It’s no secret that women make up a disproportionately small part of the security industry. This International Women’s Day, female security leaders share their career paths and offer advice to women looking to enter the industry. 

Caroline Vignollet, SVP Research & Development of OneSpan

“Since beginning my career, I believe there’s been considerate progress made regarding how women are perceived in the technology industry, and we owe a lot of credit to the women in the industry themselves. However, it’s no secret STEM careers remain male-dominated today. Although Gen Z is more conscientious of the technology skills gap, they are still progressing step-by-step and accepting the fact that we need to take action to challenge the status quo. This can take time, and I do see younger women today develop this subconscious bias that they don’t belong in technology fields — ultimately placing them on alternate career paths. As women, we must swim against the current and approach opportunities objectively in order to discover our passions and pursue the careers that most interest us.”

Helena Schwenk, VP Chief Data & Analytics Officer at Exasol

“Although there is still work that needs to be done to attract and retain female talent in STEM fields, we have come a long way. At the beginning of my career, I experienced a lot of the issues women have faced in male-dominated industries. I was frequently the only woman in the room and I felt I needed to prove myself more than my male counterparts. At the time, it was also common to view women who had families as people who were less committed to their careers, and for me, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. 

I am grateful these attitudes have changed, and I’m encouraged by the progress I’ve seen, particularly in terms of improved parental leave policies and work-life balance initiatives. It will continue to be important to offer flexible work arrangements to support people from all backgrounds. Not only will this increase the inclusiveness of STEM fields, but these diverse voices and the skillsets they have will also help drive tech innovation.”

Jennifer Mahoney, Manager, Data Governance, Privacy and Protection at Optiv

“Women continue to be underrepresented in privacy and security fields and bring unique experiences that have shaped their journey. From the Saturday morning basketball league my dad signed me up for in second grade, through my time as a firefighter on my chemical facility’s emergency response team in my 20s, through my career as a consultant now in the privacy and technology sector, I have long recognized gender imbalances, unconscious bias and stereotypes in and out of the workplace. In the privacy and security space, women bring perspective and raise insights to help solve complex privacy and ethical issues. We can all be a voice for underrepresented groups by advocating for the rights and autonomy of individuals, promoting ethical data handling principles, and fostering a culture of transparency and accountability — which is increasingly important in the age of privacy and AI. I enjoy working with my colleagues and clients to create meaningful impact and contribute to building a more equitable and privacy-respecting world.”