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Black Hat: How to Hire, Retain More Women Cybersecurity EngineersBlack Hat: How to Hire, Retain More Women Cybersecurity Engineers

The six-day event drew a record 17,000 attendees.

Edward Gately

August 9, 2018

4 Min Read
CrowdStrike's Ashley Holtz at Black Hat 2018

(Pictured above: CrowdStrike’s Ashley Holtz on stage at Black Hat USA 2018, Aug. 9.)

BLACK HAT USA — Ensuring equal treatment and opportunities for advancement are some of the keys to hiring and retaining female cybersecurity engineers.

That’s what Ashley Holtz, engineering manager at CrowdStrike, told attendees during a briefing at this week’s Black Hat USA 2018 conference in Las Vegas. The six-day event drew a record 17,000 attendees.

Holtz said much of the research is flawed regarding why women aren’t being hired in technology and are leaving their careers in technology. A common misconception is that women aren’t interested in computers, she said. Also, unequal pay has been overly cited as a reason.

“If unequal pay is the only problem you have in your organization, you’re very, very lucky,” she said. “Changing a number is a lot easier than changing a culture.”

And women don’t necessarily need a female mentor, but “want to find someone who can help them advance and grow,” Holtz said. In terms of technology leaders, women tend to be more involved controlling budgets and staffing, as opposed to being strategic leaders, Holtz said.

“We want to increase that,” he said. “We want to answer how we can remove barriers early on.”

In terms of recruiting, one of the problems is that women might not see the job postings, so the “easy fix” is to place the posting where women can see it, Holtz said. Job postings also should be shared with organizations that are focused on women in technology, she said.

Also, when applying for a position, the job description can be a turnoff, she said. It’s important to focus on what the person will be doing day to day. And rigid lists of requirements are unnecessary because “there [are a lot] of transferable skills,” she added.

Women in Security and Privacy is one such group that’s focused on advancing women in cybersecurity. Masha Arbisman, a security operations analyst with Phobos Group, is part of the organization.

Phobos Group's Masha Arbisan

Phobos Group’s Masha Arbisan

“I’ve been coming to Black Hat and Def Con (a hacker convention immediately following Black Hat) for the past four years and this organization has tripled in that time,” she said. “So if that shows what the industry has been like, it’s definitely grown. We’re seeing progress and more to come hopefully. I think the industry as a whole is growing, but specifically for women in the industry, I feel like we’ve gotten more of a step to stand on with everybody joining. With more people coming in, we have more people to rely on.”

Also at Black Hat, for Rohyt Belani, Cofense‘s CEO and co-founder, this week marked his 17th year at the event. The company’s collective defense suite combines attack intelligence sourced from employees with incident-response technologies to stop attacks and stay ahead of breaches.

“We’ve been here since the beginning and obviously it’s one of the flagship shows here,” he said. “At Cofense, we rebranded from PhishMe, which most people knew of six months ago, so obviously we’re trying to get the name out there. But more importantly, we wanted to showcase some of our new innovations. We’ve put out a couple of new products, and we wanted to converse with partners and customers to get their feedback, and get the ball rolling there.”

This year, Cofense adopted a 100 percent …

… partner-led strategy for its sales and “our partners are very excited about that because now they know there’s no potential for conflict; there’s no direct sales versus channel,” Belani said.

“We’ve had channel partners, as in the VARs, very interested for awhile, but with the additional innovation, they’re saying, ‘Wow, I can leverage my existing relationships and Cofense is really giving me a land-and-expanse strategy and I can up-sell, and it’s a lot easier in the customer-acquisition cost essentially,'” he said.

On the other end of the spectrum, this was King & Union‘s first time at Black Hat. The company was started in April 2016 and its Avalon software platform allows cybersecurity analysts to optimize their efforts through workflow automation and real-time collaboration.

“Black Hat is a networking thing for us … we do have our clients here so we’re kind of tagging around them all week and we’re looking for new partners that we can bring into the fold,” said Brent Wrisley, King & Union’s co-founder. “We’re just trying to get the word out, get feedback and make new connections.”

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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