At The Source, my new venture for women in cyber and businesses who value them, we have a saying,
“Be you in the workplace.”
And although that should be easy to do, sometimes it’s not. Unfortunately, it’s an open secret that cyber can be a hostile industry for women, from trolling on social media platforms and forums, to harassment at events, and the inner circles that leaders and influencers move in. Women are frequently set up for failure, whether that’s when they start a new position, take on a new project, or in leadership – otherwise known as the glass cliff. They’re also often judged and then described with comments related to their appearance or personality rather than their credentials.
Having worked in cyber for over two decades, I’ve heard many things. Some about me. Some about other women. Here’s a short selection,
“ She’s the fat one”
“She’s the fit one”
“She’s the black one”
“She’s the blonde one”
“She’s the one with big tits.”
“She apologises TOO much”
”She’s TOO ambitious”
”She’s TOO quiet”
”She’s TOO loud”
“She’s TOO aggressive”
”She’s TOO opinionated”
“She’s too girly”
”She’s TOO selfish”
”She’s TOO greedy”
“She’s TOO soft”
“She complains TOO much”
“She asks TOO many questions”
As well as,
“She’s not confident ENOUGH”
”She’s not outspoken ENOUGH”
”She’s not forthright ENOUGH”
”She’s not ambitious ENOUGH”
”She’s not driven, ENOUGH”
“She doesn’t have ENOUGH gravitas”
If a woman’s credentials are mentioned, whatever her level, then often the same thing happens.
“She’s TOO technical” or “She’s not technical ENOUGH.”
“She’s TOO qualified” or “She’s not qualified ENOUGH.”
It’s clear, women in cyber must abide by the Goldilock’s principle and fall within certain margins, as opposed to reaching extremes.
When allies step in to help, sometimes they add to the problem. For example, by saying things like:
“I once worked with a woman, and she was EXCELLENT”
“All the women I know in IT and security are extremely competent and agile, even after becoming a mother.”
Sadly, both comments are offensive to women. Hopefully, when I reverse the situation, using men as the subject rather than women, you’ll see why.
It’s riduculous isn’t it?
Next, imagine what it feels like to be told (indirectly) that you don’t belong and that you won’t be accepted for being you. Instead, you’ll be expected to fit in and you’ll only be accepted for being like everyone else. And you’ll be scrutinised and held to a higher standard for most of your working day.
No matter how you identify, I’m sure you can imagine what this feels like. Most of us, at some point in our career (or education), have experienced not belonging.
But the situation for many women in cyber is that they are still struggling to be included – as peers, as experts, and as leaders. Many still face exclusion regularly. For example, from training, knowledge share and skills development to projects, meetings, promotions, bonuses and pay. Many women still lose their jobs by having their roles changed and downgraded when they go on maternity leave. And many women believe (rightly or wrongly) that their careers will be damaged if they bring inappropriate behaviour or an injustice to the attention of their line manager or HR.
As a mother of two boys and a daughter, please understand that I’m NOT anti-men, and I’m not on a crusade against men. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I want ALL in cyber to feel like they belong. And that’s why at The Source, we have the saying…
“Be you in the workplace.”
I know that for EVERYONE to do well in cyber (and other industries), we must become more tolerant, better educate ourselves on how to be more inclusive, and eliminate toxic behaviours in our workplaces – as leaders, as team players, as individuals.
So what next?
If you’re a woman in cyber or a business who values women, and you want to improve your results, we need to talk!
Book a discovery call and learn how we can help you succeed!