Narrowing the gender equality gap within industrial cyber security industry

By Galina Antova, co-founder and chief business development officer at Claroty 

gender equality, gender balanceWe are currently seeing ample evidence that nation-state adversaries are targeting critical infrastructure sectors, such as water, electricity, transportation etc., around the globe.

For example, at the end of April, Israel reported that there had been a large-scale attempt at a critical infrastructure attack against its national water supply. All of this infrastructure is essential to operations that keep a country running and therefore valuable to attackers, and it is likely we’ll see more attacks as a form of economic warfare to advance geopolitical agendas in the near future.

That said, the operational technology (OT) networks that this infrastructure runs on has a lot of catching up to do to reach the IT cyber security landscape. They are about 25 years apart due to the majority of OT running on legacy networks that in the past have been unconnected and standalone entities. They are now becoming connected; however, this connectivity brings with it an abundance of risks that the industry has not had to worry about in the past.

Bridging the gender gap in the industrial cyber security sector

In order to close the cyber security gap between IT and OT, a number of companies specialising in industrial cyber security, ourselves included, have stepped onto the scene in recent years.

But there is also another gap that needs closing – the gender gap.

While the challenge exists in employing women in the technology sector in general, there is an extra consideration in the industrial cyber security sector as it tends to not only involve technology and cyber, but also automation engineering, which traditionally has been a male domain.

The lack of female representation in this space is prominent right across the board, from executives leading the industrial cyber security initiatives in large corporations, to OT engineers in the field. Securing industrial control systems as well as driving wider digitalisation initiatives require a great deal of collaboration between different parts of the organisation. Women (as a group, not individual members) tend to be better at driving consensus and enabling collaboration, so I think the lack of adequate female representation is particularly relevant to this aspect of our industry.

The opportunity for women

Despite the exponential progress made in the last few decades, we are still very far from true equality. And there will not be true equality until women and men have equal power.

Based on my experience, two things are key to narrowing the gender gap, both in the industrial cybersecurity sector, and further afield: Addressing unconscious biases, and having the gatekeepers of power structure open the door and invite more women in.

I am involved in a number of initiatives, from mentoring female founders to working with women executives in our industry to address the gap in diversity – one being All Raise, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the diversity in funders and founders in tech. However, there are some key steps, that are much simpler and can be incorporated into everyday life, that we can take to begin breaking down these barriers.

First and foremost, within our organisations we need to be able to identify and discourage the conscious and especially the unconscious biases that fuel this gap, such as overlooking someone for promotion, etc. We all carry these biases irrespective of gender. Identifying them openly is something that I do a lot, both privately and publicly, and I consider it to be a great first step in addressing and solving this challenge.

Secondly, and this is something that has improved in recent years, we need board level and C-level executives not only to be aware of the gender gap, but also to dedicate necessary resources to create projects, budgets and teams to address the issue. Having this kind of support from the top will mean that the entire organisation will develop a shift in culture, consequently supporting women, seeing them as equal to men, and giving them the power and confidence they need, and deserve, to succeed.

As a woman working in the technology sector, I am constantly reminded in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways that we have a long way to go to reach equality. But I am confident we will get there, eventually.

About the author

Galina Antova Galina Antova is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Claroty. Prior to co-founding the company, she was the Global Head of Industrial Security Services at Siemens overseeing the development of its portfolio of services that protect industrial customers against cyber-attacks. While at Siemens, she was also responsible for leading the Cyber Security Practice and the Cyber Security Operations Centre providing managed security services for industrial control systems operators. Previously, Galina was with IBM in Canada in various roles in the Provisioning and Cloud Solutions business. She holds a BS in Computer Science from York University in Toronto, and an MBA from IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland. 

Tech role models featured

It’s mind over matter when it comes to working in a man’s world

By Jurgita Andrijauskaite, eProcurement consultant, Wax Digital

tech role modelsToday, we’re seeing increasing numbers of women thrive in traditionally male-dominated industries. This is inspiring to see, especially for young female students and graduates thinking about careers in the STEM sectors.

In spite of a host of positive female role models taking on high profile roles, frustratingly it’s still not uncommon to hear tales of women being overlooked for certain jobs or feel they have to prove themselves more than their male counterparts.

