At RSA 2019, Emily Heath of United Airlines explained the gender and diversity gap in cybersecurity and offered advice for women and companies in how to close it.
At RSA 2019, TechRepublic Senior Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome spoke with Emily Heath of United Airlines about the gender and diversity gap in cybersecurity and offered advice for women and companies in how to close it. The following is an edited transcript.
Alison DeNisco Rayome: We know we have this big talent shortage right now in terms of cybersecurity. Can you tell me a little bit about why we need to be focusing on getting more women into the field?
Emily Heath: So I think the talent shortage in security, it’s certainly industry wide. I’ll say that. You know, I’m a firm believer of getting diverse and creative talent in any industry, but in cyber, to me it’s a big issue because the big problems that we’re trying to solve have never been solved before. So, we need a lot of creativity and it’s my general philosophy that when you approach things with a creative mindset, you have to have different thoughts, and different cultures, and different backgrounds. So, I think having that kind of diverse split between male and female is a natural part of that. It’s not the only part, because you need people from different cultures and different experiences to solve very complex problems that I don’t think we’ve ever solved before.
Alison DeNisco Rayome: And can talk a little bit about your background, since you didn’t come from a strictly cybersecurity background? And kind of how you made the transition, and any advice for other women who want to transition as well?
Emily Heath: Yeah, so my background, I started my career in law enforcement. So, I was a detective in England for many years, and then transitioned to a career in technology. I had my own web design company many years ago, and taught myself how to code. And then I transitioned into many other IT roles before I took on security itself. So, I came through the security route more from compliance, than the more technical security route. So, for me, security, compliance, obviously they’re hand in hand anyway. So, it came from a little bit more of a law enforcement, little bit more of a legal background.
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I think some advice for women to get into cybersecurity is, there are so many forums now for women to get involved. I know for example, at United we have a lot of programs with interns, with nonprofit groups. We do work with community colleges, nonprofit groups like Hi Tech, ICMCP Europe, and such like. And we have some great talent coming through that’s very diverse talent, and also for women coming through those avenues as well.
Alison DeNisco Rayome: And do you have any advice for companies who wanna seek out more female cybersecurity candidates, but don’t know where to get started?
Emily Heath: Yeah, so there’s many. If you’re looking to get more women in cybersecurity, first and foremost talk about it, because there are so many avenues for people to explore. Another huge part of it which is not often talked about in many big organizations especially, is if we want to try and change that culture and get more women in security or any role for that matter, we need the allies of our male partners to also advocate for women in those roles.
So, I think getting involved, making diversity part of the company’s DNA, talking openly about that, and then looking for avenues for people to join your company through lots of different forums.