About a quarter of the cybersecurity workforce is comprised of women. While this is an increase from 11% in 2017, there are still significant barriers for women who wish to enter or advance within the vast global security industry. Female cybersecurity leaders may face a pay gap of about 20% compared to men. When asked about their income in 2021, 29% of men and 17% of women stated they made between $50,000 and $99,999.
As we can see in the current sector reports, male professionals have long dominated the field of cybersecurity, but recent years have witnessed a significant shift in the industry’s landscape. As organizations recognize the importance of diversity and inclusivity, efforts are being made to increase the representation of women in cybersecurity leadership positions. In this article, we will explore the progress in this regard and provide statistics that shed light on the current state of women in cybersecurity leadership. It’s encouraging to see so many amazing women in cybersecurity leading toward a more diverse and welcoming security field.
This article highlights the achievements of remarkable women in cybersecurity, showcasing their unique perspectives, diverse backgrounds, and exceptional skills. Their success stories inspire aspiring professionals and demonstrate the significant impact women can have in this dynamic field.
Some inspirational women in the cybersecurity industry
These women are breaking barriers and inspiring future generations of female professionals to pursue careers in cybersecurity. Please look below at some of today’s most renowned cybersecurity thought leaders to understand how they’re transforming the business as we know it.
Company: Meta Defence Labs Ltd. Position: Managing Director Meta Defence Labs + Virtual CISO | SHe CISO Exec. Founder | TEDx Speaker | NCSC Cyber Advisor for Cyber Essentials
Information security and data protection strategies can benefit significantly from the counsel of Chani Simms, a C-suite advisor and leader in cybersecurity. While finishing her computer science degree, she worked as an IBM engineer specializing in I.T. infrastructure, systems management, virtualization, and data centers.
As one of the women who changed the cyber world, she advanced her career to the point where she could focus on I.T. and security exclusively; she now serves as a virtual CISO, data protection officer, Cyber Essentials Assessor, and IASME governance auditor for small and medium-sized enterprises. She founded SHe CISO Exec., a global training and mentoring platform for information security industry experts, after leading security firm Meta Defence Labs.
Company: Darktrace Position: Chief Strategy & A.I. Officer at Darktrace
Since leaving her position as chief marketing officer of H.P. Autonomy in 2012, Nicole Eagan has made a name for herself in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, earning her the title “A.I. Leader of the Year” in 2020. Since then, she’s made progress positioning her current company, Darktrace, as an international leader in cyber defense in her capacity as chief strategy & A.I. officer for the firm.
Darktrace’s 600% year-over-year growth can be directly attributed to Nicole’s direction of the company’s innovative approach to revolutionary A.I. technology, which has helped develop one of the most successful solutions to global cybersecurity concerns. Darktrace, led by Nicole, has defended smart cities like Las Vegas from state-sponsored threat actors, who targeted the city’s water reclamation system and industrial IoT sensors.
Company: Unilever Position: Chief Information Security Officer at Unilever + Board Member / Executive Advisor / Security, Technology, and Digital Transformation
Kirsten Davies has been recognized as a true thought leader in cybersecurity transformation thanks to her global approach to information security, data privacy, and enterprise risk gained via her experiences working and living on four continents. She is one of the inspirational women in the cybersecurity industry; her innovative approach to cybersecurity has helped Hewlett Packard Enterprise achieve firsts, like establishing Africa’s first end-to-end security department and signing the first-ever Cyber Security Master Agreement with the German Workers Council. Having lived and worked on four continents, she is recognized as a thought leader in the transformation process, including refining enterprise-wide ways of working, re-envisioning and establishing organizational cadence and culture, designing and delivering dynamic talent development paths, and innovating and optimizing security processes and risk-mitigating controls.
Company: Microsoft Position: Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Worldwide Defense & Intelligence | Keynote Speaker | Board Member | Top 100 Women in Tech
With a computer science and systems engineering background, Kate Maxwell spent 16 years in the aerospace industry at defense contractor Raytheon Technologies before joining Microsoft’s Worldwide Defense & Intelligence (D&I) team.
She realized the corporate contractor environment wasn’t a good fit for her as her expertise expanded, and she eventually landed a role at Microsoft working on digital transformation because of her enthusiasm for bringing disruptive, inventive technological concepts to reality.
Unit: Air Force Position: Chief Information Officer at the Department of the Air Force
As CIO of the Department of Air Force, which includes the Air Force and Space Force, Lauren Knausenberger leads a 20,000-person team of I.T. experts working to advance the cybersecurity landscape of the Department of Defense.
Though she only joined the Air Force in 2017, Lauren has already become a key innovator in the service’s I.T. sector. Lauren has been a strong proponent of utilizing cutting-edge technology to replace an antiquated I.T. infrastructure and better serve U.S. warfighters due to mounting pressure from airmen and women for the Air Force to resolve widespread I.T. concerns.
