Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Partner Perspectives  Connecting marketers to our tech communities.
10:00 AM
Lynda Grindstaff
Lynda Grindstaff
Partner Perspectives

Women In Security: What Are You Missing?

For security jobs, men outnumber women by a long shot. It's time to start thinking and recruiting differently.

In an industry facing a significant shortage of experienced people, it is remarkable that only 11% of the security workforce is women, according to the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu. This is not a job that should be thought of as predominantly or traditionally male. The image of a socially inept male wearing a hoodie and working in a windowless room late at night is best left to Hollywood. Today’s cybersecurity teams are at the forefront of corporate thinking. They are increasingly made up of highly educated and experienced professionals who work in the same environment as most other office workers, just with more screens.

However, if you look around the security operations center, it is still made up of mostly men. The women missing from your team are costing you more than just extra pairs of hands and eyes. Teams with greater gender and ethnic diversity tend to outperform more homogeneous teams, especially in innovation and financial metrics. They are more likely to foster open communication and identify previously unknown issues. The rate of innovation in cyberattacks suggests that we need every advantage we can in our defenses.

This is the part where I will play up the stereotypes a little, so let’s acknowledge that these are generalizations that have exceptions in any group. However, multiple studies support these differences between women and men: Women tend to be more empathetic, are more concerned about privacy, and react more strongly to bad things.

Empathy Helps With Relationships

Women score higher in certain areas of emotional intelligence and awareness such as interpersonal relationships and social responsibility. As a result, they tend to be more empathetic, or sensitive to the feelings of others. How does this help your security team? Empathy helps develop closer relationships among the team, with key vendors, and with customers. More empathetic individuals tend to be better listeners, more open to others’ ideas, and more understanding of the issues they face. Whether dealing with an internal or external customer, greater empathy helps build trust when things are going well, and really helps when things go wrong. Building trust with your key partners and customers can also lead to more revenue.

Privacy Concerns Help With Security Design

For a wide range of cultural and societal reasons, women are more concerned about their privacy than men. Combined with their emotional awareness and empathy, this has obvious benefits for cybersecurity. When designing or enhancing a security solution or business process, ask a woman (or several) how they would use it and whether it makes them feel secure, and pay attention to their issues and concerns. After all, half of your customers are women.

Strong Reactions Help With Incident Response

An interesting review of gender differences and emotion in Psychology Today found significant differences in the reactions of men and women to unpleasant or negative experiences. Women tended to react more strongly across the entire sampled age range, from 20 to 81. This stronger emotional reaction is especially valuable during the vital early moments of incident response. The women on your team will likely consider a breach to be more serious and encourage a more significant response than if there were no women.

Where Can You Find Security Women?

If after reading this you want some or more women on your team, where can you find them? Start by thinking about how you represent the job. Don’t position it as scary and militaristic, but instead appeal to women's empathy and talk about protecting others. Then look for women inside your organization and those with outside technology organizations such as Girls Who Code to work with.

And finally, don’t forget to deal with your work environment. You may not want to admit it, but one of the primary reasons there are few women in technology in general is not that the jobs are uninteresting, but that many leave the field due to the workplace culture, according to a recent study by the Society of Women Engineers. Changing this aspect of your company could be a real competitive advantage to attracting and retaining security personnel.



Lynda Grindstaff creates the future for Intel Security as the Senior Director of the Innovation Pipeline. In this role, Lynda leads a global team that brings the future to life for Intel Security through innovative strategies and prototypes. Her tenure with Intel spans two ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2016 | 8:51:25 AM
Egalitarianism overseas
It's worth pointing out that this is, for the most part, distinctly a western phenomenon.  In other nations where cyber defense and and cyber offense are extremely important to those nations' powers that be, women are just as prolific in the field as men are.  Plus, hacking and cybersecurity are a part of secondary education in nations like these (Israel is particularly proud of that fact), so there is greater exposure of the field to both genders.
Cyberattacks Are Tailored to Employees ... Why Isn't Security Training?
Tim Sadler, CEO and co-founder of Tessian,  6/17/2021
7 Powerful Cybersecurity Skills the Energy Sector Needs Most
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer,  6/22/2021
Microsoft Disrupts Large-Scale BEC Campaign Across Web Services
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/15/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-22
Trusty TLK contains a vulnerability in the NVIDIA TLK kernel function where a lack of checks allows the exploitation of an integer overflow on the size parameter of the tz_map_shared_mem function.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-22
Trusty TLK contains a vulnerability in the NVIDIA TLK kernel�s tz_handle_trusted_app_smc function where a lack of integer overflow checks on the req_off and param_ofs variables leads to memory corruption of critical kernel structures.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-22
Trusty TLK contains a vulnerability in the NVIDIA TLK kernel where an integer overflow in the tz_map_shared_mem function can bypass boundary checks, which might lead to denial of service.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-22
Trusty contains a vulnerability in TSEC TA which deserializes the incoming messages even though the TSEC TA does not expose any command. This vulnerability might allow an attacker to exploit the deserializer to impact code execution, causing information disclosure.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-22
Trusty contains a vulnerability in all TAs whose deserializer does not reject messages with multiple occurrences of the same parameter. The deserialization of untrusted data might allow an attacker to exploit the deserializer to impact code execution.