In my role, I help businesses resolve their procurement challenges using technology. I work for a software company which is 85% male, and with procurement leads, many of whom are men too. However, fortunately for me, I’ve never experienced any prejudice or unfair treatment as a woman working in a heavily male dominated sector and think women should believe in their own ability to perform a role just as well, if not better than a man.

Any issues I have faced in my career have little to do with these male dominated environments, in fact my biggest challenge has always been my own self-limiting beliefs. I always used to struggle with self-promotion, asserting myself and taking credit for my achievements. The fear of being judged on ‘Who does she think she is?’ seemed very real when I was starting out.

I think men can get ahead more quickly and easily than women in business because they tend to have the confidence to seize opportunities when they arise, take credit for their successes more readily and are not shy to ask for what they want. I think overcoming feelings of doubt is what sets successful women apart. This certainly changed the way I view myself and others.

When I was younger, I feared that I may not be taken seriously and that people in senior positions would not be interested in hearing what I have to say. As I became more experienced and confident in what I do, this fear has faded. I think it is important to realise that powerful men in expensive suits are human beings too and that equality means trusting and treating yourself equally to the way you treat others.

During my career I have been lucky to have been supported by both male and female mentors who have offered me their honest feedback, support and encouragement. They also helped me to understand what both genders have to offer and learned to appreciate the value of diverse teams. Looking at the bigger picture, taking more risks and not letting perfection get in the way of progress are a few of the valuable lessons that I can attribute to my male role models and I am thankful for them.

My advice to any woman who suddenly finds herself working in a male-dominated environment would be to go for it, and not to try and act like a man! If you ever feel that you’re being left out of the ‘boys club’, think where that feeling might be coming from. Trust that there are ways to build strong professional relationships with men without having to pretend that you like football or drinking beer. You can add a lot of value by tapping into your femininity - your strength lies not in being the same, but in being different. Ask yourself what you are truly passionate about and try to bring that to your work. For me it is the human factor – working with people first, technology second. I’m passionate about helping people, understanding human behaviour and nurturing relationships. It takes great people to build technology, make decisions, apply and manage it to get the desired results. Technology is shaped by human interaction, not the other way around. It is people driven.

To more encourage woman into male-dominated professions, I’d like to see more women support each other. The sisterhood can bring about a positive change in gender equality. Women should empower each other, and we should be proud of our unique skills such as flexibility, an empathetic approach, creativity, intuition to name just a few.

Jurgita AndrijauskaiteAbout the author

Jurgita (Gita) is an eProcurement consultant at Wax Digital, an integrated Source to Pay software provider. Prior to joining Wax, Gita worked in global procurement for CEVA Logistics.

Tech Talent Charter devise 2020 plan to make the tech industry more inclusive

Tech Talent CharterThe lack of diversity in the technology industry is an issue that many wish to tackle.

Unfortunately, women still hold less that 20 percent of technical roles in the UK and only 35 percent of STEM students in higher education are female.

In 2016, Debbie Forster noticed lots of companies were trying to improve diversity within their organisation, but were struggling to make any progress. As a consequence, in 2017, Forster founded the Tech Talent Charter (TTC). The TTC, which is voluntary and free to join, is a not-for-profit which aims to bring together organisations that have an interest in making the technology sector inclusive and diverse.

“All you’ve got to do is guarantee that you're doing something internally, that you're willing to collaborate, to share best practice, and to give me your data,” Forster explains.

This means that being part of the Tech Talent Charter is a privilege, and no matter how big and well-known your company is, you must adhere to the rules to ensure you remain part of the programme.

Forster explains "Both years that we had our report, I have cut members. If they don't give me data, they get removed. I removed 15 percent of my members this year and about 20 percent last year, because what we found is, when companies weren't sharing their data with us, it was because they didn't have the ingredients that they said they did. They didn’t get senior buy-in and they were really not comfortable in collaborating or sharing.”

Any company that is expelled from the programme can rejoin after a year, while knowing that Forster will be having some difficult discussions with them upon their return.

The TTC has recently release its diversity in tech benchmarking report which gives statistics from over 300 companies that are members of the organisation.