Due to the ever-changing nature of cyberattacks, Lauren has spearheaded the Air Force’s efforts to replace antiquated I.T. regulations with a more modern IT-as-a-service approach. She led projects in 2021 to enhance the Defense Department’s cloud strategy and make the transition to a fully zero-trust paradigm, and she worked to extend the Air Force’s Platform One and Cloud.
Company: Honeywell Position: Senior Vice President, Chief Digital Technology Officer at Honeywell
Sheila Jordan is an accomplished I.T. executive who has earned her name by guiding the implementation of various global I.T. strategies and transformations at different companies. As a firm believer in the potential of digital transformation to reorganize businesses, she has assisted many organizations in getting the most out of their technology investments and introducing data-driven digital experiences from start to finish, thereby improving the quality of their customers’ experiences.
The breadth of Sheila’s digital transformation expertise has resulted in her being sought after for several positions. She was Cisco’s previous senior vice president and oversaw the company’s move toward a more user-friendly interface for consumers. Before leaving her position as CIO at global cybersecurity pioneer Symantec, she guided the company’s I.T. vision and strategy and helped keep Symantec at the forefront of technological developments. Sheila is currently the chief digital technology officer of Honeywell, where she oversees the company’s strategy for digital transformation.
Company: Amazon Devices & Services Position: Global Chief Security Officer at Amazon Devices & Services; Champion of Digital Trust; Board Director; Award-Winning Executive
In digital and cybersecurity, Lakshmi Hanspal is a visionary who has long advocated for the complete maturation of security leaders. She has worked her way up through the ranks thanks to her expertise in information security, risk management, and privacy and her ability to get the buy-in of C-suite executives for crucial security initiatives.
Lakshmi serves on the boards of directors for eight cloud firms and advises several Silicon Valley startups due to her dedication to protecting digital transformation and promoting socially responsible business practices. She did become a member of the board of directors at Spectrum Labs, an organization whose mission is to use artificial intelligence to create communities online that are welcoming to all users and conducive to meaningful interaction among them. Today, she is the CSO of Amazon Devices & Services, and her work encompasses all aspects of Trust, including trusted products, platforms, and operating environments.
Company: Verizon Position: SVP, Chief Information Security Officer at Verizon
Nasrin Rezai is a leader in the field of cybersecurity and a technology visionary. She is fearless in the face of the ever-changing security threats faced by business leaders, and her dedication to shifting our perspective on cybersecurity has allowed her to build solutions for giant organizations and advocate for a more robust security culture.
She has served in several jobs thanks to her expertise in global technology risk management and in being about a cultural shift toward a more risk-conscious mindset. She is presently serving as Verizon’s CISO, where she directs the company’s information security strategy to safeguard Verizon’s clients and infrastructure.
Company: Amazon Position: Global Head of Partner Engineering, Prime Video at Amazon
Natasha Sayce-Zelem started as a freelance music photographer but is now Amazon’s global head of partner engineering.
Natasha was the chief of technology at broadcast media firm Sky before joining Amazon and is one of the inspirational women in the cybersecurity industry. She oversaw the digital trading division and used machine learning and conversational user interface technology to create data-driven consumer journeys there.
To inspire more women to pursue careers in science and technology, she launched Empowering Women with Tech in 2016. She has made it one of her missions to show women that a job in I.T. can be just as creative as any other in the STEM fields.
Company: Menlo Security Inc. Position: Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer at Menlo Security Inc. + Official Member – Forbes Technology Council
Poornima DeBolle is a pioneer in the isolation market and the chief product officer at Menlo Security. This company puts the safety of its consumers first without sacrificing the quality of their experience. She is highly skilled in various areas, including network security architecture, engineering and technical group management, product definition, and company and product evaluations for mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships. She is well-known for advising security professionals about which use cases need more attention to ensure the success of modern enterprises without compromising productivity.
DeBolle has extensive experience in cloud security, security management, and security analytics from his time as a product management executive at Juniper Networks. When Juniper bought Altor Networks, where she was V.P. of product management and business development, she moved over to the upstart. Her experience includes product management and engineering roles, in addition to her role as Head of Business Development at Check Point before she joined Altor. DeBolle’s first job out of college was with Technically Elite, where she worked as a Firmware Engineer. She has been accepted into the Forbes Technology Council as a full member. DeBolle received his Bachelor of Engineering from Bangalore University and his Master of Science in Computer Science from Arizona State University.
Company: Code42 Position: Chief Information Security Officer At Code42
At Code42, the market leader in insider risk management, Jadee Hanson oversees all aspects of risk and compliance, security operations, incident response, and the insider threat program in her dual role as CISO and CIO.
