The role of women in business has evolved significantly since Congress declared March as Women’s History Month in 1987. Today, women are increasingly visible and recognized for the contributions they make to all industries, including cybersecurity, but despite this progress they are only 24% of the cyber workforce. While their representation in cybersecurity continues to grow, there remains a significant gender gap in the industry, and businesses are missing the valuable talent and unique perspectives women bring to the workforce.
While this year’s Women’s History Month theme recognizes media women who tell stories, we asked Fortinet Federal women team members about their stories and the journey into the cyber world. Our team includes Systems Engineer Andrea Reitzel, Director of Carrier and Service Provider Sales Lee Moser, and IT Analyst Fanta-Marie Touré, who shared their experiences in the industry.
Lee Moser, a 35-year veteran in commercial and government business positions, landed in the cyber industry seven years ago. Once there, she quickly realized there were not many other women in the field. Often in business and technical meetings, she notices that she is the only woman in the room. She commented, “Women lead differently. We have a different style, and that’s what makes us successful. Stay true to yourself.” To close this gap in the future, she encourages women to pursue science and technology paths through education or work experiences. There is more than one way into the cyber industry; the industry has roles for women from all backgrounds.
Andrea Reitzel, an experienced engineer who recently joined Fortinet Federal, agreed with Moser’s assessment. She added, “Don’t be surprised when you’re the only woman in the room. Although this may be a bit unnerving at first, I encourage women in cyber experiencing this to not let it affect their confidence as their work contribution will speak for itself.”
Fanta-Marie Touré, a recent engineering and cybersecurity graduate, joined Fortinet Federal a few months ago. While earning her degrees, Touré said, she was the only women in her classes and was often called upon more than her classmates. While this experience can be disconcerting, she saw this as an opportunity to stand out and “navigate and direct the focus of what she was trying to achieve.”
Reitzel added that lifting and mentoring other women can make these experiences easier and more fruitful. “I think that whenever women who are in tech have the chance, they should encourage other young women in the field by developing friendships with them and mentoring them. Creating supportive relationships can make all the difference to retention and career growth,” she said.
Fortinet Federal agrees. We work to take advantage of the unique leadership styles and increasing cyber skill sets provided by women, for example, the Fortinet Training Institute, which focuses on increasing access to training and certifications for security professionals, partners with Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) to make Fortinet’s award-winning cyber training available to WiCyS members (https://www.fortinet.com/blog/industry-trends/fortinet-wicys-women-opportunities).
At Fortinet Federal we are looking for enthusiastic professionals at all levels who are focused on strengthening the nation’s cybersecurity posture. As such, we welcome all qualified candidates to review the open positions at https://www.fortinetfederal.com/join-our-team/.