CIO World IWD Series – Women Leading the Way in the IT Industry

Resident CISO, APJ, Proofpoint

The technology industry has long been considered a male-dominated field, with women facing numerous challenges when pursuing careers in STEM. Despite progress being made towards greater diversity and inclusion, there are still significant hurdles that women must overcome.

CIO World Asia spoke with Yvette Lejins, Resident CISO, APJ at Proofpoint, to discuss the greatest challenges facing women in IT today, the ways to ensure a more equitable and supportive workplace for female IT professionals, and the responsibility women in leading IT roles have to push for better workplace conditions and ask the difficult questions. With her wealth of experience leading IT teams, Yvette sheds light on the changing technology landscape and shares insights into the challenges still faced by women in the industry.

The Greatest Challenge that Women in IT Have to Face Today

Women in IT face a significant obstacle in the form of limited female representation and a lack of role models to inspire young girls to pursue careers in this field. The absence of female role models makes it difficult for girls to envision themselves as successful IT professionals. It is crucial for women to serve as role models to foster a culture of empathy and understanding regarding the importance of diversity in IT and STEM fields.

However, it is not sufficient for women to merely occupy positions in IT. Female representation must extend to executive and managerial positions to demonstrate advancement and opportunity in the field. This approach will encourage women to pursue careers in industries typically considered “male-dominated,” as such industries prioritize experience over gender.

Hurdles Women Face in Pursuing STEM Careers

In the pursuit of STEM careers, women face various obstacles, including hiring bias, pay inequality, and limited opportunities for career advancement. Despite having comparable qualifications, women often have to exert more effort to secure employment and make progress in their careers. The 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study by (ISC)2 revealed that 49% of women in cybersecurity hold postgraduate degrees, compared to only 42% of men.

Furthermore, McKinsey’s 2022 Women in the Workplace report shows that for every 100 men promoted from entry-level to manager, only 87 women receive promotions. This disparity highlights the challenges women face in advancing their careers in STEM fields.

Additionally, the STEM industry struggles to generate interest in these fields among girls from an early age. Children start developing career aspirations as early as elementary school, and many students have made their decisions by middle or high school. Encouraging girls to pursue STEM careers at a young age is a critical step in inspiring future generations of STEM workers.

Strategies for Creating a Fair and Supportive Workplace for Women in IT

To create a fair and supportive workplace for women in IT, companies must re-evaluate their approach to hiring and promoting professionals in this field. This includes challenging degree requirements, engaging in diversity hiring, and fostering an inclusive work environment.

Executive leadership must prioritize the recruitment and retention of women in IT roles, while also serving as mentors to guide, encourage, and support their careers. The identification and recognition of exceptional female talent are also crucial to fostering a more equitable workplace.

To ensure that men and women are being considered for promotions at similar rates, companies should implement evaluation processes that are free from gender discrimination. Consistent messaging throughout the business is essential in promoting DEI programs, which play a significant role in addressing workforce shortages in the community.

The Role of Women in Leadership Positions to Advocate for Better Workplace Conditions in IT

To ensure that workplace conditions are fair and inclusive, women in leadership roles within IT organizations have a responsibility to advocate for a culture that encourages women to progress in their careers.

By helping to build an environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to advance, businesses can attract and retain valuable tech talent. Female leaders who can support and mentor other women in the workplace also play a vital role in this regard.

Investing in DEI programs can help women feel valued and less likely to consider leaving their jobs. The leadership within Proofpoint, for example, has been highly supportive of hiring and working with women. The company prioritizes strong team relationships while also recognizing individuality, creating a positive environment for women in cybersecurity.