Although there isn't complete 50/50 gender parity, Forster is happy with the progress that the results show. Across TTC's signatories, women hold 24% of tech roles, compared to the current UK average of 16%.

One of the key parts of being involved in the Tech Talent Charter is adopting an inclusive recruitment process. This includes making sure job adverts are gender neutral and that all interview panels are gender diverse. This is in the hopes that, wherever possible, women are included within the whole interview process.

“What’s fantastic is to see that what we've been promoting is starting to bear fruit,” she says. “This is a great piece of incentive to bring back to people.

“It also shows that our companies are already indicating that they plan to develop a strategy. More [organisations] are planning to have those targets for shortlists, supporting returners and retraining people, which I think is going to be a game changer.”


In September 2019, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced its third round of funding for the Tech Talent Charter, generously contributing more than £350,000 in support of the initiative.

For Forster, collaboration is at the heart of the charter. In 2016, she was frustrated that so many companies were trying to improve inclusion and diversity in the tech industry without even reaching out to others who were trying to do the same, to find out how they were going about it.

“We bring together employers, recruiters, consultants and people who are working with under-represented groups to help them collaborate," she explains. "We think most of the pieces of the puzzle are out there but it's about bringing them together.”

The Future

In January this year, TTC held their third annual event, where people from across the tech sector come together to find out what members and supports of the Charter had achieved in the past year. During the event, Forster also shared her vision for the future and what goals she hopes the Tech Talent Charter will achieve.

In regards to long term targets, Forster has spoken of one very specific goal she hopes the 2020 Tech Talent Charter will achieve. She wants to not only focus on the lack of gender diversity, but also take a closer look at how (un)successfully organisations are hiring ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, disabled, neurodiverse and socially diverse employees. Forster has also noted that, when it comes to gender, she wants signatories to look beyond binary definitions. As Forster noted at the event, if we only bring in more white, middle class women, that’s not diversity.

She said at the January event: “I want our members to know they can find the tools, the information, the strategies, the organisations, in order to genuinely move the dial on all aspects of inclusion and diversity. I want our members to be able to find posts in our open playbook and our mapping. I want to see those ingredients inspire more returning and retraining programmes, more targeting in terms of diverse shortlists and then really continuing to pull ahead of the pack when it comes to tech.”

The Tech Talent Charter has an exciting year ahead. For its signatories, the next 12 months are about continuing to build an inclusive working environment for diverse employees, as well as helping TTC to welcome in more organisations with the same vested interest.

“The time to act on it, to focus on the practical and move the dial is now,” as Forster concluded.


Women supporting women: creating a more diverse tech workforce

Hanna Stacey, Business Manager at Rackspace

gender equality, gender balanceIt’s no secret that the technology industry has a significant gender gap, with women comprising only 22 per cent of those in STEM core occupations.

There are a number of societal and cultural barriers that have contributed to this under-representation of women in technology. That said, we do know that the problem starts from an early age: by school age just 27 per cent of female students say they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61 per cent of males – and only three per cent say it would be their first choice.

As an industry we understand that the issue needs to be tackled from a young age. However, while this can help us encourage more girls to pursue a career in tech, it’s not a silver bullet. US studies have shown that more than half of women in tech will leave the industry by the mid-point of their career – double the rate of men. For the STEM industry to become truly diverse, we must look at how we’re supporting women throughout their tech journey – not just when they’re starting it.

Launching women into technology careers

From my own time in education, I understand how difficult it can be in a heavily male-dominated field. Having studied human biology at university and being one of only two women in my class, comments were often made about how unusual it was to see a woman in the labs. However, I was able to use this to motivate me. For this reason, I have made it my mission to motivate others to consider a career in an industry they have a passion for, but may have concerns about entering.

While there have been a number of fantastic STEM initiatives in recent years, there is still more that those of us working in the tech sector can be doing to make this shift. For example, we can be getting involved with girls in technology programmes at local schools to ensure that they have opportunities to meet female role models from industry and understand the exciting opportunities of a career in tech. This can help change their perceptions of what many recognise as a stereotypically male-dominated sector.