Hanson has been recognized as a Women in Security: PowerPlayer by S.C. Magazine and a Black Unicorn – Top 10 Women in Cybersecurity and Top 10 CISO by Cyber Defense Magazine in 2021 and 2020, respectively. In addition to being a co-author of the book Inside Jobs: Why Insider Risk Is the Biggest Cyber Threat You Can’t Ignore, she is frequently featured as an expert in cybersecurity news articles.
Company: Motional Position: Senior Vice President, Cyber Security & IT
Summer works for Morioal as a Senior Vice President, Cyber Security & I.T. She has extensive knowledge in cyber crisis management and business continuity.
Summer Craze Fowler is a seasoned C-Suite executive with over 20 years of experience in cyber security and risk management. She is adept at developing technical strategies and leading teams to achieve aggressive goals while also in hyper-growth mode.
Company: FTI Consulting Position: Senior Managing Director and Americas Cyber Security Leader at FTI
At FTI Consulting, where she is the Head of Cybersecurity for the Americas, Jordan Rae Kelly is a Senior Managing Director. Kelly has handled cyber policy development and incident response coordination for over 15 years. She advises clients on various topics regarding breaches, insider threats, intellectual property, crisis communications, vendor management, compliance, regulation, risk management, and forensic investigations.
Company: Booking.com Position: Chief Information Security Officer
Founded in 1996 in Amsterdam, Booking.com has grown from a small Dutch startup to one of the world’s leading digital travel companies. When it comes to improving risk outcomes and enabling businesses to incorporate risk management while still maintaining speed and agility, Wilking’s unique set of skills and experience is hard to beat. She has directed information security and multi-discipline risk management programs for more than 15 years across multiple industries and is one of the inspirational women in the cybersecurity industry.
In 2010, Elena Poincet and Laurent Oudot founded TEHTRIS. Before that, Poincet worked as an expert in the management and leadership of specialized teams for the French Ministry of the Armed Forces. Poincet learned to take charge, take action, and find purpose in service via this ordeal. She oversees TEHTRIS’s overall mission, strategy, and operations, emphasizing countering cyber sabotage and espionage. Poincet and Oudot drew on their expertise in many forms of attack (hacking, strategic intelligence, information technology warfare, etc.) while developing their recommendations. A precursor to the modern field of Endpoint Detection and Response, TEHTRIS was one of the first publishing houses to publish in this area in 2013. (EDR). Because of their foresight, TEHTRIS is now Europe’s only XDR (eXtended Detection and Response) platform editor.
Company: PlainID’s Position: CTO & CP0 and Co-Founder
At PlainID, Gal Helemski is a co-founder and the chief of innovation and product. Tel Aviv-based cybersecurity provider PlainID offers an authorization platform based on business policies. Helemski co-founded PlainID in 2015, a company that provides straightforward answers to authorization management and paves the way for more centralized command and control of digital assets.
Helemski, a well-known cybersecurity expert, directs innovation and product development for PlainID and is one of the inspirational women in the cybersecurity industry. She’s worked in the field for 14 years, during which time she’s defined solutions for clients, developed project specifications, and written technical documentation. She has also shared her knowledge of the identity and access management field by giving talks and conducting workshops.
Leigh has recently moved to BLACKCLOAK where I can focus more deeply on cybersecurity and she is the company’s Vice President of Marketing. BlackCloak is a trailblazer in the field of Digital Executive Protection. Their comprehensive services encompass online privacy protection, personal device security, home network security, and incident response. They specialize in safeguarding corporate leaders, high-profile individuals, and their families from cyber threats and privacy breaches.By offering top-notch digital security and privacy solutions, BlackCloak plays a vital role in defending against the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats. Their expertise and dedication contribute to enhancing personal privacy and security for individuals and organizations alike.
Dow has over 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, and public relations, including 14 years in the Fortune 100. Early in her career, Dow worked in government affairs for both the press office of the Governor of Florida and for then-U.S. Senator Bob Graham. She previously was director of global service delivery design at Honeywell. Before that, she oversaw the $1 billion Aerospace internet sales channel and online marketing as eCommerce Director. She got her start in the computer industry with Intel, managing immigration and Department of State programs for government affairs before moving on to public relations and marketing.
Towerwall, led by Michelle Drolet, is a cybersecurity, cloud, and virtual CISO services organization serving clients like Foundation Medicine, Boston College, and Middlesex Savings Bank. Drolet has more than 24 years of experience in the fields of network and cybersecurity and is responsible for all elements of Towerwall’s operations. She is one of the inspirational women in the cybersecurity industry. She has used her expertise to establish Towerwall as a frontrunner among providers of cybersecurity services and solutions. Drolet has a solid reputation in the industry thanks to his frequent articles in national publications such as Forbes Council and IDG CSOonline.
