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Women in Information Security and Risk Management Have A Lot To Say About The Profession and Their Role In It

by Roberta J. Witty  |  July 8, 2014  |  2 Comments

At the 2014 Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit at National Harbor, MD, an inaugural session on women in Information Security and Risk Management was conducted. We thought it would have resonance with female attendees but we were surprised by the overwhelming interest and participation in the event! My colleagues Victoria Barber, Avivah Litan, Tina Nunno, Bettina Tratz-Ryan and I spoke to our own experiences as women in the IT profession as well as information security, business continuity management and risk. And, the audience was teeming with their own desire to express their views and experiences as well. Throughout the session, we presented polling questions for the audience – three of which are displayed below.

How would you describe your relationship with other women at work   N=81



There isn’t a lot of difference between the first two responses to the above question. But I personally was very surprised that a slight majority of women in our session experience worse relationships with their female colleagues than their male colleagues. It seems a pity that women aren’t our own best advocates. A common perspective on this question was that women need to learn how to network better – it doesn’t seem to come naturally to us in a work environment.

If you could do it all over, would you:   N=91


The response to this question seems to me to be an overwhelming endorsement that information security and risk management professions are a place that women want to be.  It must be providing the emotional, ethical, intellectual and social environment that make women want to work. Or are the information security and risk management fields perceived as less engineering/operational technology and more IT/geek mystique, a good platform for women to have as a foundation of professional equality to their male counterparts? Organizations should look at these results from an HR angle, creating a collaborative work environment that considers the strength of its work force.

Do you think women approach Information Security differently than men? N=68



With a 72% Yes response and the amount of conversation during the session and afterwards (including from women not in attendance at this session but knew about it), it is clear that this is a “must dig deeper” topic for us. We will be taking this specific question “Why do women know they approach information security (<sic> and by extension risk management) differently than men?” into the Gartner research process for further study.

In addition, we will be putting together our roadmap for where we want to take this topic overall in future research and events.  We would love your thoughts, so please comment to this post with your ideas about the questions and what kind of research and activities you’d like to see next. Stayed tuned…

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Category: gender-differences-in-security-and-risk-management  strategic-planning  women-in-security-and-risk-management  

Tags: avivah-litan  bettina-tratz-ryan  gartner  gender-in-security-and-risk-management  information-security  risk-management  roberta-witty  tina-nunno  victoria-barber  women-in-security-and-risk-management-2  

Roberta J. Witty
Research VP
11 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Roberta Witty is a research VP in Gartner Research, where she is part of the Compliance, Risk and Leadership group. Her primary area of focus is business continuity management and disaster recovery. Ms. Witty is the role specialty lead for… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Women in Information Security and Risk Management Have A Lot To Say About The Profession and Their Role In It

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  2. Debra Parker says:

    I have no idea if this is cultural or natural, but I would explore the psychology of ‘finding things’ to research differences. Casual observation points to women having better (more intuitive) mental algorithms and more persistence for finding things. Men in my life tend to look once, and done. I don’t have a large sample size for infosec comparison, but intuitive pattern recognition and persistent analytical ‘train of thought’ could be gender-related talents.

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