For example, Harlington School’s sixth form was recently welcomed to Rackspace’s offices for a ‘Women in Tech’ session. This involved an immersive tour into the world of cloud computing through interactive presentations and workshops. As part of this, the students built their own servers and cloud environments for online games using traditional hardware and cloud infrastructure. They also heard about the range of career opportunities in the tech sector.

We are seeing a growing appetite from girls to pursue a career in STEM - and I believe that this is in part due to the increased investment and focus in schools. Indeed, Harlington School attributes the increased number of females taking IT to A-Level directly to the ongoing relationship and involvement it has with the industry. It’s therefore key that we ensure that girls across the entire country have the same opportunities to understand the advantages of a career in tech and dispel the ‘boys club’ myth. 

Support throughout their technology journey

Nonetheless, it is not enough just to encourage more women into a tech career. Fifty-six per cent of women working in the technology industry leave their job halfway through their career journey. It’s therefore important that we consider their needs in the business and support them with taking advantage of all the opportunities available. This needs to be embedded in the company culture. It is for this reason that I helped set up the POWER group in EMEA (the Professional Organisation for Women’s Empowerment at Rackspace).

POWER launched at the beginning of the year, and in April the team agreed on three focus areas: attracting; developing; and retaining women to create better balance in the workforce. For each, we workshopped initiatives and shortlisted those we felt achievable in year one. This included increased visibility and influence for women in the workplace, as well as initiatives around reviewing the maternity leave process and launching a ‘parents at work’ group.

The group has helped us create a sense of community, which I believe is important if we want to retain more female talent in the technology industry. There’s a clear positive intent with the group as we are working towards providing equality in the workplace whilst also empowering women in tech. As a group, we’ve already delivered great outcomes and aim to continue to challenge the status quo, to ensure we are retaining women in STEM careers.

Be part of the technology revolution

We know that the technology industry has some of the greatest career opportunities as we enter the fourth – then fifth – industrial revolution. So, we must ensure that the traditional ‘boys club’ image is dispelled and that women feel increasingly inspired, confident and supported to pursue tech roles.

We all have our part to play in making a more diverse workforce in technology a reality. As we have seen, this means using our position in the industry to improve the future experience of women in technology firms, and highlighting its benefits to the next generation to inspire them to take part.

Hanna Stacey About the author

Hanna Stacey is a Business Manager at Rackspace, to the EMEA Managing Director, Darren Norfolk. She works alongside the leadership team to facilitate strategic planning, creation of scorecards and governance of projects whilst keeping the team focused on business priorities.

In the last year at Rackspace, Hanna has influenced the start-up of POWER, a professional network for Women’s empowerment at Rackspace and has been recognised at the Rising Star Awards as a winner in her field.

With a STEM background, Hanna has always been interested in the sciences and the future, and has found her niche working in the Technology industry.

woman under a glass, breaking glass ceiling

Break the ‘class ceiling’ to boost equality of opportunity

woman under a glass, breaking glass ceiling

By Khyati Sundaram, Head of Product, Applied

The UK has a ‘class ceiling’, preventing talented employees from breaking through.

To tear it down, employers need to rethink the way they attract and hire employees – and ensure greater equality of opportunity for the wider UK economy.

While the Equalities Act 2010 makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone based on age, orientation, gender & religion, it offers no protection against class-based partiality. Even if this discrimination isn’t intentional, unconscious bias can rear its head without recruiters even realising.

This issue has lasting implications for an employer’s search for talent, social cohesion and the wider economy. A growing body of academic research is shedding light on this issue:

In 2016, the UK government’s State of the Nation Report acknowledged that: “from the early years through to universities and the workplace, there is an entrenched and unbroken correlation between social class and success.”

Successive studies have quantified this inequality. A 2016 study by the London School of Economics and Swarthmore College found that while 33 per cent of the UK population is from a working class background, it makes up just ten per cent of elite occupations.

Even when working-class individuals are successful in joining elite occupations, they earn on average 16 per cent less than people from more privileged backgrounds – detailed in LSE academics Samuel Friedman and Daniel Laurison’s 2019 book ‘The Class Ceiling’ whose work has been able to highlight less privileged candidates being shut out of elite jobs and prevented from realising their earning potential.

