From the classroom to the C-suite, those in marginalized groups can remember a time in which they were the only member of a particular identity within a security space. Even after making it into those spaces, there are still endless challenges to be faced. For example, women often face workplace harassment and other forms of discrimination. These challenges often multiply depending on the racial and ethnic groups a woman may belong to. The gender wage gap, for example, varies depending on a woman's race. 

For International Women’s Day, Security magazine is sharing stories and suggestions from women in security leadership positions. First, women reflected on how this International Women’s Day feels different from past years, especially pre-pandemic years. 

“On this 2023 International Women’s Day, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt, in both positive and negative ways, on women in the workplace. I think we need to refocus and double down on helping women grow and thrive in leadership roles. Career growth took a backseat to family obligations for many during the pandemic, especially women, and it’s time to shift the spotlight back to programs that help women move into leadership positions. 

On the other hand, the pandemic did a lot of good for women in the workplace. Hybrid workplaces are now the norm, making juggling home and work responsibilities easier. And the hybrid nature of other organizations helps women in the workplace as well. The fact that I can join meetings at my children’s schools via Zoom means I don’t have to leave work to travel to school meetings. The ability to participate in non-work meetings virtually is a huge career plus for everyone, especially women who take on more caregiving responsibilities.” — Libby Merrill, Chief Financial Officer at ThreatX.

In addition, security leaders were asked to answer a few questions. 

Why are you passionate about security? 

“I have always found I thrive in a world of questions and challenges, forcing myself to solve problems from outside of the box. I’m driven by the puzzle, both the physical one you pull out during the holidays and the technical one when you’re trying to debunk the network, fix the outage or solve the investigation from an incident. Every day, I work with powerhouse women who are changing the status quo and innovating across the industry, which further inspires and drives me.”  — Jessica Hetrick, Senior Cyber Resilience Leader, Optiv. 

“National security represents not only the physical safety of our citizens but also the protection of our democratic institutions and values. My parents came to the United States as refugees to escape persecution in the Soviet Union, pursuing the promise of those democratic ideals. I am passionate about national security because I want to safeguard our nation's interests and protect those ideals, for both present and future generations.” — MAJ Simona Rosekelly, Judge Advocate in the US Army.

“I'm passionate about how different individuals and communities define security, which I believe can inform a more holistic lens through which practitioners and advocates can approach security solutions.” — Lauren Buitta, Founder and CEO, Girl Security.

How can the security industry work to promote diversity in the field?

“The security industry needs to drive awareness and foster a collaborative, innovative and fun environment to promote diversity, inclusion and recruitment in the field. The more folks who talk about how fun and passionate, challenging and rewarding, culturally diverse and inclusive the security industry is, the more people we attract from all parts of the world. When we practice what we preach, we also build a culture of acceptance, creativity and action.” — Jessica Hetrick, Senior Cyber Resilience Leader, Optiv.

“I’d like to see more entry level positions and security internships to attract diverse candidates. Organizations need to ensure they have diverse panels recruiting and interviewing candidates. Organizations need to re-evaluate the way job descriptions for our field are crafted. Security job descriptions often focus on hard skills; leaving out the soft skills that contribute to a great security practitioner.” — Marlene Baur, Sr. Security Manager, Vice President, Citi Security and Investigative Services, Citigroup.

“Challenge the status quo around how government and industry have defined "security," the theoretical and technical frameworks that have shaped the industry, and the solutions themselves. I suspect most would find that we have had an extremely limited perspective, which has excluded the insights and participation of diverse communities.” — Lauren Buitta, Founder and CEO, Girl Security.

“International Women’s Day is about reflecting on our progress while understanding that there’s still work that needs to be done to enable more equity and inclusivity. To do so, I encourage women in tech to be proactive about seeking new opportunities and experiences and to never be afraid of taking on new challenges — even if you are the only woman in the room. As a woman, you should always bring your authentic self to your role, and your insight and enthusiasm are critical when pushing for change in your company while being an aspiration to others in your field.” — Hope Lynch, Senior Director, Platform at CloudBees.