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10 tips to attract women to infosec jobs

Maria Korolov | May 6, 2014
Women make up just 11 percent of information security professionals. Just increasing that number to 22 percent would solve the industry's staffing shortage problem.

"We try to include a female in the interviewing roster, partly to encourage diversity, but also to get a full representation of the company," said Bluebox Security's Kostka.

8. Write a female-friendly ad 
Too often, help wanted ads are written in the form of skill lists. This automatically skews the gender balance of applicants, since men will apply if they have any of the skills on the list, while women will apply only if they have each and every one of the skills.

As a result, some potentially excellent female candidates take themselves out of the running right from the very start.

Write an ad that focuses on outcomes, instead. Better yet, use split testing to run multiple versions of an ad, and see which approaches generate more female candidates. Then tweak the wording and repeat the test.

 9. Go outside the information security industry
There are great female candidates to be found in other industries who could offer substantial benefits to your security team.

Look to the legal professions, communications, risk analysis, finance, or the hard sciences. Then train the new hires in the specific security-related skills they'll need.

"Right now, on my team at IBM, half the team grew up in the security ranks and the other half are newer, with a background in project management, analytics or IT who are now learning the security space," said Latha Maripuri, director of IBM Security Services.

10. Become more hospitable to women
Does everyone in the office hit the bars together right after work? That's fine if everyone is young and single — or has spouses willing to pick up the slack at home.

But lunch-time outings may be more appropriate for a more diverse workforce.

Are employees rewarded for working long hours at their desks — regardless of how much they actually accomplish? Or are they rewarded based on their actual value to the company?

Then there are more subtle things, like tone of voice. In a male-dominated environment, some men may  use their knowledge and skills as a kind of verbal weapon against others. This creates an unpleasant environment for everyone else, especially for women.

"Women tend to be — generally speaking — more socially engaged," said Lynne Williams, an information technology professor at Kaplan University, who has seen this exact dynamic play out repeatedly in her computer science classes. Since switching to online teaching, she said, women's participation in classes has gone up dramatically — and the gender balance is now nearing parity.

"In an online classroom, you're not having to deal with all the competition," she said. "Women are not afraid to ask questions in that environment. I have a lot of women students now coming through my IT graduate courses, and they're doing as well or better as the fellows."

 

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