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The Art of The Feminine in A Masculine World of Cybersecurity

The Psychology of Cybersecurity

The psychology of Cybersecurity, and the role that the Feminine (aka Women) play in it,

why is this important to understand? What does psychology have to do with

Cybersecurity you may wonder, and what do we mean by the Feminine? Cybersecurity

is often miscategorized as predominantly a technical field, one that is extremely male

dominated with only 11% of females in the field currently (in 2018). Why is this the

case? Why has this number not moved in several years? Why should we care? If

there is one thing that can be said, any field/job/team that is purely dominated by one

gender, one culture, one race/ethnicity, or one trait in general cannot succeed to their

full potential.

The concept of the feminine is often misunderstood as weakness, overly nurturing,

emotional, or too soft. Women who are naturally in their feminine have learned and

adapted over the years to put on a masculine mask to overcome these notions in the

workplace, and especially in those that are male dominated. What needs to come to

the surface is that it is these natural traits that women have, this natural emotional IQ,

the ability to multitask and enjoy it, the ability to focus on multiple things at the same

time that sets women apart from men and makes them excel in their jobs especially in

the Cyber world.

What really is the Cyber world? Cybersecurity is not just one thing. It is a million little things combined into a big landscape. Being proficient in technical skills will only take a security professional so far. If other skills such as Business management, interpersonal, organizational and project management, communication, relationship building, and finally human psychology skills are not learned and applied, security professionals, especially those in leadership roles such as Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) are bound to fail at some point.

man on computer
Cybersecurity is often miscategorized as predominantly a technical field.

The Value of a Diverse Workforce

The value of women and having a diverse work environment is often underestimated. Diversity in the workplace brings different ways of looking at things and handling things and creates more happiness amongst staff. In fact, studies invariably show that

gender-diverse teams especially are more productive, innovative, and able to stay on schedule and within budget, compared to homogenous teams.

Gender diversity leads to more diversity, and the more diversity that is seen in an

industry, the more that encourages others that they too can help secure the world they

live in. For women, there is nothing more effective than seeing and hearing role models

in the fields that once seemed unattainable or too scary.

The ability to focus on multiple things at the same time that sets women apart from men and makes them excel in their jobs especially in the Cyber world.

Our current need in Cybersecurity is no different than our need for women in the WWII 1 days, only now we are facing Cyber warfare, in addition to physical warfare. Why is there such a shortage of women in this mysterious field of Cybersecurity? Let’s take a closer look at the dynamics of the Feminine. Women see a job opening and

immediately start to compare their skillset to those that the job is asking for. If they do

not see themselves as meeting at least 90-100% of the skills required for the job, they

simply will deem themselves unfit and not apply. Men on the other hand will see the

same job and even if he only meets 20% of the criteria, will still apply and hope that no

one else has met that 20% and therefore he still has a good chance of gaining the


The Feminine vs Masculine Perspective

Women also rarely tend to ask for what they want and what they deserve in the workplace especially in Cybersecurity where male domination is in effect. Young girls

and young women are trained right from a young age to be happy with what they have, don’t be over confident, stay within their “boundaries”, don’t take risks to avoid “failing”. These kinds of notions are engrained into their blueprint and grow with them as women enter the workplace. Once in the Cyber workforce and they have pushed through these barriers, they then face another challenge once it’s time for marriage and having children. Women need to now consider either staying stagnant in their positions, leave their positions entirely, or the much-feared option of “trying to have it all”. Women in CISO roles for large companies, government, or private section are far and few.

Woman on computer
Feminine in A Masculine World of Cybersecurity

Women are born leaders on the home front and excel at multi-tasking. Most women

that have children have learned to run the household, take care of children, manage

their spouses and their own life and interests while keeping a clean house and getting

little sleep. These are some of the most important skills that the Cybersecurity world needs as well. We need to beat the myth of Cybersecurity being a purely technical field and empower and encourage women in all diversities and cultures to seek opportunities in this arena even if it looks dark and mysterious and at times scary. We need to see Cyber as what it really is – a blended world of technical skills combined with human management skills such as communication, building relationships, managing 360 (meaning managing expectations up, down, and all around), relating to people, empathizing yet being calm and assertive, speaking the language of stakeholders/customers/colleagues/C-suite directors. The human psychology and human dynamics aspect to Cybersecurity is so often overlooked, however without these skills, a CISO will not be successful. There is truly an Art to this field, and creativity plays a huge role. The Woman is a born leader in many of these areas and has intrinsic qualities that if she has the courage and take risks and go into this mysterious field, she will surely succeed, as her fear within herself is the only thing keeping her from attaining any position she wants.

Why the Gender Gap in Cybersecurity?

