Women in security: Cultures, incentives that promote retention

Kacy Zurkus

Many women succeed in places where people work well together.

“I like harmony, and part of that is because I’m a woman. In general I have found it to be an asset in the workplace. One of my strong skill sets is getting people to work together to make difficult decisions,” said Caroline Wong, security initiative director, Cigital, a software security firm

Some of the obstacles that offset that harmony in the workplace are “either biases of a particular person or inconveniences of biology,” said Wong.

“These days when I go to work onsite, I’ll ask if there is there a mother’s room or wellness room where I can pump,” said Wong who is a new mother of a six month old baby. “People are usually very accommodating, but sometimes the logistics are a little bit complicated.”

Depending on the physical layout of an office space, the wellness room can be on a different floor or on the other side of a building, which creates an inconvenience of biology for working moms who are nursing.

While they can’t redesign office spaces, there are things that women can do to affect positive changes in culture.  

Wong said, “When I arrived, I realized there are not a ton of women, so I worked with HR to create a group of women at Cigital. We wanted to create ways for women at Cigital to have a purposeful community with each other.”

Through an email list, the women in Cigital offices all over the world are able to communicate with each other. “We get together virtually for book clubs and are able to hang out and talk about the topics relevant to women that relate to life and work,” said Wong.

Wong said the initiatives to improve corporate culture for women continue to evolve. “In the new year we are planning to feature women at Cigital for a speaker series. We will have one event per month where we get to hear from our fellow women about how they got to where they are,” she continued.

Julie Peeler, director, (ISC)2 noted, “Women in security is not a gender parity issue, it’s in everyone’s best interest to bring as many human beings into security.”

While highly valued by women, consistent and effective training will improve corporate culture across genders.  

In order for women to advance in their careers and grow into the leadership positions of the future, they need mentors and role models from whom they can learn.

“When you come into an organization as a woman and there aren’t a lot of other women, there aren’t a lot of role models. Men find role models easier. For women, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack made of needles,” Peeler said.

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