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#BHUSA Focus on Hiring and Retaining Female Security Employees

Speaking at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, Ashley Holtz from NBCUniversal looked at common mistakes and preconceptions in hiring and retaining female cybersecurity engineers.

She said that a lot of studies claim that women are unhappy and discriminated against, while other studies say that careers in cybersecurity are popular because they offer “travel opportunities, flexibility and remote work.” It's important to realize, she said, that not all people are the same but are “affected by the same expectations on being treated fairly.”

Holtz cited industry research that claimed that as they advance in their careers, women are more likely to become project managers and people managers and less likely to be technical leaders and that we need remove the factors that cause that early on.

Looking at female-only environments and mentors and citing research from ISACA, she said that many women do not feel that they need a female mentor but having a woman saying "I get treated fairly here" would be good. She later claimed that if there were a female mentor, she would want her to talk about opportunities, but “I do not need a need a female mentor just because I’m female.”

In terms of the three key areas of hiring, retaining and promoting, Holtz said that women are keen to be evaluated and treated the same as other employees, and she encouraged hiring companies to connect with local hacker and security meet-up groups and consider the language used in job descriptions.

Regarding hiring, she asked where jobs are posted and which higher education partnerships a company has. She also asked companies to consider opportunities for training and how candidates are being selected for interview, whether it is on skills, experience, education or other factors.

For retention of staff, she said that people want recognition, as “it is not always about the individual’s contributions technically but how they work with the team.”

Following on from the earlier talk by Makenzie Peterson on sexual harassment, Holtz encouraged having a way to comfortably report sexual harassment without stigma or retaliation.

Finally, with regard to promotion, she asked if women are actively sponsored and mentored to achieve career goals and if all employees know the success criteria for their roles. “What this means is are they identifying people to get the right training and are they discussing their career goals with them?”

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