Happy thoughtful young businesswoman with digital tablet in hand smiling and looking away in front of colleague at background

Becoming a female tech leader | Part Two

Happy thoughtful young businesswoman with digital tablet in hand smiling and looking away in front of colleague at background

In this two-part series, we highlight how the technology industry is continuing to take steps to have more female representation.

We spoke to female tech leaders showcasing how they entered the field, what appealed to them about the industry, and the advice they would give to other women looking to start a career in tech.

cynthia stantonCynthia Stanton, SVP, Vulnerability Risk Management Practice Leader at Rapid7

“I never viewed my career path as having specific milestones or a linear progression. I was always interested in science. In College, I majored in biology and environmental science, as I planned to pursue a career in medicine. However, some experiences working in college led me to change my path.

“I had some experience in a local start-up during college and discovered that I found solving customers’ problems in a business to be really interesting and satisfying. I had a few other jobs before landing my eventual career in cybersecurity. My entry to that field began because I wanted to live and work in London. I leveraged the network I had built in London to offer my assistance to a cybersecurity company that needed product management and marketing assistance.

“The advice I would give to a woman looking to start a career in cybersecurity or technology is that at the end of the day, if you’re in the right company, you’re going to be evaluated on what you bring to the table and how you approach problems. Technology is important, but there’s always a human element to it. I often think, if you have the capacity to think both technically and with empathy, you can really address the need for your customer.

“Rather than looking to fit a certain mould, I would urge you to put yourself in a position where you have the opportunity to always learn and gain new experiences. Lean into the parts of your experience or personality that might make you different or allow you to approach a situation with a different perspective. I fully acknowledge that flexibility isn’t always possible, but I’d advise you not to try to engineer your entire life; rather, run to opportunities when opportunities present themselves, and trust that things will work out. Early on in my career I was really intent on maximising my impact where I was and was also open to taking positions others might not be so comfortable doing.”

Maria Thompson Saeb, Senior Program Manager Governance, Risk, and Compliance at Illumio

“Technology is exciting to me; I’ve always liked the science of it. It’s amazing to look at the progress we’ve made over the last 20 years – it’s clear that we wouldn’t be where we are today without so much interest and investment technology.

“I started my career in the 90s as a hardcore technologist – managing and building systems – and I loved it! Then, we entered an era where we needed to prioritize security more, so I started exploring and eventually made the move to cybersecurity. My technical background helped give me a strong foundation for the work I’m doing now.

“For women who are looking to start a career in tech, my biggest piece of advice is to figure out what you enjoy the most. In technology there are so many opportunities and roles to choose from – focus on satisfying your curiosity and do what makes you happy. Once you figure out what’s most interesting and fun for you, you can start looking at the qualifications required for that role and develop the skills you need. You can also start networking and get involved with groups like Shecurity or ISACA’s women in tech network. Never underestimate the power of a strong, supportive network.

“Overall, technology is an exciting and rewarding space to be in. If you’re looking to start your career in tech, remember that you deserve a place in this industry as much as anyone.”

lisa gradyLisa Grady, Product Manager at Radiant Logic

“I always knew I wanted to work in the technology industry so was looking for a company that could really harness that enthusiasm. As such, I started my tech career as a solutions architect at Radiant Logic, the company I am currently still working for, and, over my 22-year career, I have progressed to Product Manager.

“I was one of very few women to have joined Radiant Logic at its infancy, but now we have a great team which includes a number of women who are enabling the company to grow and develop as the leader in the identity management space. While I have not experienced any form of gender discrimination during my career, I have noticed an obvious difference in the industry’s openness towards women. There was a time where we were the minority at the tradeshows I went to, but that is not the case nowadays and it’s great to see.

“I have been very fortunate in my career to have such a positive experience and it goes to show how welcoming the industry can be, and what a great place it is to have a career. For those looking to enter the field, go for it! If it is something you’re interested in and you think you can make a change, go for it. Every single company out there needs a diverse range of voices in order to be truly successful, so believe me, you are wanted!”

Lara Vafiadis, Regional Sales Manager at Deep Instinct 

“When reading about some of the largest technology companies, Microsoft, Google, VMware, IBM, we know these are all lead by great leaders- but not women. The idea that technology is a male industry starts at a young age, and there are still stigmas around young girls showing interest in science and technology when at school. This needs to change and maybe seeing a strong female leader at one of these companies could be the push it needs.

“To those women considering entering the industry, don’t let the fact that women are the minority phase you- be who you are and have the confidence to show that; it can be an advantage! In a room predominately male, being a woman means you have the edge, you have different ways of looking at a problem and you are unique. Companies are starting to realise that a diverse workforce is a strong workforce- we all bring something different to the table.”

