Well, this year I finally made it to #defcon. While I had a blast, I couldn’t help but notice that there were not many women in attendance. The fact that there was no line to speak of in the ladies restroom was eye opening. In fact, there was an echo in there when I spoke. Of the 25,000 plus attendees at Def Con 26, how many were women? How many were Black women? I don’t know, but it was less than a handful. And because they don’t register attendees at Def Con, there is no way to accurately track it. Of course, this conundrum isn’t peculiar to Def Con, or any one security conference, tech firm or governmental agency. This is a systemic problem that women and certain minority groups face across the board. So, not picking on Def Con whatsoever.
The Definition of Diversity
What does “diversity” really mean? Does it mean gay or straight? Rich or Poor? White or Black? Is it dressing in an unconventional way? The definition of diversity has to be narrowed down or the term eliminated altogether. As it stands now, the definition is so broad that no one really knows who it really refers to or what it really means. Everybody qualifies as a candidate, and so the ones who really should be given opportunities are overlooked; like women and underrepresented and historically disenfranchised minorities (such as those descendant from slaves, born and raised in America). To be clear, I am talking about “qualified” women and minorities here; no one is asking for any special treatment in regards to meeting any necessary task requirements.
Has Anything Really Changed?
As much as we talk about diversity and inclusion, and the more things change in terms of governmental and corporate policy, the more things stay the same. There are still very few women generally speaking, that are either working in cybersecurity, or that have access to the same opportunities for cross training, leadership, salary and advancement, as their male counterparts. At Def Con, and other conferences that I have attended, the attendees, speakers, and even the entertainment, was predominantly male. White and Asian men to be exact.
Diversity Policy, Check
I sometimes wonder if anyone is really serious about including more women and minorities in cybersecurity and I.T., or is it just all talk? A check box, perhaps? In terms of policy, set it and forget it? The media keeps talking about the shortage of Cybersecurity professionals, and if that is true, then why are women still not getting hired for all of these supposed thousands of open positions? One of the number one complaints that women in the field have is that they are not getting the jobs after they complete training or graduate from University. I can personally attest to “not being a good fit for the team” despite being 100% qualified or even exceeding the requirements for said position.
A Question for the Masses
How can we ensure that women and historically disenfranchised black minorities are active participants with equal opportunities (and pay) in the white male dominated cybersecurity space? Why are diversity programs failing when it comes to hiring more women and Blacks in the cybersecurity and technology fields? Any insights?
Free for All (Women)
Until we see more representation at these security conferences (and the I.T. industry in general), women should be admitted to them for free. Additionally, women and Blacks should be actively recruited to be speakers, lead workshops, organize CTF events, and be part of the entertainment as well. Don’t you agree?
IBM does, and is sponsoring free admission again this year to the Hacker Halted conference, September 13-14 in Atlanta, GA. That’s what’s up! All the single (and married) ladies, click the link below to register.