatively unique experience of working in a nearly all-male world: she is part of a supportive, collaborative team where everyone is equal, and everyone’s idea is valued. It’s a sad state of affairs when equal respect is considered unique, but this article resonated with a lot of people and was one of our most popular pieces with 619 social shares.

How a Cold War Russia Child Became a Privacy Expert in the USA by Elena Elkina. Privacy and data protection expert and WISP co-founder Elena Elkina shares her remarkable story of a how a life behind fences and daily phone taps in Cold War Russia pushed her on a quest to not only find her own identity, but into a career in the privacy field. This article is like a page out of a spy novel!

It’s A Matter Of Culture. Equality Means Equality. Period. by Dr. Dena Haritos Tsamitis. As the Information Networking Institute’s new director, Dena made a commitment to figuring out why there were only 2 out of 34 female students that year. After reviewing the research, she found that culture matters, so she created Women@INI with Dr. Chenxi Wang to foster an equal playing field. In the most recent incoming class there were 34% women — a huge jump up from 6%.

In Neurodiversity There Is Beauty, Strength, And Skills You Don’t Have by Selena Templeton. Most people don’t know the word “neurodiversity,” which describes the vast scope of differences in how people’s brains work and how they learn. Neurological differences (such as dyslexia, autism and ADD) in the workplace can offer a wider, more varied range of talent, something that Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP, Freddie Mac, EY, and ULTRA Testing are taking advantage of.

17+ Female Founders & CEOs in Cybersecurity by Connie McLellan and Selena Templeton. In celebration of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED), we put together a piece to highlight female founders and CEOs in the tech industry. This article got 1.7K shares on social media and was so popular that colleagues of other female founders and CEOs were contacting us to include the amazing women they knew in this piece (hence the 17+ addition to the title).  

Guatemalan | 4’9” | Female | US Army Sergeant | Cyber Forensics Student | Badass by Cinthya Grajeda-Mendez. A truly inspiring story, Cinthya found herself in a field dominated by men not once, but twice: she is the only female to ever join the UNH Cyber Forensics Research & Education Lab and she acquired the rank of Sergeant in the U.S. Army. From the military to cyber forensics, this 4’9” woman is the epitome of never giving up on your dreams and not taking “no” for an answer.

Too Many Biases in Job Descriptions. Also, Are You Hiring Ninjas? Really? by Amy Dolan. When Amy, Director of Human Resources at DialogTech, started using Textio, a tool that flags sexist wording, in their job descriptions, they increased their female employees from 28 to 44 in nine months. No one was more surprised than she was.

Most Companies Believe They Understand Diversity. Do They? by Heather Corallo. Another eye-opener told from a personal point of view, CTO2 co-founder Heather Corallo learned the hard way that all the research and best practices in the world won’t make a difference to diversity in tech if the policies are still being created without the input of these minorities.

Equal Respect: Removing Roadblocks to Diversity in Infosec. We also covered industry conferences, and this column wrote about the diversity angle. This Black Hat panel of five top-level women in the security industry discussed why the number of females in infosec and tech companies is actually declining, the inherent biases we all have about people, and what can be done to attract more qualified women to this growing field.

Because of all our columns — Equal Respect, The Academy, An Infosec Life, Their Story, and Experts Corner — ITSPmagazine earned many distinctions in 2016:

ITSPmagazine Now an Official Media Sponsor for RSA Conference 2017

ITSPmagazine a Top 10 Technology Expert To Follow

ITSPmagazine a Top 100 Cybersecurity and Infosec Influencer

ITSPmagazine Honored with a Who’s Who in Information Security

I absolutely love where this column has taken us, the ITSPmagazine team and our devoted readers, so far in these five months: we’ve provided a safe place for people to have a conversation, find inspiration and share solutions about this disturbing lack of diversity in tech and cybersecurity.

2016 has been a year of endings and demands for change, and I really feel that this momentum of passion and action when it comes to equal respect will — must — continue to grow in 2017. As we move forward into this fresh new year, I’m excited to see the stories in the Equal Respect column expand beyond just gender to age, race, sexual orientation, neurodiversity — and any other group that is sorely underrepresented in the world of cybersecurity.

Have a story to share? Let us know.

Prefer to answer a few questions in lieu of writing a novel? We’ve got you covered there too.

About Selena Templeton

Selena Templeton is the Column Editor for the Equal Respect column on ITSPmagazine.

More About Selena