While female IT leadership continues on a slow upward trend reaching around 12 percent in 2018 and women overall representing only one in five members of technology teams, security represents an area of opportunity for women as there is an acute shortage of security professionals. In addition, the acceleration of Digital Transformation in the enterprise brings with it requirements for a new skill set exemplified by the rise of DevOps and a flurry of new technologies (Cloud, containers, analytics, machine learning, AI, etc.), which magnifies opportunities for women to become a major force in the market.
To accelerate the role of women in technology, the state of California recently mandated that publicly traded companies must have at least one female on the board of directors by the end of 2019. Some organizations are one step ahead already. For example, three women – Sandra Bergeron, Kristi Rogers, and Wendy Pfeiffer – make up half of the current six-member board of directors for Qualys, a security company trading under the QLYS ticker. These women are instrumental in helping the company with its goal of helping to secure the digital world.
Each of these women bring valuable experience and a unique point of view to the board room. Sandra has served on many technology and cybersecurity company boards. Kristi is a former government official who is now co-founder and managing director of Principal to Principal—working with executives and policy decision-makers. Wendy has worked several well-known tech companies and is currently CIO of Nutanix.
Sandra described the value of having diverse representation on the board—not just gender diversity, but preferably diversity of age, ethnicity, and culture as well. “When you have diversity in the board room, you get better dialogue and a more well-rounded perspective on whatever the topic is.” She went on to explain that the ability to hear and consider different perspectives provides the board with more information, and more information enables them to arrive at the best decisions.
Wendy stressed the importance of a company being genuinely neutral about gender when it comes to seeking board members. She said that the focus should be on finding individuals with the right skills, experience, and expertise to provide value for the company.
She agrees with Sandra on the importance of diverse perspectives, explaining that the board of directors, in general, is a natural reflection of the cultural choices of the company overall. When a variety of perspectives are shared and heard, it leads to a more engaged and collaborative discussion because everyone is unique and contributes to an energetic atmosphere.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling is now a reality
“Women need to seize the moment—seize the opportunity,” declared Sandra. She recommends that women network with people who may be able to open doors for you and develop a working relationship with firms that recruit and source candidates for boards. ‘I cannot stress enough the value of networking in whatever industry you’re in.”
For many, gender has been an obstacle and a disadvantage for their careers—now it’s an advantage. Wendy wants women to take full advantage of the current corporate atmosphere and the need for companies to specifically seek out female board members. She emphasized that the advantage has been fought for and earned, and stressed that women should have the mindset of, “I am going to bring my advantage to the table, and the company I work with is going to benefit from it.”