Women CISOs to Watch

May 21, 2020 | 5 min read | Trending Topics

I recently interviewed three women leaders in cybersecurity on what it is like to be a female leader in this typically male-dominated field. The interview with Olivia Rose, Naomi Buckwalter, and Lisa Plaggemier was a starting point, providing insights on what characteristics and special talents women are able to bring to this role; why diversity is important; and what success looks like and I wanted to dig further into this.

First, some statistics:

  • According to Forrester Research analyst Stephanie Balaouras, women now represent somewhere between 15-20 percent of the industry if you include security and risk, privacy, and compliance and audit functions.
  • Only 13% of Fortune 500 companies currently have a woman cybersecurity leader working as CISO, CIO, or VP of Security, says the 2019 ISC2 Women in Cybersecurity
  • 15% of female F500 cybersecurity leaders have been in the industry for more than 30 years, while 58% have held their position for less than 5 years.
  • And according to the latest Cybersecurity Jobs Report, the worldwide deficit of qualified cybersecurity professionals will reach 3.5 million by 2021.

In theory, this presents a huge opportunity for qualified women in the pipeline, and for those companies that can take advantage of this pool of untapped talent. Interestingly, a Boston Consulting Group study found that innovation only improves when the workforce includes 20 percent or more women in management positions.

Women security leaders to watch

During my research, I came across Cybersecurity Ventures, who recently kickoff a project showcasing women who are Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at F500 and G2000 companies. Rene Gunn, operational risk program manager, and Steve Morgan, Cybersecurity Ventures founder and Editor-in-Chief at Cybercrime Magazine, initiated a LinkedIn discussion to identify as many women CISOs as possible. They have 181 contributors to date naming amazing women who hold top jobs in this highly demanding field.

This comprehensive list of women CISOs curated in the above LinkedIn discussion includes all of the ones listed on “Women CISOs to watch” and are executives who are making their mark in this highly demanding field and inspiring others to do the same:

The power of diversity

Diversity in tech can be the driver of a great company culture filled with innovative and high-functioning teams. At the same time, diverse management styles strengthen a company’s leadership profile, with a substantial positive correlation between diverse leadership teams and financial performance.

Done right, here are some positive outcomes for diversity in tech, compiled by the Forbes Technology Council:

  • Diverse teams win more often and more consistently.
  • Diversity helps ensure that the best ideas rule the day.
  • Diverse teams provide different perspectives and can identify, assess, and solve problems faster than homogenous groups.
  • Teams that are too homogeneous have a challenge in tapping into empathy for customers and being able to reach a wider market.

Final thoughts

Much has been said about the lack of talent in the cybersecurity industry, yet half of the population continues to be underrepresented. As a positive, this offers companies a significant opportunity. Forrester’s recommendations for change include expanding how the organization searches for talent, identifying other disciplines with relevant skill sets, and making sure that an inclusive culture has been created that will lead to a more diverse industry – ensuring that the best talent is in place and the best ideas rule the day. The more women in cyber leadership roles, the more this becomes a win-win for all.