Company: Perimeter 81 Position: Vice President of Marketing
Perimeter 81 is a robust, easy-to-use, converged networking and network security platform that connects all users, in the office or remote, to all resources located on-prem or cloud. It is a cloud-native service with advanced capabilities such as Zero Trust remote access, Internet access control, malware protection, and a firewall. It enables any business to build a secure corporate network over a private global backbone, without hardware, and within minutes. Netzer is a marketing guru who has helped numerous cybersecurity firms grow. With over 20 years of experience in international B2B cybersecurity, she is a passionate, imaginative, and results-driven marketing strategist and seasoned leader. She has been instrumental in driving 50%+ of the business and continuous growth yearly through her work in building teams across geographies, establishing new technological categories, forming a marketing machine, and maintaining market leadership and connections.
Company: DefenseStorm Position: Customer Solutions Vice President
DefenseStorm brought Paige Barry on board in 2019 to head up the teams responsible for deploying, supporting, and improving the company’s offerings. Financial institutions can achieve cyber safety and soundness through legislation and their policies with the help of DefenseStorm, which integrates and automates cybersecurity and cyber compliance designed for banking in real-time. Having served the financial industry’s technological needs for over 20 years, Barry is an essential and trustworthy executive at DefenseStorm, where he serves as Vice President of Customer Solutions.
Breaking Barriers: The Rise of Women in Cybersecurity Leadership
As the field of cybersecurity continues to expand, it is crucial to address the gender disparity within the industry. While progress has been made, women still face unique challenges when advancing in cybersecurity careers. In this article, we will explore the specific barriers that women encounter and propose potential solutions to foster gender equality and empower women in cybersecurity.
Lack of Representation:
One significant barrier for women in cybersecurity is the lack of representation. The industry remains predominantly male-dominated, with women being underrepresented in leadership and technical roles. This disparity can discourage aspiring women professionals and limit their access to mentorship and role models.
To overcome this barrier, promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives within organizations is essential. Establishing mentorship programs, hosting networking events, and featuring successful women leaders in cybersecurity can provide aspiring professionals the inspiration and guidance they need. Additionally, encouraging women to pursue technical education and certifications can help bridge the gender gap in technical roles.
Gender Stereotypes and Bias:
Women in cybersecurity often face biases that can hinder their career advancement. Preconceived notions that associate technology and cybersecurity with male attributes can lead to discriminatory hiring practices and limited opportunities for women professionals.
Addressing stereotypes and biases requires a collective effort from both individuals and organizations. Employers should implement blind recruitment practices, ensuring that candidates’ gender is not a factor in the hiring process. Organizations can also provide bias training to raise awareness and foster an inclusive work environment. Women professionals can challenge stereotypes by showcasing their expertise and contributions to the field, breaking down gender-based assumptions.
Balancing work and personal life can be particularly challenging for women in cybersecurity, as the industry often demands long hours and intense dedication. This can disproportionately affect women, who may face additional responsibilities such as caregiving or family obligations.
Creating flexible work arrangements and promoting work-life balance initiatives can help alleviate this barrier. Offering remote work options, flexible schedules, and supportive policies for parental leave can empower women to pursue cybersecurity careers while maintaining a healthy work-life integration. Additionally, fostering a culture that values work-life balance and provides resources for personal development can contribute to the overall well-being of women professionals.
Unequal Hiring Practices:
Hiring processes may unintentionally favor male candidates due to biased job descriptions, limited outreach to diverse talent pools, and unconscious biases during interviews. These practices contribute to the underrepresentation of women in the cybersecurity workforce.
Hostile Work Environments:
Women in cybersecurity often face a challenging work environment characterized by discrimination, harassment, and exclusion. These experiences can create a hostile atmosphere discouraging women from pursuing or remaining in the industry.
In summary, the cybersecurity industry has significantly promoted gender diversity and inclusion. Women have emerged as inspirational leaders, making valuable contributions and shaping the industry’s landscape. Despite the existing barriers, these 20 inspirational women in the cybersecurity industry have overcome challenges, demonstrating their expertise, innovation, and leadership. Breaking barriers and shaping the future depends on inspirational women in the cybersecurity industry. These women’s journey in cybersecurity leadership will shape the eco-system and spare a place for more talented women in this unique era.
By recognizing and celebrating these inspirational women in the cybersecurity industry, we aim to foster an inclusive and diverse cybersecurity industry that thrives on many perspectives and experiences. Their achievements serve as a testament to the growing influence of women in cybersecurity and pave the way for more opportunities and advancements in the future.