We can all agree on a few things: Security challenges are here to stay and grow by the hour and we're desperately short of security professionals. If we have any hope of addressing the cyber skills shortage, we need more humans. And last time I looked, women make up half of the world's population but make up a mere 11% of the cybersecurity population. It's simple math; open the aperture and the numbers will be there. We can't staff up where we need to without a serious infusion of women into the field. So, what do we do to finally open up the top of the funnel and encourage more women?
Here are a few simple, and heretical, thoughts that I have put into practice in my teams.
Don't look for unicorns; look for candidates with potential. We get very caught up in finding the perfect candidate that checks every conceivable box. We should be more pragmatic and bet on raw talent. Case in point -- Dimple Ahluwalia of IBM, one of the best security people I know. Once upon a time she was in marketing communications, and I saw potential in her. Creativity, intelligence, adaptability, analytical capacity, attention to detail. Today she runs a massive consulting practice.
Set practical educational requirements. Let's revisit demands for specialized degrees and postgraduate degrees. Focus on the certifications that are critical and open up the top of the funnel. Encourage high-school graduates -- women and men -- to consider security certification programs in lieu of four-year college degrees.
Recognize that work is a thing you do, not a place you go. I strongly believe that if you want women in the workforce, you should enable remote work and flexible schedules. We can't force talent to make painful trade-offs between family priorities and office logistics. And make sure to offer robust benefits -- these benefits are increasingly important to millennials generally as well as women specifically.
Be sensitive to group dynamics. Ensure that everyone has a chance to make their thoughts heard. Point out where women are being talked over. Encourage active listening. Conduct inclusion training where needed.
Just hire more damn women, particularly in startups. Set goals, make them concrete and hold management accountable. Wishing is not a strategy, and we need to get specific, granular and serious about it. For example: What if VCs and PEs demanded that their portfolio companies stay at least 5% above the latest gender benchmark; i.e. if women constitute 11% of the security workforce in 2017, goal them to 16% in 2018.
So let's get a little impatient with ourselves, and let's get practical and serious about doing something rather than talking about it. Fixing the need for a massive volume of new professionals starts with looking at women and asking them to bring their skills, perspectives and innovation to cybersecurity.
As CEO of BluVector, Inc., Kris Lovejoy's role is to develop a solution strategy that customers truly love, sold and delivered with a Draconian focus on excellence, by a team of insightful and passionate security experts.