Breaking the bias in cybersecurity

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Written by Aarti Gadhia Senior Sales Manager, Tines

Happy International Women’s Day 2022. This year the theme is 'Break the Bias,' which calls for everyone to take action and call out gender bias, discrimination, and stereotyping. 

Infosecurity Magazine recently highlighted 90% of security leaders are suffering skills shortages, with 3.5 million positions unfilled in 2021. According to Best Colleges, women continue to outnumber men in college completion. Meanwhile, an article from Cybersecurity Ventures stated that women make up close to 25% of the workforce in cybersecurity, "but is still way too low." Is there a shortage of cybersecurity professionals because we can't source the right talent, or is it because of bias in recruitment and career advancement? 

The real challenge isn't that we don't have enough cybersecurity professionals; it’s that we're limiting ourselves. Leaders need to look beyond traditional approaches to hiring to increase the pipeline and improve retention.

We recently created a DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging) employee resource group at Tines, so these are topics we’ve been mulling over a lot.

We started the DEIB group because we want people to know that not only are they encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work, but that they will be valued for it. Since day one at Tines, that has been my experience, and I want everyone to feel that every day. I believe people are happiest and do their best work if they are not distracted by feeling they have to pretend to be someone they are not. This is a simple statement, but it takes effort and intentionality to ensure it runs through the DNA of a business. For the first time in Ireland, we are producing tech unicorns and therefore have a unique opportunity to shape and influence best practice in relation to DEIB in that context.

Sarah Irwin, Head of Legal

We’ve all been through a journey where we faced a bias. In my safari, I faced several obstacles in this industry that made it difficult for me to advance in my career. I lost my voice at one point, and my only option was to continue to prove people wrong about my ability to be successful. At that time, I didn’t even know about the different forms of biases in the workplace. While there is a debate on whether unconscious bias training works or not, for me, it was a catalyst for change in my professional life. 

Through my experiences, I knew I had to be an active advocate as I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through what I did. Over the years, I've created employee resource groups at different organizations to initiate change through a collective voice. My mentors became allies as they saw things through a different lens. 

We all have an unconscious bias, we may not know it, and that's why each one of us needs to reflect on our own bias and then commit to making an effort to overcome it. There are several self-assessment tools that can help you. You could also try out reverse mentoring - where early-career employees mentor leaders within the organization - to help you see situations through a different lens.

Change is taking place, but we need everyone’s commitment to accelerate this change! Gender diversity should not be a woman’s problem to solve, an HR issue to handle, legislation to be implemented, or a movement to occur. It should be everybody’s problem to solve!

Diversity is important to me because it is critical to the business. By ensuring we have diversity not just in terms of demographics but also in terms of how people think, work, and communicate, we benefit from a wider range of experiences, perspectives, and ideas that more accurately reflect the diverse world we live in. Don't look at diversity efforts purely as a set of targets to hit or workshops to run; look at it as a way to bring more of the world, and your users, into how decisions are made in your business and how that is reflected in the products it builds.

Colm O’Grada, Head of Data and Analytics

Don’t just talk the talk; organizations need to walk the walk and demonstrate they're committed to taking action to close the gender diversity gap and #breakthebias. Here are some of the things I recommend doing throughout the year:

  1. Get involved by supporting initiatives organized like WiCyS, SheLeadsTech, Diana Initiative, Day of Shecurity, and CyberSafe Foundation.

  2. Read books to help you see things through a different lens., such as The Rise of the Cyber Women Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Lisa Ventura, In Security: Why a Failure to Attract and Retain Women in Cybersecurity is Making Us All Less Safe by Jane Frankland, Fight Fire with Fire by Renee Tarun, Unbias: Addressing Unconcious Bias at Work by Stacey Gordon. 

  3. There are successful hackers and not-so-successful hackers, but if the adversary does not have a barrier or bias, why are we creating barriers? Recognize the value of curiosity and soft skills. I’ve previously shared more about this for Canadian Security Magazine.

  4. Another great way is to ask employees to share stories of biases from past experiences so you can start to reflect on how you would respond.

  5. Be vulnerable and share mistakes you’ve made and how someone else helped you see the situation.

  6. Be an ally and help break existing biases in the workplace - when you see someone with a bias, let the individual know in the moment.

Tines as a whole is committed to cultivating an environment where all individuals can thrive. Thomas Kinsella, Co-founder & COO, says: "To better represent the diverse perspectives of our community, Tines is working on developing and supporting initiatives that will increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities in cybersecurity. This includes increasing diversity among our employees as well as highlighting female leaders in the industry. We're making strides in the right direction, but we are nowhere near satisfied with the status quo. To reach our goals, we're committed to improving everything from our recruiting and hiring to our promotion and retention practices."

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