Why aren’t we putting ourselves in the spotlight?

A few months ago, I found myself on a call with Gartner’s event organisers. They were proactively seeking the support of the Australian Women in Security Network (AWSN) regarding their upcoming summit. Whilst on the call, they asked me “so what do you do when you’re not volunteering for the AWSN?”. I explained that right now I’m writing a book targeting CIO’s who are seeking to find and retain great cyber security talent. This sparked the interest of the organisers to the extent that last month I found myself delivering some of my book’s content and research findings to a group of peers at the 2017 Gartner Security and Risk Summit.

I was thrilled to take this opportunity to speak about my work and share some of the insights with others at such an event. My presentation was well received, as was the panel I moderated on behalf of the AWSN (with thanks to Sam Olyaei, Pip Wyrdeman, Craig Templeton and Jonathan Goode for sharing their wisdom).

The point of the panel was to discuss the Prime Minister & Cabinet ‘Women in Cyber’ event from earlier this year (the report is here), particularly the outcomes regarding role models and mentors. We chatted about how women are keen to hear more from role models (both men and women) who are doing great work in security to increase participation in our industry. 

Pip and I were 2 of 7 women to speak at the 2017 Gartner conference. When I spoke with peers about this, there was a concern that women’s representation, both as speakers and attendees, is too low…(and is lower than the industry average of women in cyber at 11%). There have been other conferences here in Australia (and elsewhere) of late where there are no women speakers on the bill. I began to wonder why this is and I asked around. From what I heard, generally women aren’t proactively submitting papers when it comes to expressions of interest. Nor are they proactively putting up their hands to present. For me, if Gartner had not asked the question, it’s unlikely I would have considered putting forward a submission either. Not because I don’t enjoy presenting and not because I have nothing to say…. but because it didn’t cross my mind to step forward and share my experience at such an event (but I’m glad I did and I will again). I wonder if it's similar with other women? I wonder if it falls into the same category of the research done into women applying for jobs (or not applying for jobs if they can’t fulfil every requirement). Is it that women don’t believe that their speaker submissions will be accepted? Is it that women aren’t sure what the audience wants to hear? Can conference organisers do more to encourage submissions from women by calling for speakers on specific topics? ….

…So many questions!...

….How would you encourage more women in security to speak at conferences and share their stories (and, quite helpfully, be role models at the same time)?