And there’s ultimately a wider economic cost to ingrained bias: Sutton Trust economists estimated in 2017 that greater social mobility could boost UK GDP by 2 per cent or £39 billion.

While UK companies are realising the need for staff training on unconscious bias and diversity, a more proactive and effective way to break the ‘class ceiling’ is through organisations rethinking their recruitment processes to make them fairer.

There are three practical and manageable changes that organisations can make to hiring to ensure this greater equality.

First, organisations need to commit to fair and unbiased recruiting policies, publishing a policy and communicating this to staff and potential employees in their external and internal communications.

Second, leaders need to implement tactics such as neutral wording of job descriptions in their recruitment channels. Academic research shows that taking out biased wording encourages more applications from people of less privileged backgrounds – and from women and more diverse audiences too.

Third, organisations need to use debiased hiring (including anonymisation) to ensure fairer and simpler recruitment.

New data-driven, blind hiring tools strip away all irrelevant information from a candidate’s CV and job applications and anonymise the way this data is presented to recruiting teams, leaving just the core qualities that make the candidate suitable for the job. These capabilities boost equality in recruitment and can engender social mobility within the wider workplace.

Using these tools, recruiters will no longer be swayed by a candidate that went to a prestigious school or bagged a life-changing internship through a relative’s connections – instead they are seeing the real candidate and what they can achieve. Rather than artificially narrowing the candidate pool to the same types of candidates they’ve previously hired for, they’re widening it to find anyone with the skills they need wherever they learnt them.

Fairer recruitment and removal of unconscious bias is helping organisations hire talented people that might once have slipped under the radar − or bounced off that class ceiling − as these examples show:

Engineering and construction business, Carey Group, became disenchanted with traditional CVs because they prevented candidates from conveying their real work capabilities. As a result, the company transformed its recruitment process to eliminate the risk of bias with a new, fairer blind hiring platform. Candidates now respond to the group’s vacancies by answering behavioural questions tailored to each specific job role with all responses anonymised before being reviewed. Not only does the new platform remove a candidate’s personal details and work history, it also randomises how the responses are viewed by the selection team. An interviewee’s answers are scored on a question-by-question basis – rather than applicant-by-applicant  – ensuring that all candidates are judged on equal merit.

Global charity Comic Relief implemented a blind hiring platform in 2019 to handle wide-ranging staffing needs and short-term resourcing for campaigns like Red Nose Day and Sport Relief – while fulfilling corporate demands for improved diversity and inclusion in its hiring. Its senior team reports that it can now plan how and where it is searching for talent across many different communities, job forums, regions or universities. This means that its recruitment is diverse while ensuring that the organisation gets the best people for the roles available.

Blind hiring is delivering equal opportunities through fairer hiring of talented people, regardless of background. Even among less-enlightened employers, we can start to break the class ceiling – and promote social mobility.

Khyati Sundaram AppliedAbout the author

Khyati Sundaram is the Head of Product at Applied. She looks after the strategic direction of the product and is responsible for overseeing the management of the product roadmap. Prior to joining Applied, she co-founded an AI-based pricing platform. Khyati has over ten years’ experience in product, fundraising and finance across small companies and large organizations such as JP Morgan and RBS. She holds an MSc in Economics, specializing in game theory, from the London School of Economics and an MBA from London School of Business with an exchange at the Wharton School.


Shining a light on the equality problem in STEM this Ada Lovelace Day

gender equality

By Industry Experts

Not only are education institutions seeing a continued low proportion of women opting for STEM subjects and ultimately taking up roles in these fields, but a recent report has revealed more than half of women in the tech industry leave by a mid-point in their career.

This is double the rate of men and due in part to weak management, a lack of perceived opportunities, and a poor work-life balance.

Ada Lovelace Day presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on the personal experiences of women in tech and hear what they think companies must do to encourage greater equality in the workplace.

