How We #BreakTheBias - A Conversation with a Cyber Security Senior Analyst in GermanyHere, we talk to a Cyber Security Senior Analyst from Germany about how she feels supported as a woman in tech, her experiences as a female in a male-dominated industry and what employers can do to create inclusive workplaces, for everyone.
This international women’s day this year, Parallel wanted to talk about how to foster more inclusive recruitment processes and best practices for hiring more women in tech, influencing employers, and educating managers in how to create healthier workplaces for everyone. Through a series of articles, we asked our employees, peers, and network about what they think can be done to support and empower women in the workplace in the technology industry and what employers can do to make a difference.
Here, we talk to a Cyber Security Senior Analyst from Germany about how she feels supported as a woman in tech, her experiences as a female in a male-dominated industry and what employers can do to create inclusive workplaces, for everyone.
What are some preconceptions people have about female co-workers in tech?
“She might have difficulty with technical work or might not have technical skill”
“She needs to be guided and looked after”
“She might not know how to influence people”
What’s a common misconception people have about being a female ____ (Insert job title, i.e. developer, analyst)?
“Can she handle this technical role?” (Doubting of technical skills)
“Can she handle working with the technical team?”
“Does she have leadership potential?” (Doubting qualifications for promotion)
“Can she handle the complexity of projects and provide solutions?”
“Can she talk to the customer?”
“Does she know project management?”
Have you ever been asked unfair questions during an interview process that referenced your family or home life?
I am not sure if this answer relevant, but I was once asked for about my age. I was told that I did not look like I had more than 7 years of experience in cybersecurity (that was In 2017). I did not understand why this question needed to be asked. There were testimonials on my resume and one could have also deduced a timeline from my resume based on my experience, the year of my graduation, etc.
Have you ever had bias impact your ability to do your job or witnessed someone has been affected?
Regardless how focused I am, there are times when certain comments have affected me. For example, someone in management commented that I was “junior” in my experience of cybersecurity, not realizing that I was on the call - ouch! I have 10 years of experience and I was called “junior”… I did not know how to digest it. He was not the only one who made comments either. Some coworkers said comments to my face, others chose to say them behind my back. Despite these kinds of comments, these same coworkers still threw all the technical work to me - how ironic.
Communicate more openly with the women in your organization and promote female leaders from within.
In your opinion, do you think women are over or not hired for managerial or leadership roles because of considering or having a family at home?
I am not sure about this, but I do not see woman hired as (technical) managers or leaders (at the very least it is rare in Germany). Despite proven abilities, it is not easy for women to get presented with offers to work in leadership roles.
How do you empower yourself to challenge bias in the workplace?
I believe everyone faces challenges with co-workers. I usually try to stay focus on my responsibilities and try to be understanding of the situation. If I encounter unsolvable challenges from co-workers, I will escalate these issues to my manager. Most of the time, my manager is very supportive. In hindsight, it’s great that other employers passed over my application because now I get to work with a manager who is balanced and who is very rational.)
What can we do to boost gender diversity in tech?
It is difficult if there are not many female applications who have a technical background. I think this could be because women and men work differently, (most but not all) of the women I have worked with prefer something not too “dry” (for example, sitting in front of the computer dealing with code with limited interaction with others). It is also important to understand different technical roles and what skills are needed for these roles and how those could attract more female employees. In my opinion, roles in these areas seem to appeal more to women: Analysis, Threat Intelligence, Planning and Delivery, UI/UX design etc.
What do you think can be done to support more women in tech at organisations?
- Fair treatment for all employees, regardless of gender
- Communicate more openly with the women in your organization and promote female leaders from within.
- Provide more mentoring opportunities for women in the workplace and encourage ownership of projects.
What practical things should employers be doing to support women dealing with gender bias, to create more inclusive environments?
Inclusive environment with people from different cultural backgrounds. Bias (or even bullying) exists when you have a group of people who come from a similar background, where no one doubts the situation and think a certain bias is a norm.
Have the same faith in your female employees to handle things that you have in your male employees.
Communicate with your female employees in the same manner that you would communicate with your male employees.
What practical things should employers be doing to support women in tech, to create more inclusive environments?
In my opinion, the ideal situation is for an employer to focus on the abilities of the individual, regardless of that individual is female or male, and their ability to be professional and focus on solving important work tasks. If employers can achieve this, I believe gender equality can be possible. For example, if I get hired for a role, I know that I got hired because the employer needs someone with my skillset and it has nothing to do with me being a woman. If I got rejected, the employer should provide me with reasons, so that I know the skills gap for what was required for the role etc.
How can we empower women to put these topics on the agenda with managers to drive change?
Awareness: Raise this topic up with women, as most of the women I know are not aware of any bias or are telling themselves this is not the case).
Advice and encouragement: I am not sure what everyone else thinks, but receiving advice and encouragement are both invaluable to me. It helps me gain the confidence that I need to talk about this topic with managers.