Leadership & Executive Communication , Training & Security Leadership , Video

Why Aren't More Women in Security Leadership Positions?

Accenture Report Covers Strategies for Greater Inclusion in Hiring Practices
Valerie Abend, global cyber strategy lead, and Lisa O'Connor, global R&D security lead, Accenture

A man in the cybersecurity field is seven times more likely than a woman to have applied for or been offered the job of CISO, according to a new report from Accenture on mobility and inclusion in the workplace.

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Rising to the Top, produced by the Accenture Cybersecurity Forum Women's Council, says that women held only 17% of Fortune 500 CISO positions in 2021, but the underrepresentation of women in the senior ranks is not due to a lack of attention to the issue or a lack of talent.

Accenture's Lisa O'Connor, global R&D lead for security, says part of the problem is women are demonstrating less confidence in their abilities. For example, an Accenture survey found that 53% of male respondents said they had applied for or been offered a CISO position four times or more, compared to only 7% of female respondents.

O'Connor says "confidence is so important, not so much competence" in "tackling these roles and tackling some of the challenges." To build confidence, she encourages women to get feedback and guidance about career development from people in the organization who can help.

Although organizations are paying some attention to encouraging more women to follow leadership paths, more "intention" is needed, says Accenture's Valerie Abend, cyber strategy lead. "We have to have a lot of directed and intentional practices that we measure and monitor in an ongoing fashion and are actually executed by the C-suite and reported out with full transparency."

But metrics that influence hiring decisions should be "more about the context and the storytelling than they are about the numbers and the trends," Abend says.

In this video interview with Information Security Media Group, O'Connor and Abend discuss:

  • Why so few women in cybersecurity hold leadership positions;
  • Building a road map to become a CISO;
  • How companies can recruit more inclusively.

O'Connor leads security research and development at Accenture labs in Washington, D.C., and Herzliya, Israel. She has more than 30 years of information security experience and ideates, develops and co-innovates on future cybersecurity strategies and defense for Global 2000 companies. She previously held leadership roles at Accenture in financial services for North America and was an active member of the Financial Services Sharing and Analysis Center and the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council. She also led information security governance and provided consulting services for Fannie Mae, Predictive Systems (INS), Guardent (VeriSign) and PwC. Earlier in her career, she was a cryptologic engineer at the National Security Agency.

Abend advises C-suite executives on how to manage cyber risk and build resilient business strategies. With more than 25 years of security experience in both the public and private sectors, she has spearheaded enterprisewide and sectorwide security and resilience strategies, public-private partnerships, and cybersecurity regulatory oversight strategies. She has testified before Congress and is frequently quoted in the media on cybersecurity issues. Abend currently serves as a member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore's Cybersecurity Advisory Panel and the Executive Women's Forum and as an adviser to the board for the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's FinCyber Strategy Project.

About the Author

Anna Delaney

Anna Delaney

Director, Productions, ISMG

An experienced broadcast journalist, Delaney conducts interviews with senior cybersecurity leaders around the world. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of the website for The European Information Security Summit, or TEISS. Earlier, she worked at Levant TV and Resonance FM and served as a researcher at the BBC and ITV in their documentary and factual TV departments.

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