Natacha Robert, Divisional Finance Director, Civica, explains that studying STEM gives you the best foundation for your future career. “In my current job as Divisional Finance Director, my STEM background and knowledge has no doubt informed many of my leadership decisions, resulting in more scientifically grounded and logical decision-making. I found that having a STEM background has given me a better understanding of my peers’ specialities, related to software development and system architecture. I firmly believe that studying STEM subjects equips you with problem-solving skills and teaches you how to apply knowledge and skills to real-world professional challenges, giving you the ability to maximise results.”

But according to Lindsey Kneuven, Chief Impact Officer at Pluralsight and Executive Director of Pluralsight One, there is still a long way to go. “Despite the increased awareness around STEM’s gender imbalance, the problem is systemic. According to a recent UNESCO report, women represent just 35 per cent of STEM students globally. We must accelerate the pace of change to achieve gender equity and ensure the voices, expertise, power and perspectives of women are included to help shape the future.”

Esther Mahr, Conversational Experience Designer, IPsoft, echoes this. “When I look around at industry gatherings, among a sea of engineers, developers, program managers, business analysts and service delivery heads, I still see too few female faces. And it’s not just a lack of female representation – we are a rather homogeneous industry.

“While one day is a good start to creating awareness, more needs to be done to encourage girls to take up STEM subjects. As technology – and in particular AI – becomes an integral part of our world, we have to equip younger generations with the necessary skills they will need to be successful in their future working lives.”

Barbara Schretter, Team Lead Data Science, Celonis, agrees that, it’s important to encourage more women of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels to explore working in technology. “Hopefully by making them more visible, the next generation of female technology professionals can find role models and become inspired to pursue a career in technology.

“It’s a good idea to involve companies in such projects as there will be more and more people needed in tech in the future,” explains Schretter. “The sooner young people start with coding, the better it will be for their future careers. Even if they don’t programme on their own, to have a basic understanding of coding can’t do any harm. Having companies involved in such projects might also help them get excited about building their own scripts or solving various problems through scripting.”

But, while the number of girls studying STEM subjects has risen, “we need to ensure we continue to highlight more role models and the opportunities technology presents for girls’ and young women’s future careers,” explains Jayne Stone, Chief Marketing Officer, Vuealta

“As business leaders, we need to make an active effort to work in collaboration with schools, colleges, parents and media, to ensure girls can learn about these role models and feel confident and equipped to study STEM subjects and hopefully, a career in STEM. We also need to broaden our role models to make it clear that a career in technology doesn’t mean you’ll be confined to one discipline, and it doesn’t necessarily require qualifications in STEM fields.

“From example, Vuealta enables its customers to transform their business planning and supply chain operations through the use of technology, but you don’t have to necessarily be an expert in IT to work within this industry.”

As explained by Joanne Warner, Head of Customer Service, Natterbox though, there is still a cultural change needed within the workplace as well. “It was only after I had my second child that I felt that my gender was at the heart of an issue at work. Some of my management and colleagues thought that my commitment and motivations within the workplace had changed. But this only made me even more determined to prove that work ethic is not defined by gender or children. Everyone will always come across workplace challenges, but I enjoy sometimes having to prove myself – it’s what keeps us engaged with our work and motivated to push forward.

Warner believes “we need diversity to thrive and evolve, so it’s vital that businesses and education organisations continue to promote all opportunities as equal. Spending time and investment in understanding people’s motivations and strengths can produce the most innovative and loyal employees or students.”

Lori MacVittie, Principal Threat Evangelist, F5 Networks thinks “there is a tendency to dismiss women in technology that aren’t in a hands-on role, but we need to support and promote all women in the technology industry because ultimately not everyone that wants a slice of the tech world wants to sit and code all day.

“Fundamentally, STEM has a brand problem and there is a stereotype of the type of women who work in STEM roles. We might think of introverts and people that wear all black and no heels, but that’s just not the case! Whatever kind of woman you are, what you wear or what personality you have, is irrelevant. There’s a role for you.”

Kneuven concludes, “now is the time for companies to prove they are not merely interested in rhetoric but are committed to achieving lasting change in the STEM industry within our lifetime. We must eliminate the barriers that prevent girls’ participation, radically disrupt our education systems and hiring practices to ensure true inclusion and inspire the next generation of talent to pursue their own promising STEM careers. It’s time for all leaders to evaluate how they can make a difference and move the industry forward with equal representation.”