Workforce

Teamwork could lure women to cyber careers

Shutterstock image (by wavebreakmedia): doors opening to a sky of clouds and code.

Who is the cybersecurity professional?

Overwhelmingly, he's a man, but, "it's not a person sitting in a dark room, eating corn chips who has no social skills," said Valecia Maclin, a Raytheon cybersecurity program director.

By dispelling the lone wolf, tech-obsessed stereotype, some hope to draw more women into cybersecurity – a profession that one study found to be 90 percent male.

"Everything is team oriented," Maclin said at an April 21 panel sponsored by Microsoft and New America. "That is my entire day."

Collaboration and people skills can be just as valuable as a tech background, panelists agreed, when it comes to wrangling all the different players needed to handle a cybersecurity incident.

Angela McKay, Microsoft's government security policy director, noted that it's "never just one company" involved in handling a breach, and advised business and government alike to be sure to set up relationships with incident response and other supporting vendors in advance of trouble. A crisis is no time to negotiate a contract, she noted.

Maclin noted that an emphasis on the teamwork involved in cybersecurity could help draw in women, especially those suffering from "imposter syndrome," the fear that one is not 100 percent qualified for a job. (Men, on the other hand, tend to be more comfortable taking jobs for which they know they're only partially qualified, the panelists asserted.)

Women shouldn't be scared off by job postings, said Brooke Hunter, chief of staff at New America's Open Technology Institute.

By the time those postings hit the internet, they have become "an amalgamation of 15 people's wish lists," she noted, saying that for many cybersecurity position listings, no real human being could meet all the requirements.

For a woman who wants to enter the profession, she added, a willingness to learn could trump a list of technical credentials.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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