As Women’s History Month ends, one of the most challenging fields for women in technology remains cybersecurity. Gartner’s Talent Neuron reveals that for the top 50 metropolitan areas, supply for cybersecurity talent remains low, and disproportionately lower for women (see Chart 1). Also, the competition continues to grow.
Interview With WomSA Managing Director Julie Spiller
It was with this in mind that I had a chance to connect with an impactful US-based alliances for women in cybersecurity. Women’s Security Alliance (WomSA) is a non-profit organization committed to the success of women in the cybersecurity field. WomSA provides sponsorship, mentorship, training, and “networking opportunities for women entering, re-entering, or advancing in the cybersecurity workforce.” Julie Spiller, Managing Director, shared her insights on a few questions in our interview.
Can you tell us about WomSA and how high-tech companies can benefit from aligning themselves with your organization?
Organizations will benefit in many ways by working with the Women’s Security Alliance, or WomSA. High-tech companies will have access to our pool of cybersecurity candidates, which includes women who are either new to the workforce or are highly skilled in IT and are pivoting into a cybersecurity career.
Companies that partner with us will also have access to the WomSA Mentorship Program, which connects the cyber experts as mentors to mentees. We can include an organization’s internal mentees in our Mentorship Program to give them a broader perspective on cybersecurity. And finally, organizations can get involved in supporting the community and increasing the local cybersecurity talent pool by teaming with WomSA.
We know COVID has disproportionately impacted women and their careers. Have you seen an impact on women in security over the last year?
We have seen many women juggling family responsibilities during work hours, increasing the stress they deal with on a daily basis. On many occasions, we have seen babies and toddlers in their mothers’ arms during business meetings. Many of these children were crying or in need of undivided attention, especially early in the pandemic. The result of all this is burnout. It’s just too much to handle in many situations. A few of the symptoms are exhaustion, sleeplessness, disengagement, and reduced effectiveness.
We have also seen many women lose their jobs, even after a decade or two at their employer. WomSA is helping these women pivot into cybersecurity careers if there is interest.
COVID has been challenging for women. What are some things organizations can do and are doing to support and retain women?
A few ideas that come to mind are being flexible with the work hours, and leadership reaching out to stay in touch and provide ideas and support for challenging situations.
Sitting at a desk all day in front of the computer is causing major burnout for everyone. I have participated in many women’s virtual networking groups that do yoga or wine tasting as the women get to know each other. I’ve also heard of managers holding “walking meetings,” where people are active on a treadmill or outside while having their weekly catch-up with their employee. Organizations can provide these types of meetings and events for their employees.
A big part of WomSA is its mentorship and sponsorship programs. How can Gartner clients get involved in supporting these efforts?
WomSA welcomes and encourages organizations of all sizes, industries, and locations to get involved. Our business model is for people to become mentors, executive sponsors, and mentees, as well as for organizations to become corporate supporters. The sign-up can be completed on our website at www.womsa.org, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a direct conversation.
- Partner with organizations like WomSA to continue to grow your pipeline for women in cybersecurity.
- Use flexible work policies to drive retention. Rather than treat flexible work as a “special benefit” reserved for a certain segment of the workforce or high performers, make flexibility the default across your organization.
- Prioritize inclusive practices. Adopt an inclusive leadership style to improve decision-making and fairness.