Early this Summer, we shared our thoughts on the industry-wide shortage of cybersecurity talent to meet an ever-growing demand. One aspect of this phenomenon that we did not touch on in that post was the gender gap within the cybersecurity community, about which the World Bank hosted a Spring conference . While 50 percent of the working population is female, only 24 percent of cybersecurity professionals are women, according to a recent ISC2 study . The conference and the study attribute this to multiple factors, and at Praetorian we see it stemming partly from the long-term effects of historic exclusion of girls from STEM opportunities, and partly from a well-established misogynist culture within cybersecurity writ large. While the industry has seen an increase in girls and young women pursuing STEM-related studies and careers including cybersecurity, we agree with the National Technology Security Coalition that our industry will continue to wrestle with a gender gap until we truly focus on creating a widespread culture of equality and inclusion for all people.
A Culture of Equals
At Praetorian, we are on a mission to make craters in our industry, and one of the areas in which we are doing so is our cultural pursuit of gender equality. As the Director of People Ops, I wish that this was not even a question anymore. Why do some people expect that women would be different than men in the workplace? Isn’t there enough historical information documenting that gender does not define a person’s abilities? In fact, the ISC2 study I previously cited emphasizes how similar the genders actually are in the workplace. This finding isn’t terribly surprising to me, because at Praetorian there is not really a difference at all. I appreciate that there isn’t a big push to try and stand out here just because you are a woman. One of our engineers put it best when she said, “ At first I had thought that it was going to be hard to blend in since there are not many [women] but everyone is super welcoming and fun to talk/hang out with.”
Core Values-Centered Meritocracy
Indeed, our core values drive a culture of meritocracy: a person’s work is what matters, and not their gender or anything else. As one engineer noted, “the values are the same for all genders. We struggle and celebrate together. I’m not treated any differently for the quality of my work, like, ‘oh wow, this is great stuff…for a woman.’ None of that. You knock it out of the park or you miss, and everyone helps to make the next game a win.” Staff succeeds or fails based on the quality of their work and their adherence to our core values. Period. That includes humility, which eliminates the condescension element common across the traditional misogynistic cybersecurity culture. “No brilliant jerks here,” the same engineer added.
Policies that Reinforce Equality
Underpinning this culture of equitable meritocracy is our approach to pay transparency. A study by the Applied Psychology Association showed white males are more likely to negotiate successfully than their female counterparts. When coupled with policies of compensation confidentiality this leads to inequitable compensation for the same work. On average, women in the US workforce make between 10-24.4 percent less than their similarly qualified and experienced male counterparts, not accounting for any racial differences, according to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research . To counter this trend, we default to open from the beginning and post pay bands with every job opening. Engineers know that their counterparts are paid equitably for the same level of work, and so the message is that leadership values everyone’s contribution equally.
A second area in which we strive for gender equality is work-life harmony . To us, gender doesn’t really factor into people’s need to meet the needs of their families at home. Praetorian recognizes that everyone has demands they must meet outside of work, and we support our staff in equal measure when their home lives need their attention. The most clearcut example of this is our parental leave policy, which is identical for everyone and on par with much larger US companies . An engineer recently wrote , “ Praetorian took the opportunity cost decision away from me. They offered a generous paid paternity leave, no questions asked: ‘take care of your family, we’ll take care of the rest; see you when you get back.’”
To Impact Our Industry
Our emphasis on policies that facilitate gender equality, such as work-life harmony and pay band transparency, serve to bolster our merit-based culture. Here, ideas and performance matter, and a person’s gender really has nothing to do with their success or failure. We hope this only strengthens over time as we grow so that, ultimately, we make a crater in the culture of the cybersecurity industry. Shifting our workplaces and our broader professional community to be more welcoming to all genders will go a long way toward both closing the gender gap and meeting cybersecurity talent demands. More importantly, it’s simply the right thing to do.