The 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study (GISWS) – Women in

Cybersecurity Report mentioned that women have higher educational levels than men.

However, fewer women hold positions of authority (director level or above) compared to

men. Women that are courageous enough to be in the Cybersecurity field already have

a more varied educational background and experience than men contributing to the

diverse set of skills they can potentially bring to the industry. Not only do women have

to contemplate taking a risk by going into this field, but 51% percent of women in

cybersecurity in North America, Latin America, and the U.K. have experienced some form of discrimination, compared to only 15% of men 2 .

Young girls and young women are trained right from a young age to be happy with what they have, don’t be over confident, stay within their “boundaries”, don’t take risks to avoid “failing”. These kinds of notions are engrained into their blueprint and grow with them as women enter the workplace.

Cybersecurity in this modern day and age should be seen as an exciting and tempting

employment opportunity to everyone, not just men. Cyber threats are on the rise as is

demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals. Attracting women to this field

will be crucial to fill the almost two million unfilled cyber jobs projected by the year 2022. If the C-suite boards would like to attract well qualified CISOs and security professionals for their organizations, they will need to actively search for, recruit, and retain women. In addition, not only do employers have to look outside their organization, but also within their organization. Women that show capabilities and skills

in other fields can very well be trained on Cybersecurity and excel. Everyone has had a

mentor at some point in their lives that saw potential in them and may have driven them to take risks or venture into something that they themselves wouldn’t have thought of.

It is so important to give back to our communities by serving those women

out there that have proven that they have potential to learn the skills that

are needed in Cybersecurity, and just need a little nudge to get involved

this field.

Women need to feel safe and free to take risks in general, and definitely in

Cybersecurity. Men, at a young age itself are encouraged to take risks, learn from their

failures, and keep trying. They are even rewarded for doing so. They do not see

themselves as failing nor do they treat small letdowns personally and think of

themselves negatively. Women on the other hand can be extremely hard on

themselves even at a young age and feel any setbacks or letdowns internally and see themselves as a failure. They allow the circumstances or situation define them, that they are not worthy of what they are asking for or want. This type of mentality makes it even harder for women to pick themselves back up and be motivated to keep trying in the same field. They mistakenly feel that this field is not for them, or this is not worth the effort and pain, or worse that society is right, and these jobs are better for men.

Call For Action – What Can We Do?

So, what can we do to encourage women into this mysterious field? How can we

empower women to take risks, think outside the box, and ask for what they want?

Women in the Cybersecurity field already must seek out and mentor others

that see potential and encourage them to join this exciting field. Young women and even women that are experienced really value the power of a role model.

They need to see other women in the field, and especially in CISO or other technical

leadership positions in the Cybersecurity field. They want to know that it can be done,

how it can be done, and know that they are worthy and capable of doing anything they

set their mind to. Female CISOs need to take the time to give back to their fellow young women by speaking at major conferences, schools, colleges, universities and connecting with other women in the field to spread their knowledge and experience.

Women have a primary need for connection, to relate to others, and to feel safe doing

so 3 . We do not want women to feel that they need to put on a masculine mask to be in

this field or to feel that they fit in. Women as well as men need to know and understand that Cybersecurity is not all about technical knowledge. In fact, that is really a small part of Cyber. The importance of the psychology of learning how humans work, act, and want, emotional intelligence, relating to people, speaking in a language that others can relate to (not in “techenglish”) are all equally as important aspects to Cybersecurity that needs to be understood.

I urge everyone in this field, male or female to give back to your community and reach

out to young women that are contemplating jobs, and even young girls in primary

schools to try different things. Let us teach young girls to take risks, to treat failures as

learning opportunities and not personally, to know that they are worthy of whatever

successes they want, and they are more than capable of achieving them. Let us

empower our youth and women that are beginning their careers to aim high, higher than any women they know of, and empower them to ask for what they want, and know that they deserve it. Let us as leaders in this field, look for opportunities to mentor and enable women that show potential to learn and grow in this field even if they are resistant or apprehensive about it. It does take more than one person to make a

global difference, however it takes just one person to start a change, so let’s try to be that one person!



Meet the expert:

Jothi Dugar
Jothi Dugar | Leading Federal Government Executive

With over 25 years of experience, Jothi Dugar is a leading federal government executive that takes pride in being a global change agent for human centric approaches to Technology and Cyber security. She is a catalyst for change, inspiring transformational leadership as a holistic wellness specialist, certified life coach, international best selling author, motivational speaker, dance director, and a mom of three. Jothi is passionate about empowering women to take charge of their lives and break through the glass ceiling. She specializes in helping leaders and their teams achieve optimal health, balance, and peace in all aspects of their lives, allowing them not just to survive, but to thrive amidst chaos.

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