By Rebecca Herold, CEO, Privacy Professor®
How do we get more women involved in STEM careers, information security and tech?
I took on this topic when I attended the ISACA EuroCACS conference in Copenhagen, Denmark earlier this month and gave two sessions. One was “Women in IT, Information Security & Privacy.” When researching for this session I found some interesting history, along with some of the current state of inclusion of women within various IT, information security and privacy events. Let’s dive in:
As I mentioned in my earlier post, Overlooked Women in Tech Innovation History, in the late 1890’s, 58 percent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students were female. So what happened over the years to the number of women taking STEM classes, and being in STEM careers? I did some quick checks to see if I could find research studies looking into this. What I found at first blush was intriguing.
These few findings are intriguing and motivate me to do more research into this topic in the coming months.
I speak at a lot of events. I’ve been invited to speak as a keynote, and for additional sessions, all over the world in not only the U.S., but also in Bogota, Colombia; Singapore; Melbourne, Australia: Ireland, and most recently Copenhagen at the beginning of this month, just to name a few.
In January of this year I received an invitation to deliver a keynote about my Internet of Things (IoT) security and privacy research at an IT conference in the summer. I accepted the invitation, but I did not hear from the conference coordinator again for several months, so I got back in touch with her. She told me, “Oh yes, that. We decided that a man would be a bigger draw than a woman. Men are just considered to be more knowledgeable, and to be the experts, than women for that topic. Nothing personal. We may be able to use you for another conference, though, in some way.” Hmm. Well, no you won’t. I’m not going to attend your upcoming conferences. Nothing personal.
A few days before my session in Copenhagen earlier this month I did a quick online search for “information security,” “conference,” and “speakers” to see how many of the top four returned searches included women. Here were the results for the conferences:
And the next one returned for the search was actually for an online forum:
So, the tally results in 7 of 128, or 5 percent, of the speakers/experts were women.
I’ve had 17 books published so far, and several of them have been published by CRC Press / Taylor & Francis. I checked with my publisher there, Rich O’Hanley, and he indicated that for 2013 and 2014, 10 percent of the IT books they published had women as the sole or the primary author, and that it was also the same percentage for business and management books: 10 percent each year. Some women, me and a handful of others, were repeat authors; we each have written more than one book. Rich indicated, “It’s not that we reject proposals submitted by women, but that we don’t receive proposals from women.”
Women, we need more of you to write. Writing is a powerful way to demonstrate your capabilities, strengths, and expertise. Writing also shows that women are just as capable and possess as much expertise as their male counterparts who are doing 90 percent of the writing.
Comments from conference session attendees
I covered the following topics in my Copenhagen “Women in IT, Information Security & Privacy” session:
I was happy to see several men in my session. I received some interesting comments, during my session as well as after the session. Here are four that stood out for me:
My answer to him, “I don’t think there are any types of STEM professions or activities better suited to women than men; in the same way that there are no STEM positions or activities for which men are better suited. What an individual can do best depends upon his or her own personal strengths, capabilities and drive. Men, and women, need to recognize that individuals each have their own strengths. Women and men equally have the same strengths and weaknesses for working in STEM careers. What everyone needs to understand is that each person must be considered for his or her own unique capabilities and strengths, and that consideration should not be impacted by opinions of what men or women are, or are not, capable of doing.”
There is a lot of discussion online, at meetings and conferences about how to get more women involved in STEM careers in general, and in information security and tech in particular. Looking at the history of women in STEM, and also the current inclusion or exclusion of women in conferences and online forums, helps to highlight actions that can be taken now for women currently in colleges and workplaces. We also need to provide the same opportunities to girls from the youngest ages, both at home and in schools and clubs.
Making just one change will not make an impact. But making many changes throughout the entire stages of life and professional careers will start making noticeable changes. It is time to do so.
Additional Resources and more information:
Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network
This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.
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