To have so many female representatives within the technology industry is truly wonderful to see- and it highlights how the sector, and those within it, are making great efforts to create a more diverse and equal workforce. The technology industry is an undeniably great place to have a career, with opportunities available for all, so it is important that those women who are looking for a career in tech, don’t let stereotypes and stigma from getting in their way. With more women entering the field and feeling like they have a space to fill within the sector, then we can be certain that we will see more female tech leaders, and the percentage of female FTSE 350 CEO’s will continue to rise.

Becoming a female tech leader | Part One

March 8th 2022 marks International Women’s Day, and for many, this day is one to celebrate, highlighting the great steps that have been taken by individuals, organisations and industries alike in making women an equal part of society.

However, we still have a long way to go in making genuine and noticeable headway with diversity in the tech industry. According to the most recent Pipeline’s Women Count, only five percent of CEOs in FTSE 350 companies are women. With so little representation among leaders within the technology sector, it’s no wonder that so many women feel that there isn’t space for them within the industry.

However, there are many women who have made careers for themselves within the tech industry which have been rewarding and incredibly successful.

We talk to those women in this two-part series, highlighting their achievements as well as the advice they would give to those women looking to enter the technology field.

Yael TasherYael Tasher, Global Senior Director, Customer Success at Cyren

“Gender equality and diversity is something that has been constantly developing over the years. The evidence to that is that many companies have departments that are responsible for recruiting people from different backgrounds to create diversity (not only gender). And this openness and the fact that there are discussions about this topic shows the improvement. For example, at Cyren, we give equal chances to all candidates. When we recruit new employees, gender is not an issue- we look for the skills and the personality that the candidate brings.

“The industry can improve its gender equality by starting with young age- have companies help in exposing young people from different backgrounds to this world. Invest in programs that guide young people to believe in themselves and believe that they can join the technology industry, and what they want to achieve (it does not have to be engineering/coding, it can be finance, HR, etc). To that I would also add that sometimes women or people from different backgrounds may need to work or invest more to shine or show their value, but this is not necessarily a negative, on the contrary, it shows character and willingness.

“For those women looking to enter the tech industry, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and try a new path, it can often result in the best careers.”

Tina GravelTina Gravel- SVP Channel and Alliances at Appgate

“I started my career after I had just finished school in a company selling B2C products. I knew that I wanted to be involved with selling something that took strategic thinking, so I targeted companies that, at the time, had the best training programs, such as IBM. Once I made that decision to move to IT, I haven’t looked back.

“The technology industry has improved in its openness to welcome women into job roles, however, we still have a long way to go. Instead of looking at the industry as the culprit, we must look at all institutions; schools, governments, to make sure that fairness prevails and is architected into systems and processes at all levels to really effect change.

“For those women looking to enter the tech industry, please do not hesitate and come and join us! It is a wonderful time to be part of this business and we need you. I can promise that you will never be bored. You can find many female mentors within the space as well- one of my female mentors is Carolyn Boyle (ret.) CIO of CNA Insurance. At her peak she had over 1200 people in her department there. She has been coaching me since the 1990’s and I am so grateful for her sponsorship and friendship all these years later. She was my customer way back then, and I never let her go!”  

Bar Block, Threat Intelligence Researcher at Deep Instinct  

“I was not interested in the technology field at all until I had an “introduction to computer science” course in Middle school. We learned to program using a block based visual programming language called “Scratch”, and the teacher encouraged us to program apps that interested us, such as games. This made the lessons quite interesting and as a result, I majored in computer science in high school and even become an active member of the school’s app development club. When I finished high school, I enlisted in the IDF and went through cyber security training. When I eventually finished my service, I joined Deep Instinct.

“Although I have only been part of the tech industry for a few years, I do think it has improved in its openness to welcome women, and I think it is continuing to improve. The industry can help its next generation to become more diverse by helping young girls who are interested in tech related fields to fulfil their potential. This can be done by creating tech related afternoon programs for girls, encouraging them to take part in existing programs, or even just sending women who work in the industry to lecture in schools and show them that they also have a place in this industry.

“Those who are looking to enter the field need to know that there is a space for them- if it is something that you want to do, then do it. It may be difficult at first, but if you work hard, you will find your way in this industry and may even help in making it more accessible to other women.”

Rachel AbdullahRacha Abdullah, Customer Solutions Architect at EfficientIP

“I always knew I wanted to be a woman working in cybersecurity. My father, who was an officer, always said that the next war will be a cyber war. He therefore wanted all of his kids to have a career in cybersecurity, so it was instilled in us from a young age and he planted the seed of my affection towards networking and security.

 “I do think the industry has improved in its openness towards women- people trust that we can do just as well as the men working in the field, and they trust our expertise and opinions. While I haven’t faced discrimination per se, I have experienced people being surprised by the fact that I am a woman. For example, the first time I worked on a full deployment for a big project in the area, I discovered that the customer was really stunned- I was the first woman who was doing onsite professional services for them. I thought he was actually a little scared, but when he saw my professionalism and my dedication, he gave me his full support and we have since become good friends.”

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.