I just attended the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) International Conference, where I was an invited speaker on a panel for Women In Security. The panel discussed the challenges of entering the male-dominated work place of security, and gave advice on how to handle these challenges. As an original trailblazer, I feel that is important to assist the next generation by extending that hand, so the pathway is not as harsh.

Panel Questions

In what ways have you experienced gender-based discrimination (cultural, institutional, individual)? How did you react, adapt, and overcome?

I have the unique experience of being hired into an all-male organization, a steel mill, in Pittsburgh. I was hired into the process control department because I was a woman. I was fortunate to learn early that building relationships was very important to overcoming stereotyping. I learned more about hunting and fishing from listening to stories than I care to admit, but in between those stories I learned how to make steel. I learned everything that I could from these experts and went home and read the technical books. They knew that I understood what they valued and offered IT solutions for their problems. The systems I developed were reliable. I gained their respect.

You may ask what has that got to do with Security? The world is the same over, no matter what industry. Life itself is about building relationships and earning respect. Every human being, whether be at work or at home, yearns for respect.

If you could go back and give a younger version of yourself some advice, what would it be and why?

Be the BEST! Learn everything that you can, because no one can take that knowledge away from you. Every organization wants to be successful and wants people who can contribute to this success. You can be in control of your career through knowledge, experience and wisdom. Learn to adapt to the opportunities that are presented to you.

Audience Questions

I have an MBA, should I include this on my resume as a woman?

One thought is that your perspective boss may not have an MBA and this might be intimidating. Yes, I agree with this statement. You can be a man or a woman to be in this position. You probably wouldn’t want to work for this person anyway. My answer is to be yourself and include the MBA on your resume. One person suggested just using your initials on the resume but again I say the above still applies.
Make sure your resume is result-oriented, this will make your resume stand out. And always, always make sure you have no spelling errors in your resume. One of the attendees said he can always tell a resume written by a woman, because the it has no spelling errors. How true!

As a woman who just graduated or is returning into workforce, how do I go about finding a job?

It comes back to building relationships. Attend conferences, volunteer for organizations (such as ISSA), that is an excellent start. I was told a long time ago that most jobs are found by word of mouth.
The current need for IT and Security Professionals, and even greater future need, is so great that gender will be a minor consideration. It will be about the right knowledge and experience match, and how they are presented.
It was also discussed that the HR Department may not fully understand the requirements of the security position that they are trying to fill. Use social media to connect and find out about the company that interests you or has a job opening.
If you can travel, you might think about contract work to gain entry-level experience. You might also seek the assistance of a head hunter. Apply for everything and let them say no!


As an original trailblazer, I feel that is important to assist the next generation by extending that hand, so the pathway to success is not as harsh. But truth be told – it will still be hard, so don’t get discouraged. That’s why they call it work. Your results-oriented hard work will gain the respect you earned! Be yourself, make sure you are the BEST!