For years I have been fortunate enough to work for some great companies and brands with many great managers, but you soon realise from reviewing my career that I have always been in male dominated sectors (soccer/football, finance, cybersecurity and recruitment). I have always been in the majority and always been managed by a man meaning I will be experienced at reacting, seeing or speaking to people from a similar background. In 2018, I set out to firstly be managed by a woman and hire more women into my team which was one of the leading reasons I joined BeecherMadden.
However, despite BeecherMadden being a woman founded cybersecurity recruitment company this still wasn’t enough – I wanted to know what it felt like and the challenges you have being a minority. The only way to do this was to go deeper. I firstly opted to support more women in the industry by working with a number of leading women CISO’s, to female junior cybersecurity candidates. BeecherMadden and our founder Karla Reffold opted to go further with research suggesting that in 2018 the women representation in the industry was around 18% although higher than previous research, showed there was more to be done in the industry than just speaking to the women in the industry.
Nothing ever prepared me for what I would do next. I opted to volunteer for an organisation we support at BeecherMadden – Women in Cybersecurity (WiCys). Thus, quickly making me a minority. This not-for-profit, founded by Ambareen Siraj, is driving for women to be better represented in the cybersecurity work force. To do this, they run a variety of programmes and initiatives throughout the year – but none is bigger than their annual conference.
Over 1,300 people, majority women, from a variety of countries, races, religions and backgrounds gather to develop and improve each other in one venue. This year it was in Pittsburgh, the home of Carnegie Mellon University. I was one of a handful of lucky men who opted to support the organisation in achieving their goal (less than 3% of the attendees).
This experience is very unique from the usual events of RSA, InfoSec or DefCon to name a few. When I choose to support, I knew I would only know a handful of people so firstly, I was out of my depth in a conference where men may not be as welcome. Being a minority is an interesting thought when you have never been used to it – for example I went to an all-boys Catholic school and mainly white people – nowhere near to being in a minority.
The first day was unnerving, I got a lot of looks and was an interesting test to see how I would manage it and approach women in this environment. It made me consider my words, actions and outcomes in order not to be seen in a negative light. Soon enough, I soon worked out that the women attending this event just wanted support, guidance and confidence. I spent hours committing time to CISO’s, mid-level managers, recruiters and more importantly the future work force going through confidence building, recruitment pathway, resume building and interview practice. WiCys had created an intimate and unique experience for both women and man in such a simple way. They created a safe environment for women, who many are lacking confidence within the cyber domain, to speak and be listened to without being judged. To actually ask questions and know they will get answered and furthermore, be who they really want to be. It was an exciting and testing experience but one I would recommend every male manager to do in order to experience things from the other side.
WiCys has a unique offering. When you collate individuals together that are driven for the same goal and often you create environments of winning teams. WiCys, did that better than any other event I have ever attended. Our goal at BeecherMadden is to drive women in the industry to 25% (now at 20%) and WiCys allows us to connect and support so many women across a 3-day event in one location.
So, I challenge men to be a minority and attend WiCys or a similar experience in the next 12 months in order to be better managers or leaders?
Check it out here: https://wicys.org