RSA Conference 2017 - Recap | Don’t Talk About Diversity, Live It!

By Selena Templeton


Allison Miller (Product Manager, Security & Privacy, Google)


  • Chenxi Wang (Chief Strategy Officer, Twistlock)

  • Mischel Kwon (Founder, MKACyber)

  • Jennifer Steffens (CEO, IOActive)

Chenxi started off by sharing the now-famous story of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff spending $3M to close the gender pay gap among its employees after Cindy Robbins and Leyla Seka brought him the data that showed this company-wide discrepancy. Though it’s great that Salesforce was willing to address and solve the problem, Chenxi reminded us that this problem is not a one-time fix – conscious bias and a lack of diversity is usually a systemic issue, so it’s imperative to remain vigilant.

Mischel added that it’s not just the company’s responsibility to ensure that its employees are being treated fairly, but everyone’s responsibility and we must all advocate for ourselves. Chenxi recounted a story of a woman who worked at the CIA who was recommended to her: she worried that her experience was not technical enough. Chenxi took one look at her resume and said, “Are you kidding me?”

Men are generally better at lobbying for themselves, which is why, in part, they may get the promotion or the raise or the job. They tend to say yes first and assume that they’ll figure it out on the job, whereas women tend to be more conservative and don’t say yes unless they feel that they have already figured it out. So this is an area where women can, and should, strengthen that muscle.

Most recruiters look for the same keywords, so when it comes to finding a wide variety of talent, it’s necessary for companies to seek it in different venues and by using different wording. As the saying goes: if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.

Mischel’s company looks for security talent via recruiters, headhunters, conferences and social media channels. Chenxi added that the Grace Hopper Conference is a great recruiting resource as there is an Expo floor where people can get information and apply for jobs at all levels across industry and academia. The Grace Hopper Expo Guide (PDF) explains how to participate.

Finding and hiring a diverse selection of talent is only half the battle, though. Just because you’ve hired a female employee doesn’t mean she’ll stay in an environment that is male dominated. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable or included or respected, there’s a good chance that they’ll leave. In fact, women are 45% more likely to leave a STEM job within the first twelve months than men.

To help retain diverse talent, Chenxi shared that that in her experience, there are four things that women want in a job:

  1. Flexible schedule

  2. Clear chance to advance

  3. Meaningfulness in the work

  4. Company that values creativity

I started RSA week off by attending this seminar because I am always eager to hear what professionals in the cybersecurity industry have to say about changing the stubbornly homogenous landscape of employees at most organizations in this field.

Although I didn’t hear any new information or solutions in this inaugural RSA seminar, the lack of diversity in security and tech is nonetheless a topic that needs to be at the forefront of any discussion on business success in the 21st century.

About Selena Templeton

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

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